JACKSON TWP — Butler freshman Jennifer Miller used her bat and her brain Wednesday afternoon at Seneca Valley.
Both proved deadly to the Raiders’ WPIAL softball playoff hopes.
The Golden Tornado catcher delivered a two-run single to left in the sixth inning — erasing a 1-0 deficit — and snuffed out an SV rally in the third by recording a putout at third base. The plays were keys to Butler’s 3-1 victory.
The loss eliminated Seneca Valley from postseason consideration.
“This is the best win we’ve had since I came to Butler,” Tornado coach Dan Hindman said. “To come down here and beat a program of this caliber is big for us.
“We didn’t know they needed this for the playoffs, so that served as no added motivation for us. We didn’t change our approach at all.
“We just played good ball,” Hindman added.
Neither pitcher — Butler’s Emily McDonald or SV’s Nikki Matz — walked a batter. Matz struck out four and threw 60 of her 77 pitches for strikes in a losing cause.
“They took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t. That was the difference,” SV coach George Trew said.
The Raiders took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Aubrey Baehr’s two-out fly ball to center field was dropped, enabling a teammate to score from second base.
SV appeared primed to add to that lead in the third as Matz began the inning with a single to left and Jess Neil beat out a bunt for a hit.
As Neil best the throw to first, Matz’s courtesy runner tried advancing to third on the play. Butler third baseman Anna Heade had charged toward the plate when the ball was bunted.
Miller vacated her catching position to cover third and tagged the runner out. Cassie Baclik followed with SV’s third straight single, but the rally fizzled without a run.
“I’ve never seen a catcher cover third on that play ... ever,” Trew said. “That was heads-up by them. They got us.”
“It was nice to see us execute that play,” Hindman said. “We have a lot of young kids on this team, but we’re learning.”
Butler broke through in the sixth inning when Cait Baxter was hit by a pitch and Rachel Rebmann doubled deep to left center. With one out, Miller’s solid single to left plated both runners.
“Jennifer’s probably lifted her average 75 points in the last week and a half,” Hindman said. “Rebmann’s only a sophomore and she’s been solid at the plate all year.”
The Tornado added a run in the seventh when McDonald reached on an error and Heade bunted her to second. McDonald got trapped in a rundown between second and third, but slid into third safely.
Hope Wonderling laid down a squeeze bunt and McDonald beat the throw to the plate.
McDonald did not allow a hit after the third inning.
“This was the best Emily’s pitched all year,” Hindman said. “She effectively moved her pitches in and out the entire game. She was fantastic.”
Butler 000 002 1 — 3 6 2
Seneca Valley 010 000 0 — 1 4 2
W: Emily McDonald IP (0K, 0BB). L: Nikki Matz 7IP (4K, 0BB).
Butler: Noel Pfabe 1B, Rschel Rebmann 1B 2B, Jennifer Miller 1B 2-RBI, Mackenzie O’Donnell 1B, Hope Wonderling RBI, Aubrey Schmeider 1B
Seneca Valley: Jess Neill 1B, Cassie Baclik 1B, Alexa Sisko 1B, Nikki Matz 1B