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Grinding one out

Seneca Valley catcher Karli Hacker prepares to catch a throw and tag Canon-McMillan's Elika Mowery out at the plate during the Raiders' 8-4 WPIAL Class AAA softball playoff win Wednesday night at North Allegheny.
SV softball earns gritty playoff win over Canon-Mac

WEXFORD — Pay little attention to the four runs that Claire Zimmerman gave up Wednesday evening. Instead, focus on how many runs Canon-McMillan could have scored.

Zimmerman, a senior pitcher for Seneca Valley's softball team, stranded 10 base runners over the first five innings and earned the win in the Raiders' 8-4 decision over the Big Macs in a WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinal playoff at North Allegheny High School.

Zimmerman's varsity experience dates back to her freshman season. This is her third year as the team's main starting pitcher.

“That definitely helps. She's been there before,” said SV coach George Trew. “She knows what's coming.”

Zimmerman blanked the Big Macs (12-5) over the first three innings, stranding six in the process, including leaving the bases loaded after three base hits in the bottom of the first.

It was the beginning of a mostly frustrating day for Canon-McMillan's bats, which scored 10 or more runs in 10 of 16 games in the regular season.

“We knew the numbers (on Canon Mac's offense) coming in,” said Zimmerman. “I was even thinking about them warming up today. I knew I had to be on. My off-speed stuff came into play more than usual.”

The Raiders (15-5) will face section foe Hempfield in Wednesday's semifinal round at a time and site to be determined.

SV took advantage of the Big Macs' inability to score when it plated three runs in the top of the third off of freshman Brooke Perri. Included was Karli Hacker's single that brought home Kearson Wagner.Canon-McMillan finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth. Elli Kotar singled, was sacrificed to second base and scored on one of the Raiders' two errors in the game.The Big Macs posed a major threat in the fifth. Trailing 4-1, they loaded the bases with no outs after Zimmerman hit Olivia Ulam with a pitch and walked Sydney Senay and Lindsay Schmidt.Zimmerman motioned toward Trew and a 15-minute delay ensued to repair the pitching circle.“There was a clump of clay, about the size of my fist, at the front of the circle,” said Trew. “Every time Claire threw a pitch, her (left) foot was running into it.”“My pitches weren't doing what I wanted them to do,” said Zimmerman. “It just didn't feel right.”The clay was dug up and the hole was filled in, but Zimmerman had to find her groove and fast.“The break concerned me,” she admitted. “I threw with some teammates on the side.”One run came across on Elli Kotar's infield single, but Zimmerman and the Raiders managed to exit the inning with a 4-2 lead. Shortstop Maura Pasquale had a lot to do with that, reaching for and snagging a line drive that was headed to center field for the final out.Zimmerman again left the bases loaded in the fifth and allowed a two-run home run to Ulam in the sixth, cutting SV's lead to 5-4.

The Raiders' bats then dealt a major blow to Canon-Mac's comeback hopes.In the top of the seventh, Mackenzie Baker singled home Julia Ehrman and Karli Hacker crushed a 2-run home run.“We're down by one run and then boom, we're down by four,” said Canon-Mac coach Michele Moeller. “It was such a tight game before that. Things may have been different if we had scored a few runs earlier in the game.”After all the traffic on the base paths in the first six innings, Zimmerman worked a perfect seventh to end the game.“That was nice,” she said. “A sigh of relief.”Seneca Valley 003 011 3 — 8 10 2Canon-McMillan 000 112 0 — 4 9 2W: Claire Zimmerman 7 IP (4K, 2BB). L: Brooke Perri 5.2 IP (2K, 1BB).Seneca Valley (15-5): Kearson Wagner 1B R, Julia Ehrman 2B 2R, Mackenzie Baker 1B 2R RBI, Karli Hacker 2-1B HR 4RBI, Maddie Gross 1B RBI, Olivia Madey 1B, Maura Pasquale 1B 2B R RBICanon-McMillan (12-5): Grace Higgins 1B R, Olivia Ulam 1B HR 2R 2RBI, Sydney Senay 1B 2B, Elli Kotar 2-1B R RBIWednesday: Seneca Valley vs. Hempfield, WPIAL Class 6A semifinal, TBD

The Raiders' Mackenzie Baker, left, is congratulated by teammate Olivia Madey after scoring a run.Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Seneca Valley's Julia Ehrman (13) gets into secod base safely during an errant throw in the Raiders' 8-4 softball playoff win Wednesday night.Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle