North Xtra: North Allegheny chasing Shaler in softball

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North Allegheny is 9-1 through its first 10 games this high school softball season and has already clinched a WPIAL playoff spot.

The Tigers have done it as a team this season with individuals stepping up throughout the lineup as well as different aspects of the team stepping up, whether it be offense, pitching or fielding.

North Allegheny has received contributions from everyone from senior leaders such as catcher Bonnie Person to freshman newcomers such as right fielder McKenzie Gostomski and from the pitching duo of junior Sami Beining and her younger sister, freshman Madi Beining.

The Tigers have relied on their offense at times in scoring 37 runs over the span of three consecutive games and their pitching and defense as well in holding five consecutive opponents to one run or fewer earlier this season.

"It has been very pleasant, it has been different people at different times," North Allegheny coach Rick Meister said. "It has been a team of balance, offensively and defensively. It is a team where we and they -- we as coaches and they as players -- truly do not care how it gets done. They have bought into it."

Before Wednesday's games, Shaler Area (9-2, 9-1) led Class AAAA Section 3 ahead of North Allegheny (9-1, 8-1) and Pine-Richland (7-2, 7-2). North Allegheny visited Shaler earlier this season in the second game of the year and the Titans dominated, winning, 10-0.

The two were scheduled to play again Wednesday.

"It was a day where nothing we did went right and Shaler, always a solid team, took advantage of that," Meister said. "They spanked us pretty good, but we understood we had to bounce back. We had to come back and get ourselves on a winning streak."

North Allegheny did that with back-to-back one-run wins against Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland. Then the Tigers made things look a little easier in activating the 10-run mercy rule in three consecutive games, twice against Fox Chapel and once against North Hills.

Last week the Tigers completed the season sweep of Seneca Valley with a 4-1 win and then defeated McDowell, 8-3, in non-section action to run their win streak to seven games.

On senior day against McDowell Pierson was 3 for 3 with a walk, double and a home run. She accounted for seven RBIs in the victory.

"It was just a super day for her," Meister said. "I was really happy for her with it being senior day.

"She has been solid all season for us offensively as well as behind the plate."

Through nine games Pierson has 4 doubles, 3 home runs and 18 RBIs while batting .394 with a .788 slugging percentage. She leads the team in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.

Junior third baseman Mary Funderlich is a returning starter batting out of the five spot. She leads the team with a .500 batting average.

"We have a lot of leadership," Meister said. "This is a very tightly knit group and that is one of the reasons we have been successful. They truly do get along and enjoy being together and that is huge."

The pitching duties have been shared by Sami and Madi Beining. Sami was 11-3 with a 2.36 ERA last season. This season she is 4-1 with 37 strikeouts and a 1.62 ERA through 39 innings pitched. Madi Beining is 4-0 with 29 strikeouts and a 0.34 ERA through 20 innings pitched.

Meister has been using both in games often times by design rather than necessity.

"They have complemented each other very nicely," Meister said. "They are similar. I think Sami, being a junior throws a little more of a variety but Madi can bring it just as fast.

"As far as ability they are very, very similar. They are pitchers in the purest sense -- they haven't played other positions. They do have the ability to play in the field but it just hasn't been the way we chose to go this year."

Other top bats in the lineup include sophomore center fielder and leadoff hitter Laura Cotter (.412 bating average with 12 RBIs) and junior infielder Casey Ginocchi (.455), junior shortstop Christine Scherer (.355) and sophomore infielder/outfielder Anna Sardon (.357).



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