South Xtra: Big Macs prove there is good softball played in western side of state, too
HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL/PIAA CLASS AAA CHAMPIONSHIP
June 13, 2013 8:00 AM
Canon-McMillan's Abby McCartney pulls in a fly ball next to Alison Bellaire against North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game on May 30.
By Nicholas Tolomeo Tri-State Sports & News Service
Canon-McMillan has proven it is one of the best programs in the WPIAL, winning its first ever WPIAL championship last season.
This year the Big Macs are establishing themselves as one of the top programs in the state.
For the first time in school history, Canon-McMillan is headed to the PIAA championship game and they did it by going through District 1 power Pennsbury, a program that has claimed five state titles.
The Big Macs (24-1) knocked off Pennsbury, 3-1, on Tuesday at Carlisle High School. Pennsbury, located in Fallsington, a suburb northeast of Philadelphia, was the third-place team from District 1, which basically encompasses all of suburban Philadelphia.
District 1, in southeastern Pennsylvania, has dominated the Class AAAA field in Pennsylvania, producing the past two state champions and 9 of the past 12 PIAA semifinalists.
Canon-McMillan was the only team in the PIAA semifinals not from District 1, similar to last season when it was an all-District 1 championship game.
Unlike last season, Canon-McMillan made sure the western representative would actually be from the western side of the state.
"The eastern papers were talking about an all-District 1 final," Canon-McMillan coach Michelle Moeller said. "It was our job to break that up.
"The fact it came against a team such as Pennsbury, it made it that much more special."
Canon-McMillan will now meet another District 1 team, Neshaminy (23-2), the district runner-up, on Friday at Penn State University at 12:30 p.m.
In the PIAA semifinal victory, Canon-McMillan sophomore Abby McCartney had a game befitting the big stage, driving in all three runs including two on a dramatic home run in the sixth inning.
An inning earlier McCartney had tweaked her ankle on a play at the plate in which she was called out. Earlier in the game McCartney had staked the Big Macs to an early lead with an RBI double.
Meanwhile, Big Macs senior pitcher Alayna Astuto continued her dominant postseason run, allowing one unearned run and striking out three.
"I didn't know if we were going to have any strikeouts, I knew they were going to put it in play," Moeller said. "Their entire team is travel ball players."
Canon-McMillan is seeking to bring a PIAA Class AAAA championship back to the WPIAL for the first time since Mt. Lebanon won it in 2010.
"Eastern teams started playing fast-pitch way ahead of the west, decades ago," Moeller said on Monday prior to the Tuesday game. "They have had the sport out there a lot longer than we have had it.
"Usually you see District 7 and District 1 having a shot out there and there have certainly been times when District 7 teams went out there and won."
The PIAA semifinal contest was originally scheduled for Monday but wet weather forced it to be pushed back to Tuesday. After a deep postseason run last year that included multiple delays, postponements, suspended games and long-distance trips, the Big Macs were hardly fazed.
"If this were last year, it might have been different," Moeller said. "But this is not foreign to us."
Canon-McMillan did plenty of scouting of Pennsbury and Moeller plans on reading up on Neshaminy.
"Even though we scouted Pennsbury, we didn't want to change the way we played," Moeller said. "We didn't want to get away from what we do."
After a playoff run this spring that included three trips on a school bus to California University of Pennsylvania and school bus trips to North Allegheny and Woodland Hills, the team was excited to finally be able to ride a charter bus for the 200 mile, three-and-a-half-hour trip to Carlisle on Tuesday morning.