Canon-McMillan's Giorgiana Zeremenko was one of the top power hitters in the WPIAL last season, but had been limited to just nine games and one home run this spring while recovering from a shoulder injury.
Her power was on full display in Thursday's WPIAL Class AAAA championship game, and it made for a painful outcome for her team's opponent.
Zeremenko blasted a three-run home run and added a run-scoring single to lead Canon-McMillan to its second WPIAL title in a row after a 5-2 win against North Allegheny at California University's Lilley Field.
Canon-McMillan (21-1), which won its 19th consecutive game, will play Hempfield (18-6) in a PIAA first-round game Monday. North Allegheny (17-5) will square off against District 9 DuBois (13-6).
In March, Zeremenko, a junior catcher, suffered a rotator cuff injury that forced her to miss the first half of the season. It was a big loss for the Big Macs. Zeremenko batted .482 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs last season. Zeremenko, though, has fought hard to return to form, and it showed Thursday.
With Canon-McMillan trailing, 1-0, in the fourth, Abby McCartney singled with two outs and Olivia Lorusso was hit by a pitch. Zeremenko stepped to the plate and scorched an 0-1 pitch over the fence in left field for a three-run home run.
"I was just screaming at the top of my lungs as I was running around the bases. It was awesome," Zeremenko said.
Added Canon-McMillan coach Michelle Moeller: "What a great job. What a big moment. Big players take advantage of big moments."
The Big Macs added to the lead in the sixth. Linda Rush singled and scored on McCartney's triple. Two batters later, Zeremenko singled through the left side for her fourth RBI of the game.
Canon-McMillan pitcher Alayna Astuto got into a groove after allowing North Allegheny to score in the opening inning on Christine Scherer's RBI single. Astuto retired 14 of the next 15 batters she faced, with the only baserunner being a hit-batsman.
However, in the sixth with her team ahead by four runs, Astuto ran into some trouble. Laura Cotter reached base on an error, and Logan Woodley and Scherer added consecutive singles to load the bases.
"I knew I just had to stay strong and hit my spots because every pitch counts and the game could change really fast," said Astuto, one of only two senior starters for the Big Macs.
Astuto and the Big Macs were able to get out of the jam with little damage. Bonnie Pierson hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-2, but the Tigers hit into a force out and then an inning-ending fly out on a fine catch by McCartney.
"That was our shot. We knew we needed to get a little bit more out of it," said North Allegheny coach Rick Meister, whose Tigers were seeking their fourth WPIAL title.
Astuto gave up four hits and struck out nine to improve to 21-0. Astuto fired a perfect game in the semifinals.mobilehome - hsbaseball
First Published May 31, 2013 4:00 AM