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18

May, 2021

Fox Chapel Stuns Plum in First-Round Pitchers’ Duel

The Plum and Fox Chapel softball teams met in late March to open the 2021 season.

The Mustangs scored a five-run victory in the matchup.

The teams rematched Tuesday in the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs, but this time, the result was different.

The 14th-seeded Foxes scored twice in the top of the sixth — one on a solo home run from Neena Pietropaolo and a second on a RBI double from Hunter Taylor — and came away with a 2-0 victory over the No. 3 Mustangs at Gateway.

“I can’t say enough about how prepared and how mentally tough the girls were,” said Foxes head coach Chris Olbrich, who saw his team improve to 12-6 overall.

“They did what they had to do. Plum is an amazing team with a really good pitcher in (Melanie) Meinke. It was a pitcher’s duel until that homer, and we still only got two runs.”

Fox Chapel, which Olbrich said hadn’t won a playoff game in more than 20 years, moves on to the quarterfinals against No. 11 Franklin Regional on Thursday at a site and time to be determined. The Panthers topped No. 6 West Allegheny, 4-1.

“We won this today, and tomorrow (Wednesday) we go back to work,” Olbrich said. “We’re not done yet, and if we keep playing the way we did today, we have a chance to compete with and battle anyone we play.”

Plum, which had won its final nine games of regular season and captured the Section 1 championship, wrapped up its season at 13-4.

“We got beat by a really good pitcher,” said Plum coach Phil DiLonardo, referring to Fox Chapel starter Mackenzie Borkovich. “We only had one hit off her. You’re not going to win many games, especially playoff games, with one hit. Melanie pitched a great game, too.”

“Unfortunately, in the playoffs, you get the one chance, and if you don’t produce, you’re gone. It’s not like the regular season where there is another game to look ahead to. We just have to get over that hump in the playoffs.”

Tuesday’s game was delayed for about 25 minutes when, in the bottom of the first, it was determined third base was set about 5 feet too far from home plate and second base also needed adjusted. Groundskeepers fixed the base locations, and the game resumed.

Meinke and Borkovich came into the game with a combined 361 strikeouts on the season. The game had the potential of a pitcher’s duel, and that is how it played out.

Meinke struck out 12 batters and allowed just two hits through five innings.

With one out in the sixth, Pietropaolo, who had struck out in her first two at-bats, connected on a Meinke offering and deposited it over the center-field fence to give Fox Chapel a 1-0 lead.

“I was still nervous. Mel is such a good pitcher,” Pietropaolo said. “We play on the same travel team, so I know her well. She pitched such a good game. I just stuck with the ball, saw a good one to hit and drove it out.”

Amelia Herzer followed with a single and then came around to score on the double from Taylor to make it 2-0.

Plum had two innings to rally, but Borkovich and the Foxes defense shut the door.

In the bottom of the sixth, Mustangs first baseman and cleanup hitter Makenzie Lang was intentionally walked with one out. It was one of three times Lang got the intentional free pass in the game.

Taylor Lorish came on to pinch run. The Plum threat then was squashed as Fox Chapel turned a double play to end the inning.

The Foxes worked around an error in the bottom of the seventh to close out the victory.

Borkovich’s only hit surrendered was a first-inning single to Plum senior second baseman Fran Beigley. The Mustangs left two runners on in the opening frame.

Borkovich finished with eight strikeouts.

“Mackenzie pitched her butt off again and kept us in the game, and the defense behind her was unbelievable,” Olbrich said. “They made every play that could’ve not gone their way.”

Meinke, a senior, struck out 16 and gave up five hits. Herzer finished 2 for 3 to lead Fox Chapel.

“I am so excited, with this being my senior year,” Pietropaolo said. “It’s a great feeling that we get to keep playing.”

 
 

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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