You can probably count on one hand the number of times a pair of defending WPIAL and PIAA softball champions have met during the regular season while both are still undefeated.

The once-in-a-generation matchup between reigning Class 3A state champion Avonworth and reigning Class 2A champion Neshannock was billed as one for the ages, with the Antelopes carrying an 11-0 record into the contest while the Lancers rolled in on a 33-game winning streak. Both teams feature stud pitchers and plenty of power at the plate, and both seem to potentially be even stronger than they were a year ago.

By the end of the game, though, it was clear Neshannock remains in a class of its own.

The Lancers jumped on Avonworth ace pitcher Alivia Lantzy for two runs in the first inning and three in the second inning — both coming via the long ball — then added one run in each of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings before closing out a one-sided 9-2 home win in the top of the seventh. Stellar sophomore Addy Frye pitched a complete game with six strikeouts for Neshannock (8-0, 5-0), and she belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to get the scoring started.

“I can tell you I had a really great feeling about it warming up, because it was probably the best I’ve ever seen our girls come prepared to play,” said Lancers coach Jackie Lash. “I just think the girls have been ready. We’ve had some really good practices. … They’re just really some of the most pleasant young ladies you’ll get to coach. They make it fun.”

The Lopes (11-1, 5-0) did manage to record 10 hits against Frye, and they could have had a much bigger day offensively if not for the spectacular defense played by Neshannock — specifically freshman center fielder Jaidon Nogay. The younger sister of senior shortstop Aaralyn Nogay made several dazzling grabs to rob Avonworth batters of extra bases, and she also clubbed a three-run homer in the bottom of the second inning to blow the game wide open for the Lancers.

“It is truly the best I’ve ever seen her play,” Lash said. “Catching them at the fence, diving in the left-center gap, big catch in the right-center gap. … She has quite a bit of potential, and we’re just excited to see how much better she gets over the next few years.”

As astonishing as Jaidon’s debut season has been, there’s no question that Aaralyn remains the sparkplug who ignites Neshannock’s souped-up engine. A laser-fast leadoff hitter with an infectious smile and undeniable passion for the game, she has picked up right where older sister Neleh Nogay left off as one of the top all-around players in the area. The Lancers all gather around the fence in anticipation of her at-bats, knowing something special is probably about to happen. Wednesday afternoon was no different, as Aaralyn went 3 for 3 with two doubles, a triple, a walk and four runs scored.

“I’m really relaxed as a coach knowing that Aaralyn is starting things off for us,” Lash said. “Just listening to everybody in the dugout, the excitement when she’s coming up to bat — and then knowing little sister is coming up next, and she’s probably going to move her up or bring her in — it really is a great lineup that we have, and we’re very fortunate for that.”

Although it was only a non-section contest in the middle of the regular season, the historical significance of this showdown created a playoff-type feel for the players and coaches involved. Lash said the atmosphere at Neshannock was electric, and both teams treated the game with the importance of a major section clash, rather than the scrimmage-like feel of some early non-section games.

In the end, the Lancers stretched their winning streak to 34 games in a row with no real end in sight. Most expected this to be arguably the toughest test on their schedule this year, other than a rematch at defending WPIAL Class 5A champion Armstrong on May 8. Neshannock beat the River Hawks last year, 14-4, and Armstrong will surely be out for revenge. But is there anybody in their right mind who is going to be picking against the Lancers at any point this season?

“It’s definitely a good feeling, just knowing the caliber of team that we just played and beat,” Lash said. “It was really a feel-good night, a nice crowd there, and the girls performed like they know how to.”

Hempfield exacts revenge over North Allegheny

After a 1-0 loss at North Allegheny in a rain-shortened game on March 27, Hempfield had to wait about three weeks for its shot at revenge — and the Spartans made the most of it.

Things were much different this time around, as Hempfield (10-2, 7-2) cruised past the Tigers (8-4, 5-3) to the tune of a 9-2 victory. Senior third baseman Mia Bandieramonte went 2 for 2 with a home run and two RBIs, while freshman Clair Mitchell went 2 for 2 with an RBI and Penn recruit Payton Heisler drove in a pair.

The win provided a much-needed boost for the Spartans after a 10-8 loss to Norwin on Monday dropped them from the top of the Class 6A standings. The Knights now control the top spot in the race for the section title, with Seneca Valley half a game behind and Hempfield one game back.

Norwin knocks off Canon-McMillan with comeback win

Speaking of Norwin, the Knights found themselves facing a 3-1 deficit after four innings Wednesday at Canon-McMillan, but it didn’t take much longer for their bats to come to life.

Thanks to a pair of home runs from Maddie Kessler and Josey Michalski, Norwin (10-2, 8-1) stormed back with 13 runs in the final three innings to earn a 14-5 road win against the Big Macs (4-6, 3-5) while extending its winning streak to six games in a row in the process. Michalski finished 3 for 5 with a homer and five RBIs, while Kessler went 2 for 5 with a home run and two RBIs. Alyssa McCormick also went 3 for 4 with an RBI, while Rachel Minteer and Izzy Deering each went 2 for 5 while driving in a pair.

The Knights currently control their own destiny in the race for the Class 6A Section 1 title, but they will need to avenge a 4-0 loss to Seneca Valley when the teams face off again on April 26 in order to make that goal a reality.

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at