Emma Stefanick went into Charleroi’s playoff opener Tuesday having not hit a home run all season, but that’s not to say she doesn’t have any power.
“Honest to goodness, when we practice and do live hitting, she crushes the ball,” Charleroi coach Trey Tilghman said.
Stefanick picked the perfect time to finally crush one in a real game, and her walk-off blast in extra innings helped the Cougars survive an upset bid.
The team’s designated player, Stefanick also played the role of “designated hero” Tuesday, as the junior took the first pitch she saw and deposited it over the left-center field fence for a one-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift No. 4 Charleroi to a 6-5 win against No. 13 Steel Valley in a Class 2A first-round game at West Mifflin.
Steel Valley (4-11), which came into the postseason with fewer wins than any other playoff qualifier, took a surprising 5-4 lead when Kendall McConnell singled in Darwin Burns in the top of the eighth. However, that advantage turned out to be short-lived. After Avery Pendo ripped a one-out single in the bottom half of the inning, Stefanick, the team’s No. 7 hitter, followed with her home run to give Charleroi (16-2) the win. It was Charleroi’s first lead of the game.
“She crushed it,” Tilghman said. “She’s hit balls like that before, but just not consistently. It was a huge part of our win and we needed it.”
Winning pitcher Sofia Celaschi collected 11 strikeouts.
It marked the second year in a row that Charleroi won its first-round game courtesy of a walk-off home run. A season ago, Celaschi provided the heroics, as her two-run home run gave the Cougars a 5-3 win against Serra Catholic.
Other Class 2A
• Juliette Vybiral’s inside-the-park home run propelled No. 6 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (13-3) to a 6-5 win against No. 11 Shenango (7-9) at North Allegheny. Leann Walzer scored on a wild pitch in the fifth that proved to be the winning run. Winning pitcher Justena Giles finished with eight strikeouts. OLSH will play No. 3 Serra Catholic (15-3) in the quarterfinals.
• No. 11 Ligonier Valley (9-7) rallied for four runs in the seventh to knock off No. 6 Hopewell (10-7), 4-2, at Plum. After Hopewell’s Ava Compton hit a two-run home run in the sixth, Ligonier Valley responded with RBI groundouts from Payton LaVale and Abby Springer to tie it. The Rams then took the lead on a bases-loaded walk before Cheyenne Piper added an RBI single.
• Winning pitcher Katie Armstrong struck out 15 in leading No. 4 Burrell (12-5) to a 4-1 win against No. 13 Mount Pleasant (11-9) at Plum. Bella Stewart, Pyper Ferres and Braelyn Jones all homered for Burrell, while Mount Pleasant was paced by Krista Brunson’s three hits.
• Leah Kuban had three hits, including a walk-off two-run home run in the fifth, to vault No. 1 and defending champion Avonworth (18-1) to a 15-4 win against No. 16 Seton LaSalle (5-10) at Montour. Avonworth finished with 16 hits. Seton LaSalle’s Gianna Ferrieri hit a three-run homer in the first.
• Kendall Lemley picked up the pitching win and hit a two-run home run in the sixth to lead No. 3 Waynesburg (15-3) to a 5-1 win against No. 14 Valley (6-11) at Peterswood Park. Hannah Wood had three doubles for Waynesburg and Gina Tedrow added three singles.
• Payton Farabee doubled three times and No. 6 Jefferson-Morgan (9-7) used a four-run third inning to defeat No. 11 Northgate (8-6), 7-4, at Peterswood Park. Winning pitcher Kayla Larkin allowed four hits and struck out five. The Rockets advance to play No. 3 Frazier (13-1).
• No. 5 West Greene (12-7) scored six runs in the first and nine more in the second to roll to a 16-1 three-inning win against No. 12 Monessen (7-8) at Waynesburg University. West Greene’s London Whipkey had a three-run double in the second and finished with two doubles and three runs scored.
Class 3A first round
Avonworth 15, Seton LaSalle 4 (5)
Burrell 4, Mount Pleasant 1
Central Valley 6, Deer Lakes 2
Ligonier Valley 4, Hopewell 2
Southmoreland 3, McGuffey 1
Waynesburg 5, Valley 1
Yough 11, Ellwood City 5
Class 2A first round
Burgettstown 8, Apollo-Ridge 1
Charleroi 6, Steel Valley 5 (8)
Greensburg Central Catholic 10, Bentworth 0
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 6, Shenango 5
Riverside 14, Fort Cherry 0 (5)
Class 1A first round
Jeannette 16, Carlynton 1
Jefferson-Morgan 7, Northgate 4
Leechburg 8, South Side 1
West Greene 16, Monessen 1 (3)
Class 3A preliminary round
Derry 16, Mount Pleasant 5
Valley 6, Burrell 5