By Nick Wagner
JENKINS TWP. — It was much easier than they anticipated.
The Pittston Area Senior Softball team started a three-game series with Old Forge on Wednesday, July 8 to decide the Section 5 champion. But after just one game, Pittston Area was handed the crown.
Old Forge forfeited the championship because of a shortage of players, giving Pittston Area its second straight Section 5 championship and another trip to the state tournament.
“The kids are pretty pumped,” head coach Vito Quaglia said. “All of us would have like to have won it on the field. Things happen and you take it any way you can. The kids are really excited.”
Pittston Area will open its state run on either Wednesday, July 15 or Thursday, July 16. The state tournament will be played at Ber-Vaughn Park in Berwick this season.
In last year’s tournament, the girls finished third and lost to eventual East Region champion Edinboro/Cochrantan/Saegertown out of District 1, which is near Pittsburgh.
“Last year our goal was to get to the tournament,” Quaflia said. “When we lost, the kids knew they wanted to make it back.”
In the only game of the series, Pittston Area’s Nina Cencetti fired a complete game shutout, allowing just five hits and walking two in a 6-0 win.
“I was just trusting my defense tonight and trying to throw strikes,” Cencetti said following the win. “Our bats helped a lot tonight — everyone hit. Six runs is pretty good against Old Forge.”
Pittston Area is equipped with four quality pitchers, including two with high school varsity experience. Cencetti and Taylor Baloga each pitched for the Patriots this past season. Dominique Quaglia and Alexa McHugh are also pitchers Pittston Area can count on.
Cencetti ran into some trouble in the first and fourth innings. She worked through 1-2-3 frames in the second, third and fifth innings. She never faced more than five batters outside the second and fourth.
In the first, Cencetti got the first two Old Forge batters quickly. Then a single from Ashley Walsh, a walk to Alex Thoman and a single by Cierra Fantini loaded the bases. Cencetti got a groundout off the bat of Alicia Santarsiero to end the inning.
“Early on, I don’t think she was loose,” Vito Quaglia said. “After that she pitched a great game. Our defense played great. Nina is a dominating pitcher and she was on tonight.”
Pittston Area’s bats were quiet early on. After Abbey Bradigan drove home a run in the first with a single, the score stayed 1-0 until the fifth.
Old Forge threatened in the fourth.
Cencetti easily got the first two outs again, but Santarsiero and Kierstyn Breig hit back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. An error allowed Brieg to move to second. Cencetti then struck out Gabby Verespey to end the inning.
In the fifth, Kerry Shamnoski gave Pittston Area some insurance.
After a walk by McHugh and a single from Cencetti, Shamnoski hit a one-out double down the right field line.
“Kerry came through huge tonight,” Vito Quaglia said. “We have a lot of room to improve. We left a lot of base runners on tonight.”
The state tournament was held in Erie last season. This year’s tournament in Berwick will be a nice change, according to Quaglia.
“It’s definitely going to benefit us to have more family and friends be there,” he said. “It’s an area we’re familiar with so we can definitely get a fan base.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick