May 24—Every little kid who loves baseball or softball seems to have the same dream.
Bottom of the last inning, tied score, bases loaded and you come to bat with the fate of your team in your hands and,. Then, a walk-off grand slam to win a playoff game.
Dreams can come true.
With the WPIAL Class 5A first-round playoff game tied, that scenario took place as Chartiers Valley sophomore Zoe Mangan launched a grand slam as the Colts galloped into the second round with a 9-5 victory over Thomas Jefferson.
“It was very special,” Chartiers Valley coach Chris Lloyd said. “I actually still watch it a couple times a day, and it still gives me chills and gets me fired up. Zoe has been clutch for us all year. Earlier this year, she had a walk-off hit against Trinity, and she also hit a walk-off home run against South Fayette. Once she stepped into the box, I knew something big was going to happen and she was going to break the game open. To cap it off with a grand slam was awesome.”
The big bat carried over from the opening round Tuesday to the quarterfinals Thursday, when she produced two more hits in another triumph.
“Zoe is a very confident hitter,” Lloyd said. “Her first at-bat against Connellsville, she struck out. When she came out on deck for her next at-bat, she told me she was going to do something different this time and swing. She has one of the most powerful swings on our team, and her confidence just keeps growing as we get deeper into the season.”
Those hits helped Chartiers Valley win 5-1 and advance to the final four Tuesday against North Hills.
Has Mangan’s success in her first varsity season surprised Lloyd and the CV coaches?
“The only real surprise is how she has been able to step in and play first base,” Lloyd said. “She is one of the big bats in our lineup. Along with Zoe, we have a solid group of sophomores, and you would never be able to tell by the way they play. They all feed off of each other. The biggest surprise is at how well this team has jelled together.
“I knew how well this team could be when I took this job, but how well they bought in and how quickly they did. All 18 of them come ready to practice every day and want to get better. They all feed off of each other and don’t want to let anyone down.”
Success in Mangan’s first varsity season didn’t come quickly, as Lloyd admits she struggled early.
“Before one of our games, I talked to her and told her I was going to give her a break this game. She was not too happy about it, but I knew after our conversation she was going to be ready to go. She actually came off the bench that game to pinch hit, and since then has been very consistent.”
Lloyd believes Mangan already might be the strongest girls on the team.
“She is also one of our pitchers and is an all-around athlete. She also loves hitting. Our whole team loves to hit, and they feed off of each other.”
Lloyd feels Mangan and the rest of the Colts are ready for the challenge North Hills presents in the semifinals.
“We played North Hills earlier in the season,” Lloyd said. “We made some mistakes that game, but since then we have been solid defensively and have been getting stronger. I am sure North Hills has gotten a lot better, too. We just need to keep playing solid defense, hitting one through nine and rolling the lineup over and pitching well. These 18 girls have worked really hard to get here, and I know they will be ready to step on the field come Tuesday.”
2021 Trib HSSN Softball Players of the Week:
Week 7 — Maddie Griffin, Ligonier Valley
Week 6 — Reagan Milliken, Bethel Park
Week 5 — Olivia Zimmerman, Indiana
Week 4 — Bella Hess, Chartiers-Houston
Week 3 — Lauren Yuhas, West Mifflin
Week 2 — Kailey Larcinese, Elizabeth Forward
Week 1 — Mia Edwards, Shenango