Defense leads Nazareth Academy softball to first ever PIAA semifinal

Two thirds of Nazareth Academy's practices are focused on hitting, assistant coach Ray Keough said Thursday afternoon.

But lately the Pandas have been fine-tuning their defense, he said, and on Thursday it showed as they used a series of great catches to edge Bethlehem Catholic, 2-1, in the PIAA softball quarterfinals at Fleetwood.

The win sends Nazareth to its first ever state semifinal.

Sophomore center fielder Tamara Jennings ended the fourth inning with an over the shoulder grab with her back turned to the infield. The catch stranded a pair of Bethlehem runners. Jennings also went 2 for 2 with a pair of RBIs and a walk.

Molly Scullion, a right fielder, sealed the win in the seventh with a line-drive catch in foul terriortor and a shoestring catch as she ran near the edge of the infield.

Emily Shellenberger earned the win with one strikeout and no walks in seven innings.

"They believed in it today and it was the pitching and defense that got us through it," Keough said.