Neshaminy, Bristol to play Monday in state softball semifinals

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The Neshaminy softball team will play Parkland in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals on Monday at Patriots Park in Allentown at 1 p.m.

The PIAA softball playoffs move to the semifinal round on Monday, and Neshaminy and Bristol are looking to advance to Friday’s championship games.

Neshaminy (21-4) is set to play Parkland (23-3) in Class 6A at Patriots Park in Allentown at 1 p.m. Bristol (19-2) is scheduled to face Upper Dauphin (15-8) in Class 2A at Lyons Field in Fleetwood at 6 p.m.

Following a loss to Council Rock North in the District 1 quarterfinals, Neshaminy had to fight its way through the playback tournament to claim the district’s fifth and final spot in the state tournament. The Redskins have celebrated along the way by belting out Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” after victories.

Neshaminy kept its journey alive by beating District 1 champion Central Bucks South, 9-0, on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals. Sarah Dowalo pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just five base runners.

Dowalo picked up another win on Thursday as the Redskins rolled past Hazleton, 15-4. Alexis Watkins recorded two doubles, a homer and five RBIs to pace the offense. Natalie Rios, who also homered, and Victoria Smith each drove in three runs for Neshaminy, which has scored 40 runs in its last three games.

The Redskins will play in the state semifinals for the first time since 2013, when they lost to Canon McMillan in the Class 4A final. Neshaminy also reached the semifinals under head coach Dave Chichilitti in 2011.

Seniors Dowalo, Rios, Smith, Watkins, Amber Brugger, Hallie Duffy, Amanda Kurtz, and Paige Metz have the Redskins in prime position to win the program’s first state crown since 2003.

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Neshaminy’s Amber Brugger (left) and her teammates watch a game last season.

“This has always been a very talented group of girls,” said Chichilitti, who was an assistant coach at Bristol before taking over at Neshaminy in 2011. “Some of them have been playing together since they were 10, and they’ve been waiting to take this ride a long time.”

District 11 champion Parkland, which won the 4A title in 2015, has won nine straight games, including victories over Central York and North Penn in the first two rounds of states. Trojans junior Kelly Dulaney struck out 10 in a 5-0 triumph over Central York.

Despite trailing at some point in each of its last four games, Bristol will play in the semifinals for the second straight year. The Warriors scored three times in the top of seventh to defeat Wyalusing, 5-4, in the quarterfinals. Hailey Sweeney hit a two-run homer to tie the game, and Andee Perseponko delivered the game-winning hit with a single. Cara Fabiano went the distance for the pitching win.

Bristol also came from behind in a 14-7 win over Conwell-Egan on Monday, exploding for 13 runs over the final five innings. Prior to the state tournament, the Warriors rallied for wins against Dock in the regular-season finale and Calvary Christian in the District 1 championship game.

The Warriors have lost to Minersville in their previous two trips to the semifinals, in 2017 and 2014. They also fell to Minersville in the quarterfinals in 2011. Upper Dauphin beat Minersville, 10-0, in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

“We were looking forward to playing [Minersville] because we’ve developed a great rivalry over the years,” said Bristol head coach Michael Lalli. “But we will gladly play Upper Dauphin and hopefully secure a spot in the title game.”

Upper Dauphin, the District 3 champion, opened states with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Conemaugh Township. Eileen Nestor scored the game-winning run on a bases-loaded walk to Macenzie Hepler in the bottom of the seventh.

The state finals in 2A and 6A are set for Friday at Penn State with the 2A title game at 11 a.m. and the 6A championship at 4 p.m.