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Schlegel does it all for Mars

Mars pitcher Niki Schlegel delivers against Seneca Valley in a non-section softball game Wednesday. Schlegel scattered four hits and also homered in the 4-1 Planets' victory.
Planets' pitcher scatters 4 hits, homers in win

ADAMS TWP — Niki Schlegel had herself a day.

Mars’ senior pitcher scattered four hits, did not allow an earned run or a walk, and homered in the Planets’ 4-1 girls softball victory Wednesday at Seneca Valley.

“Niki is competitive out there and she throws strikes,” Mars coach Michele Goodworth said. “And she’s learned to let her defense work for her.”

The Planet offense went to work early in its own right.

Marina Manuppelli homered to right to lead off the second inning. Her RBI double to center — Manuppelli’s sixth hit in as many at bats to start the season — highlighted Mars’ two-run third inning.

“It always helps to get a lead early,” said Schlegel, a third-year varsity starter on the mound. “Everybody can relax and just play when things are going well.”

Schlegel lined a ball over the center field fence leading off the fourth to give the Planets (2-0) a 4-0 lead.

“I’m pretty sure that’s my first homer in a varsity game,” Schlegel said. “It felt pretty good.”

The pitcher struck out only four batters all day — none after the third inning — but went to a three-ball count on only three hitters.

“Pitch count is important to me,” Schlegel said. “I like to get ahead of hitters and limit my pitches. We play a lot of games in a week and I want to stay strong.

“Our team can hit the ball from one through nine in our lineup, so if I’m not on top of my pitching on a given day, I know we’re going to score runs.”

Mars scored its second run Wednesday in odd fashion. Mallory Eperesi singled to left with one out and advanced to third when the ball was thrown away. She then jogged home before the ball was returned to the pitcher.

“We gave them a run there,” Seneca Valley coach George Trew said. “We just stood around and watched the girl cross the plate.

“Those are the types of mental errors we cannot make if we expect to make the playoffs.”

Like Schlegel, SV pitcher Katie Hickman did not walk a batter all day.

“We didn’t help her too much,” Trew said of his pitcher.

The Raiders (0-2) scored their lone run in the fifth inning. Tori Pfab reached on a force play and came all the way around to score with two outs when Morgan Aloi’s single got past the right fielder.

All four of the Raiders’ hits were singles.

“We’re not hitting the ball on the barrel right now,” Trew said. “We didn’t hit the ball hard at all today.”

Baserunning mistakes cost Mars opportunities to add to its run total. Izzy Berkopec lost a one-out double in the first inning because she failed to touch first base.

Lindy Lee was caught wandering too far off third after a successful bunt single by Katelyn Hoover that would have loaded the bases with none out in the fourth. Pinch-runner Kara Rodriguez was thrown out trying to go from first to third on a single to shallow right in the sixth.

“Those are definitely things we need to work on in practice,” Goodworth said. “It’s early in the season and we have to iron out things like that.

“We’ve got eight starters back and we expect to be solid hitting and fielding the ball.”

Mars has allowed only one run in its first two games this season.