Sandra Soltes left little doubt as to the Bethel Park softball team’s supremacy on the WPIAL Class 6A landscape.

A junior catcher, Soltes smashed a first-inning grand slam, a two-run homer and a two-run double to lift the Black Hawks to a 9-2 victory over Canon-McMillan in the Class 6A championship game played June 3 at Lilley Field on the California University of Pennsylvania campus.

The title was the first in the history of Bethel Park’s softball program.

“She was a powerhouse,” said Black Hawks head coach Heather Scott. “She went in with a great attitude and crushed it … twice.”

Soltes described her 8-RBI performance as one of her best games.

“Definitely,” she said. “I think it was amazing. I’m glad that I was able to save my best for last, at least this particular game.”

After Big Macs pitcher Lauren Duke issued walks to Alexandra Sneigocki and Gianna Sciullo, Reagan Milliken was hit by a pitch to load the bases in the first inning. Soltes said she then “perfectly timed a strike down the middle” and planted it over the left-field fence, vaulting the Hawks to a 4-0 lead.

“It felt awesome coming off the bat,” Soltes said. “The whole atmosphere, too. Everyone going crazy was super cool.”

Soltes went nuts in the fifth inning, tagging the two-bagger, and in the sixth, slugging her second home run of the game.

“I felt super good,” Soltes said. “I have been working on my swing recently so I felt awesome coming into the game.”

BP tagged six other hits off southpaws Lauren Duke and Brooke Perri.

“Soltes killed us,” said Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller. ”Bethel Park is a really good hitting team, and we did a good job against them, except for Soltes.”

The Big Macs did a good job of staying close to the Hawks through five innings before Soltes struck again.

Canon-McMillan’s Hailey Freeman tagged two doubles, scoring once and driving in a run as the Big Macs’ deficit was trimmed to 4-2.

“The tide was turning there a little bit,” Scott said.

The Big Macs (9-10) had plenty of momentum coming into the championship as they were coming off upsets of No. 3 Hempfield and No. 2 Norwin in the tournament. Canon-Mac, however, had suffered 18-4 and 9-5 losses against BP during Section 1 action.

“Our girls play pretty relaxed. They knew what they could do,” Scott said. “We kept harping that we had to play our game but we needed to pick up the energy and we did. It was a whole team effort all the way through.”

Besides Soltes, Milliken tagged two hits and scored three runs. She reached base safely four times, having been hit by pitches twice. The Ohio State recruit also made several key defensive plays at shortstop

Sciullo, a standout first baseman bound for Georgetown, and Abby Quickel each tripled in the game.

Delaney Nagy earned the win on the mound for Bethel Park. A Connecticut commit, Nagy scattered six hits and struck out two.

With the win, BP improved to 18-0. The Black Hawks became the first team to finish district play undefeated in the largest classification since Hempfield in 2017. More importantly, it was BP’s first WPIAL softball title in four tries. The Hawks were runners-up in 1981, 1987 and 1994.

“I’m not sure I have words for (the first WPIAL championship) but it’s amazing,” Scott said. “For this senior class, when they came in as freshmen, I knew they were a special group. I am so pleased with them and so proud of them.”

BP now embarks on PIAA tournament play. The Hawks face the third-place finisher from District 3 in the first round of the state playoffs June 7.

“We went undefeated and won WPIALs, which is such a cool experience,” said Soltes, “but now we are going to give it a 100% shot at a state championship.”

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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