The road to a state championship goes down the same road as last year’s for West Greene’s softball team.
The Pioneers, District 7 champions, defeated Dubois Central Catholic in the PIAA Class A semifinals and lost to Williams Valley in the finals in the 2015-16 season.
West Greene (24-1) gets its rematch against Dubois Central Catholic today in the West Region final at 5 p.m. at North Allegheny High School. In the East Region final, Williams Valley takes on Meyersdale in a 4 p.m. start at Bald Eagle Area High School. The two winners meet in an 11 a.m. game Friday at Nittany Lion Park at Penn State University.
“We ‘d like to think we’re ready to steamroll into (the game),” said West Greene head coach Bill Simms. “We think we’ve been there and done that. Hopefully, we have a huge crowd out there from Pioneer Nation and things work out for us.”
West Greene is one of two local teams in the state semifinals. Chartiers-Houston, playing it best softball when it’s mattered most, gets a rematch of its own in the Class AA semifinals, playing South Side Beaver with a 2 p.m. first pitch today at Lilley Field on the campus of California University. The winner gets either Bristol or Minersville in an 11 a.m. Thursday game at Nittany Lion Park.
West Greene is 5-0 in this postseason and have outscored opponents a combined, 46-2. The Pioneers are coming off their best defensive performance of the season in a 3-1 victory over District 6 runner-up Claysburg-Kimmel in a game played at Somerset High School.
This is the first time since the PIAA added Class A in 1999 that the same two teams have played in back-to-back years in the semifinals, regardless of the side of the bracket.
If West Greene and Williams Valley win, the two teams will do something that has never happened in Class A, a rematch of the previous year’s title game. A rematch has only occurred twice in PIAA history.
“We’re a year older and maturity plays a big part, but so are they,” said Simms. “It’s kind of like a mirror image of last year’s game. Whoever makes the big plays is going to win.”
In the first meeting against Dubois Central Catholic, West Greene took a 1-0 lead when leadoff hitter McKenna Lampe homered to left field in the bottom of the first inning. Dubois Central Catholic took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth but West Greene rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth. The big hit was a two-run single by Madison Lampe.
Dubois Central Catholic is coming off a 9-3 win against Commodore Perry in a game the Cardinals trailed 3-1 after four innings. DCC is led by senior centerfielder Macey Hanes, who is hitting .591 in 24 games. Catcher Jordy Frank has nine of the Cardinals’ 16 home runs and is hitting .562. Riley Assalone, who started last year’s game against West Greene, is expected to get the nod today. She has a 17-1 record with a 2.16 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 107 innings.
“Their core is still the same. I think they have five seniors that are key contributors,” said Simms. “Their pitcher and catcher are back, and they are good players. They have one freshman in the lineup and she looks like an above-average player. It should be a whale of a game.”
The one significant change is freshman Jade Renner as West Greene’s starting pitcher. She is 17-1 with a 1.30 ERA.
West Greene touts a strong lineup, with seven players hitting .350 or better. Madison Lampe has a .667 average and her sister McKenna is batting .573. Both have hit seven home runs. Madison Renner leads the team with 12 home runs and 55 RBI and carries a .500 average. Both teams can run with West Greene stealing 107 in 110 attempts and Dubois Central Catholic 87 of 90.
Chartiers-Houston vs. South Side Beaver
Chartiers-Houston has only one loss in the postseason, 10-0, to South Side Beaver in the WPIAL semifinals. That relegated the Bucs to the fourth and final state playoff berth. Since that game, the Bucs have a 1-0 win over Moniteau and a 4-3 state-playoff win over Frazier, a team that beat C-H twice in the regular season and won the WPIAL title.
“We’re just going in trying to be loose and confident and see what happens,” said C-H head coach Tricia Alderson. “That’s what we did the first two games, just go out and play and have fun.”
South Side Beaver (19-3) also has a 12-2 win over Chartiers-Houston (18-4) in a non-section regular-season game.
Hunter Hand and Capri Sollinger each have batting averages above .500 and starting pitcher McKenna Smith is above .400. Smith allowed just one hit in the last meeting and Sollinger drove in three runs.
“They beat us twice and I’m sure they are pretty confident,” said Alderson. “We just have to go out and do the best we can, get a good pitching performance and score some runs this time.”
C-H starting pitcher Kaitlyn Dittrich tossed a three-hit shutout against Moniteau and a collective hitting attack stopped Frazier. Six of the nine starters had hits and Karlyn Bayer drove in the third of a three-run fourth inning that turned the game.
“When we were playing well, we got some clutch hits,” Alderson said. “When we played Moniteau, we didn’t have a ton of base runners but we got the one big hit when we needed it.”
The Bucs have already surpassed the accomplishments of last year’s squad that lost in the first round of the state tournament. Now, they are a win away from a chance to become the first state champion at the school since the 2010 team won the Class A title.
“Everyone’s ready to go,” said Alderson. “We’re happy to be there and still playing.”