STATE COLLEGE – Incredible, amazing, terrific, unbelievable.
Choose any of those words and it would not be adequate to describe what happened on the Nittany Lion Softball Field on a muggy Friday afternoon.
West Greene High School, in one of the most improbable comebacks ever in a championship game, erased a seven-run deficit early and won the PIAA Class A softball title, 9-8, over Williams Valley.
It was the first state title of any kind for the tiny Greene County school and avenged a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Williams Valley in last year’s Class A championship game.
When the final out came on a groundout to third base, players from West Greene met along the third-base line in a giant hugfest, tossing gloves and caps into the air and soaking in the realty that what seemed so out of reach early was now in their grasp.
“It’s indescribable right now,” said West Greene head coach Bill Simms. “It’s such a boost, not just for us but our community. We have people from Carmichaels and Waynesburg here. I’m getting texts from all over the place. It’s just amazing.”
Through the first two innings, optimism turned to doom and gloom as West Greene played some of its worst softball of the season. Not only did the Pioneers not score in the first inning, despite getting three hits and a walk, but starting pitcher Jade Renner allowed seven runs – two in the first and five in the second – that took a lot of steam out of the team and quieted the huge crowd of West Greene fans who made the six-hour round trip.
“When we were down 7-0, everyone was so upset and panicky,” said third baseman Madison Lampe. “We settled down. It was only the second inning so we had a lot of game left, a lot of time to chip away.”
It wasn’t all Renner’s fault. The Pioneers ran themselves out of two runs in the first inning and committed two errors in the second.
“Even my sister was down,” Jade Renner said of the effervescent shortstop Madison Renner. “I knew I had the Renner blood. I can bring this team back up. I knew I could pick my sister up. I told our team, ‘We can do it.’”
“I’m not going to lie. I came in (after the second inning) and I was crying,” said Madison Renner. “My coach (Nicole) Redlinger said, ‘Listen kid, we got a lot of game left.’ One run at a time. Then it was a new ballgame. It took a lot of guts from Jade.”
The Pioneers slowly crawled back into the game, starting with two runs in the third inning when Madison Lampe knocked in twin sister McKenna, and Madison Renner scored on a double by Kaitlyn Rizor.
Lexie Mooney opened the fourth with a walk, then Linzee Stover singled her to second base. Mackenzie Carpenter doubled in Mooney.
One out later, Madison Lampe lined a hot shot off the glove of shortstop Caitlyn Pinchorski for an infield single to load the bases. Madison Renner singled in Stover and, one out later, Jade Renner singled in Carpenter and Madison Renner.
“When we pulled away, it was an amazing feeling,” said West Greene catcher Shelby Morris, one of five seniors on the West Greene roster. “After we cut it to 7-2, our (game) picked up to where it should have been. We were hitting the ball and that was when I thought we could come back.”
West Greene scored three times in the top of the sixth against a wilting Vikings starter Stevie Unger, who like Jade Renner is just a freshman. Lexie Mooney drove in a run with a single, a single by Madison Lampe brought home the second and a bases-loaded walk to Madison Renner made it 9-7.
“We didn’t have enough at the end. We had our opportunities but in a championship game, we had to have the ball bounce our way,” said Williams Valley head coach Ryan Underkoffler. “The ball didn’t bounce our way. And that was the game.”
Williams Valley wasn’t going to go away. The Vikings cut the West Greene lead to one in the bottom of the sixth on a triple by Mya Achenbach. They got a runner to third base in the bottom of the seventh with one out but Jade Renner struck out Jamie Nieman and got Madeline to ground out to third base.
That ignited the celebration.
“I told the seniors we were going to win one for them,” Madison Renner said. “I told Mr. Simms we were going to get him one and we did.”
Jade Renner went the distance, striking out three without walking a batter. Williams Valley pitchers allowed seven walks.
Jade Renner had her best game of the postseason at the plate, going 4-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI. Madison Renner went 2-for-2 and drove in two and Madison Lampe went 3-for-5 with two RBI.
West Greene, a two-time WPIAL champion, finished with a 26-1 record. Williams Valley, the District 11 champion, ended 20-6.