Burgettstown weathered a late comeback and difficulties in the pitching circle Monday to claim a 6-4 extra innings victory over Southern Huntingdon in the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
The result for the Blue Devils (18-5) was the program’s first PIAA playoff victory since 2002 when Burgettstown defeated Carmichaels, 2-0, before losing in the semifinals to Sto-Rox.
One of just eight teams remaining in Pennsylvania’s Class A softball and the only softball team from Washington or Greene counties still alive, the Blue Devils’ march through the postseason might be unexpected to some, but head coach Mark Deer is not one of them.
Despite fielding a lineup of six sophomores, two freshmen, two juniors and just one senior, Deer was confident his team would still be playing in June. After knocking Southern Huntingdon out of the playoffs, a rematch looms with WPIAL champion Neshannock. Neshannock (17-2) defeated the Blue Devils, 11-0, in five innings last week.
The two teams play today for a spot in the semifinals at North Allegheny High School with first pitch scheduled for noon.
“We just have to play our game and control the things we can control,” Deer said. “We’re going to have to make the plays in the field and we’re going to have to make the pitches. We have to focus on what we can do and not worry about what they are going to do.”
Burgettstown matched the Lancers, who have won 10 straight games, for the first two innings of the WPIAL semifinal game before allowing five runs in the third inning, four of which came on a grand slam, and six more runs in the fourth after three errors by the Blue Devils.
Deer’s team responded with a 7-0 win over Jefferson-Morgan in the WPIAL consolation game to clinch a spot in the state playoffs before Monday’s extra-innings victory at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park.
“We didn’t play well,” Deer said of Monday’s win. “It was ugly, but we won and that’s the thing that matters. It feels great to get the win, and I really feel good for the girls. This being a young team, getting the experience they are getting here will hopefully pay off down the road.”
If Burgettstown is going to upset Neshannock, it will have to avoid the one-hit performance the offense produced in the WPIAL playoff loss. But Deer is not concerned with his team’s ability to score runs. The Blue Devils have scored in double digits 12 times this season and have three pitchers they can turn to today.
“I knew I had a really talented team,” Deer said. “I told the girls everyone is saying our section is weak. We couldn’t set our hopes on a section title. We had to look deeper than that. We have to look for the WPIAL title this year and I think if the seeding would have been right, we would have had a shot at it.”
Big Macs commit
A trio of Canon-McMillan senior baseball players will continue their careers on the diamond in college.
Center fielder Teagan Piechnick, who had seven scholarship offers, chose Rider University, a Division I program in New Jersey. Second baseman Zach Pollack will attend Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio, and catcher Buzz Boggio will play baseball at Clarion University.
The Big Macs (13-6) lost to Moon in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals.
WPIAL lacrosse honorees
Several local high school lacrosse players were honored when the WPIAL released its postseason awards last week.
Evan Chernicky and Italo Merante of Peters Township were named Academic All-Americans. The Indians also had two players named to the Division I All-Section I team – Cody Sheetz, a Virginia Military Institute recruit, and Christian Coleman, a Clemson recruit.
Also, Peters Township named Mike Kaplan as its new head coach after the dismissal of Mike McBride. The Indians defeated Bethel Park in a play-in game to face second-seeded Shady Side Academy in the first round of the WPIAL Division I playoffs. They were eliminated with a 17-5 defeat.
California baseball’s WPIAL Class A championship and a 23-1 overall record led to two award recipients from the WPIAL Baseball Coaches Association.
Senior pitcher Josh Luko, who finished the season with a 10-0 overall record, was named the Class A Pitcher of the Year. Trojans first-year head coach Nick Damico was awarded the Class A Coach of the Year.
California’s season ended Monday with a 2-1 loss to Cranberry.