No. 3 seed Riverview emerges as baseball playoff frontrunner
During the past decade, few WPIAL baseball programs proved better at posting upsets in the playoffs than Riverview.
There was the 2001 team that, as a No. 8 seed, toppled No. 1 Carmichaels in the quarterfinals on its way to the WPIAL Class A championship game.
The 2007 squad stormed from the No. 11 slot to reach the WPIAL Class AA semifinals.
And most notably, Riverview, one of four teams subjected to a play-in game in 2010, stunned No. 1 seed and returning PIAA Class AA finalist South Fayette in the first round.
Any playoff victories accumulated by the Raiders this spring won't receive the upset label, though, as Riverview (14-2) enters the WPIAL Class A postseason with a No. 3 seed. WPIAL officials released the pairings for all four classifications Thursday afternoon. First-round games begin Monday.
“Our history shows that as a No. 1 or 17 or whatever, you can get beat,” Riverview coach Rich Griser said. “I think how we're approaching this is that we're going to face good teams along the way and we know anything can happen, because just look what happened with us.”
The section champion Raiders, who open against No. 14 Rochester (6-8) at 2 p.m. Monday at Fox Chapel, are back in Class A for the first time since 2004. That season's team grabbed a less favorable seed, No. 8, and exited with a first-round loss. Griser described this year's No. 3 spot as affirmation of what the Raiders believed all spring.
“It's kind of a respect that's been paid to us, and now (the players) are letting that motivate them,” Griser said. “It's like, ‘OK, we have to go after this hard.' ”
WPIAL officials delivered two bits of good news to Deer Lakes (15-3): Not only did the Lancers get the No. 4 seed in Class AA, they ended up on the opposite side of the bracket from Riverside.
Riverside, the No. 3 seed and a two-time defending PIAA champion, eliminated Deer Lakes in the quarterfinals each of the last two seasons.
Unbeaten in section play this season, Deer Lakes, which opens against No. 13 Seton-La Salle (8-8), will look to surpass the achievements of the 2011 and 2012 teams, both of which also secured section titles.
“This year, we feel like we can not only contend with those (top) teams but beat those teams and contend for the WPIAL,” senior Kevin Begley said earlier this season. “I think that we have a little bit of a different mindset. … We expect to make noise in the playoffs now.”
In Class AAAA, Plum (14-6) received the No. 10 seed and a first-round matchup with No. 7 Shaler (11-9), the Section 4 co-champion.
The Mustangs hope the agreeable matchup will help them escape their opening-round rut. Each of the last four seasons, they lost their opening game. Two were upsets. Before that, the 2008 team reached the finals.