WPIAL baseball, softball teams get early heads-up on playoff pairings
Serra Catholic baseball coach Brian Dzurenda likes to keep his team loose on the cusp of the WPIAL playoff pairings announcement, so he took a cue from the NCAA basketball tournament and had the Eagles do their own bit of bracketology.
“I've hosted a seeding party for the last seven or eight years at my house on Fridays, and we just mess around and make our own brackets to see who is the closest,” Dzurenda said. “It's just something for fun.”
Normally, that party is on the day the pairings come out, but though the party is still on for this year, the Eagles already will know their first-round opponent. Because of a scheduling conflict, the WPIAL baseball steering committee will meet at 7 a.m. Thursday; the brackets should be released in the afternoon.
Serra Catholic (16-1) is one of three Class A teams — Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Western Beaver are the others — to have finished undefeated in section play this year. Any one of them could end up garnering the top spot in the tournament.
“I think we should be in the top four, but you never know what the seeding committee is going to do,” Dzurenda said. “I would like to think that we were a one or a two, but you never know.”
Serra Catholic has been the top seed in the tournament three of the past four seasons, but in 2012, the team was seeded fifth and lost to OLSH in the second round — the team's earliest exit since a first-round loss to Geibel in 2006.
This year, the Eagles enter the playoffs riding a 12-game winning streak. Their only loss came in a 19-1 nonsection drubbing against Class AAA Elizabeth Forward.
Though Serra Catholic is going into the postseason on a hot streak, it doesn't mean the team is going to be complacent — no matter what the seeding committee decides.
“We're never where I want to be,” Dzurenda said. “We can always be better, and you can ask any kid on the baseball team, and they know there's a whole other level we're trying to get to, and we're not there yet.”
While Serra Catholic had its baseball deadline moved up a day, the Elizabeth Forward softball team had been preparing for a Thursday announcement since it clinched a WPIAL playoff berth nearly a month ago.
The Section 3 co-champions finished their section schedule May 2 and spent the last week loading up against playoff teams to prepare themselves for a second consecutive run to the championship game at California (Pa.) University.
They certainly made a statement of their readiness Wednesday, with a 7-2 romp over perennial Class AAAA title contender Hempfield. It was the third victory of the season for Elizabeth Forward (16-4) over a Class AAAA playoff team.
“I think any time you're playing a Quad-A team, it's going to help us when it comes to playing the tougher teams in Triple-A, obviously,” Elizabeth Forward coach Harry Rutherford said. “Portia (McBride) pitched well — she threw a one-hitter — and when you throw like that against a quality Quad-A team, it's going to be a feather in her cap, and hopefully, she can take that into the playoffs with her.”
Because only one Class AAA school, Greensburg Salem, made it through its section slate unscathed, the Golden Lions likely will get the top seed when the brackets are announced.
Elizabeth Forward could end up anywhere from second to fourth, despite the fact it tied West Mifflin (15-4) for the section title. The Warriors defeated the Titans twice and will get a higher seed.
“I'm thinking that we're going to be second or third. That's kind of where I projected where we should be,” Rutherford said. “Greensburg Salem will be the No. 1, and of that I don't think there's any doubt. I think we're looking at two, three of four for us, and anything lower and I'd be disappointed.”