Trib Cup: West Greene softball team's postseason run continues
For the second straight season, the West Greene softball team entered the PIAA Class A tournament as the WPIAL champs.
Last season, the Pioneers' state run ended with a loss in the finals against Williams Valley. But this season, coach Bill Simms' team is mowing down playoff opponents with striking efficiency, including Thursday's 3-1 victory over Claysburg-Kimmel in the quarterfinals.
According to Simms, if there's one thing that sticks out about this year's WPIAL championship-winning squad as opposed to last season's, it's consistency.
“We lost Bailey Bennington, who was a tremendous part of the program and had 500 career strikeouts, and we still always thought we'd be really good because we had girls that could step up,” Simms said.
“We've had girls like Jade Renner, who came up as a freshman, stepped in and didn't miss a beat. I'd say that's the biggest thing that sticks out, consistency in having players that are stepping up to make a difference.”
That trademark of consistency certainly was on display during the team's 10-0 victory in the WPIAL title game against Monessen, where West Greene (24-1) received multi-hit performances from McKenna Lampe, Kaitlyn Rizor and Linzee Stover. Shortstop Madison Renner also put on a show, collecting three hits, including a home run and four RBIs.
The theme remained the same in the Pioneers' PIAA first-round win against Shanksville-Stonycreek, where the team again trounced its opponent by a 10-0 score.
“The first five girls in our lineup all had two or more hits in that game, too. McKenna was 4 for 4, Kate Rizor had three hits and Jade hit two doubles for us,” Simms said.
“We're bigger then that, too. The fact that the lower half of our batting order continues to do their thing makes us a potent lineup to deal with. It's not just the top half of our order; they're good, but we have girls that can hurt you, one through nine.”
Hitting isn't the only aspect of the game that two-time defending WPIAL Class A champs have excelled at either, as pitchers Jade and Madison Renner have combined to allow just four runs since the beginning of the month of May. Jade, the usual starting pitcher for West Greene, has accrued a 16-1 record with an ERA under 1.50.
Still, the Pioneers will need to continue to receive excellent efforts from all of its players if it wants another crack at Williams Valley, or whoever else may advance to the PIAA championship game. At this point, only two wins are needed to add another championship trophy to its case.
“We lost 3-2 in the title game to Williams Valley last year, and we're playing for that chance to get back there to that game. We've got to focus on winning the game in front of us and that's what we're going to do,” Simms said of Monday's semifinal matchup with District 9 champion Dubois Central Catholic (23-1).
“That's our mantra. We're not a group that wants to be cocky or anything like that. We try to find out as much as we can about the other teams, but in the end we just want to go out there and play our game and let the rest take care of itself.”
Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.