West Greene faces same opponent on same date, time and at place as 2016 PIAA championship loss
June 16, 2016 is a day West Greene softball will never forget. Competing in the school's first state championship game in any sport, the Pioneers fell to Williams Valley, 3-2, in the bottom of the seventh inning at Penn State's Nittany Lion Softball Park.
Exactly one year later, the Pioneers (25-1) will have a chance for revenge against the same opponent, at the same time and place.
“Anytime you get a chance to play in a state championship game, it is meaningless who you play,” West Greene coach Bill Simms said. “We are just thrilled to get another crack at one. It turned out to be Williams Valley again. We had our eye on them from the beginning. It is a great storyline.”
“We know they are going to have solid pitching. We read up on their freshman pitcher. She has kept them in every game. She was good enough to get them in the state finals, so that speaks volumes in itself. They have the (Caitlyn) Pinchorski girl who is back at shortstop from last year. She batted leadoff for them last year and scored the winning run against us. She is a terror on the bases.”
The Pioneers have their own terrors at the top of their lineup with sophomore twins McKenna and Madison Lampe. The Lampes are two of five underclassmen who have started for West Greene over the last two years, in which the Pioneers have gone 51-3 with two section titles, two WPIAL titles and two PIAA championship appearances.
“It has been a fairytale,” Simms said. “We knew this group was going to be very talented and good. We didn't know we would be playing in two state title games, but we will take it. This team has accomplished a lot of firsts with section championships and WPIAL championships the last two years. It has been an indescribable feeling.”
To set up the rematch with the Vikings, the Pioneers outscored their opponents 22-6 in the PIAA playoffs. They started with a 10-0 win against District 5 runner-up Shanksville Stonycreek followed by a 3-1 win against District 6 runner-up Claysburg-Kimmel and 9-5 win against District 9 champion DuBois Central Catholic.
Williams Valley is the District 11 champion and has outscored opponents 26-7 in three PIAA playoff games.
West Greene has been known for its high-powered offense, but its pitching combination of sisters Madison and Jade Renner has snuck under the radar. Madison Lampe, a junior, started the season before her younger sister, a freshman, took over. They have combined for 12 shutouts.
“Our pitching gets under recognized in the fact that (Madison Renner) hasn't pitched a lot of innings,” Simms said. “She is 6-0. She probably has a better strikeout ratio and ERA than Jade (Renner). She pitched in the state finals game last year. She has been phenomenal at taking Jade, her younger sister, under her wings. She probably throws as much as Jade in practice to stay sharp in case she is called in. Jade has been called upon in the bigger games and in the playoffs. With her on the mound, it gives us our most complete defensive lineup. Jade has matured like you can't ask anybody to do.”
The only blemish for the Renner girls and West Greene came April 19 in a 7-6 loss to rival Waynesburg, a nonsection game. Since that loss, the Pioneers have rattled off 13 straight wins.
“Waynesburg has a very solid group,” Simms said. “We have played those group of girls for eight to ten years. They play with us in fall tournaments. We play with them in other tournaments. It is a good rivalry game that they won that day. They hit a three-run home run in the top of the seventh, and we couldn't rally back. If losing to Waynesburg gets me a chance to win a section title, a WPIAL title and play for a state title, I hope they beat us every year. It is a nice trade-off.”
Now it is Waynesburg, among all other rival and non-rival teams in the area, that is pulling for West Greene to make history and bring a state championship back home.
“It is amazing to see some of our rival opponents coming to our games to cheer for us,” Simms said. “It is inspiring to see how much it means for the community, not just our school. It would be a monumental shot in arm for our community.”
Dre Karpen is a freelance writer.