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Deer Lakes gets No. 1

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 10:54 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Deer Lakes' Rebecca Babincak slides safely into second base as Leechburg's Miranda Reesman braces for the catch during a softball game Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Leechburg Community Park.

There's both pleasure and peril being a No. 1 seed.

Defending WPIAL Class AA softball champion Deer Lakes was awarded the top seed in this year's playoffs. The Lancers also are rated No. 1 in the latest Trib Total Media poll.

Deer Lakes (15-0) wrapped up an undefeated regular season Thursday afternoon with an 11-1 victory at Leechburg. The Lancers are the only Class AA team to receive a first-round bye. It also means Deer Lakes will be off until May 21.

“I'll say what I've been saying since the beginning: Where you're seeded when it's all over is what counts,” Lancers coach Craig Taliani said. “We're happy. We've worked to get to that position. But there's a lot to be settled yet.”

Deer Lakes will play the winner of Tuesday's opening-round game between Keystone Oaks and McGuffey. That game will be played at Baldwin.

“I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about sitting that long,” Taliani said. “I was already talking to our athletic director (Charles Bellisario), and we're rapidly trying to pick up some scrimmages next week. We talked to the team about being not only physically tough but mentally tough.”

No. 6 Burrell (14-4) has had a major turnover in personnel since winning the 2011 WPIAL championship. The Bucs, however, are back in the playoffs after finishing 12-2 in the section. The only two losses were to Deer Lakes.

“We've replaced the whole team from 2011,” Bucs coach Mike Spagnolo said. “We've only lost two out-of-section games, and we're happy to be in it.”

Burrell will open the playoffs at 3 p.m. Tuesday against Steel Valley at Gateway High School. Spagnolo was hoping for a higher seed than sixth but realizes the Class AA field is loaded.

“Nobody's ever happy with their seed,” Spagnolo said with a laugh. “But we're happy to playing Tuesday. You hate to wait around.”

The dean of the Alle-Kiski Valley postseason is Leechburg coach Jim Oberdorf, whose Blue Devils are in the playoffs for the 27th consecutive season.

Oddly enough, Leechburg has never played South Side Beaver during all of those playoff trips. The seventh-seeded Blue Devils will play the Rams at 3 p.m. on Thursday at North Allegheny.

“I was kind of thinking we'd be seventh or eighth,” Oberdorf said. “It is what it is. I can't complain.”

If Leechburg (11-4) wins, it will play another team nicknamed the Blue Devils: No. 2 Burgettstown.

One playoff team with its work cut out is Class AAA No. 16 Highlands (8-6).

The Golden Rams will battle top-seeded Greensburg Salem at 5 p.m. on Thursday at Plum High School's new field. The Golden Lions are led by Jayne Oberdorf, a niece of the Leechburg coach.

In Class AAAA, No. 8 Plum (14-5) will play Penn-Trafford at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at Gateway; Class AA No. 12 Freeport (11-6) will play Greensburg Central Catholic at 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Woodland Hills, and Class A No. 14 Riverview (11-4) will play Carmichaels at 3 p.m. on Thursday at California (Pa.) University.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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