Thomas Jefferson upsets West Mifflin in section finale
Judging by the reaction of the West Mifflin softball players, you'd figure the stunning 4-2 loss to rival Thomas Jefferson on the final day of the Section 3-AAA schedule ended their playoff hopes.
It only felt that way.
West Mifflin, a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 1998 and hasn't won a section title since 1995, came up short of earning the outright section championship with the loss to last-place Thomas Jefferson, coupled with Elizabeth Forward's 2-1 win over Belle Vernon.
Even though West Mifflin's consolation prize was its first title in 18 years, sharing it with rival Elizabeth Forward seemed to leave the Titans feeling empty.
“I would expect nothing less than the reaction that we got,” West Mifflin coach Casey Phillips said. “You get upset with a loss when you are not accustomed to losing. In years past when we weren't winning, it didn't matter. But when winning matters, loses are harder to take. I think they felt they let themselves down.”
West Mifflin (13-3, 9-3) will likely receive a lesser seed when the playoff pairings are released next week because of sharing the section title with an Elizabeth Forward team (13-3, 9-3) that beat them twice this year.
“The bottom line is that we are going to the playoffs, and that's something West Mifflin hasn't done in a long time,” Phillips said. “Starting next week, it's a new season and we want to make the most of it.”
Making the most of what was a disappointing season is what Thomas Jefferson did with the victory.
The Jaguars won their first game of the year under new coach Heidi Karcher and managed only one more win before spoiling West Mifflin's hopes of an outright title.
“This is how our team should've played all year,” Karcher said. “We played like this Game 1, and I don't know what happened the rest of the season. We started strong and ended strong. We didn't even know about what it meant to them. We just wanted to come in and play our best at the end of the year. I didn't even know they needed this for the section … now I know.”
Thomas Jefferson banged out nine hits off West Mifflin pitcher Paige Flore, including doubles by Tara Conley, Lauren Herazo, Kyla Prickett and Rachael Bowers. Herazo went 3 for 3 with an RBI, with Conley collecting two hits and two RBI.
It was more than enough offense for starter Taylor Dubs.
She allowed three hits over the first five innings before West Mifflin's bats arrived in the last two innings, when they collected six hits but managed only two runs.
A big reason why came in the seventh inning of a 4-2 game. West Mifflin strung together a pair of singles as one of the Titans' best hitters — Marla Small — came to bat.
“I was cleaning up the dugout because I was nervous,” Karcher said. “I just wanted to get an out, and kudos to the outfield those last two innings. They were making plays.”
Janell Allison made the biggest only moments later.
Small flew out to left-center and Allison gunned out Amanda Leschak trying to tag and reach third base for the second out.
Dubs got Alyssa Cairns, who had two hits in the game, to pop out to shortstop to end the game. Syd Zalice had three hits and both RBI for the Titans.
“We didn't hit the ball hard enough to manufacture runs,” Phillips said. “When we did, it was too little too late. Nothing went right for us and we didn't deserve to win. We didn't pitch well enough, we didn't hit well enough. They were the better team today.”