Freeport baseball seeks elusive win as local teams enter playoffs
After working through six weeks of section play, one-and-done time has arrived for Armstrong County's WPIAL playoff teams.
The Leechburg softball team and Freeport's baseball and softball teams found out who their first-round opponents would be and when they begin play when the WPIAL released its playoff brackets late Thursday night.
• Freeport baseball (11-3) will be the first to begin when it faces Brownsville (13-4) at 2 p.m. Monday at Mt. Pleasant in the 8 vs. 9 matchup in Class AA.
• In softball, the Yellowjackets (11-6) are seeded 12th in Class AA and will face No. 5 Greensburg Central Catholic (10-4) at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Woodland Hills.
• Leechburg (11-5) is the seventh seed in Class A, but their playoff opener isn't until 3 p.m. Thursday when it faces No. 10 South Side Beaver (13-4) at North Allegheny.
Both seeding and records indicate all three games should be close, perhaps none more so than Freeport's attempt to end a three-year run of first-round exits in baseball.
“I thought that's about where we'd be seeded,” Freeport coach Chris Graczyk said. “We had a really good practice (Friday), and I think our kids are really focused. Last year was the first playoff experience for a lot of them, and I think they'll be more ready to go this year.”
Graczyk was tight-lipped about what he had learned from other coaches when scouting Brownsville.
The Falcons, who were co-champs of their section, are led offensively by catcher Shane Roebuck, who has an .458 average and 22 RBI. Freeport likely will face Brownsville ace pitcher Tyler Spohn, who has five wins and is among the WPIAL's top 15 pitchers in strikeouts.
Graczyk said he didn't want to reveal who would oppose Spohn for his team, but he has three experienced options in seniors Luke Mariotti, Robbie Miller and Ethan McCormick.
“I think with the experience we have, we're more prepared to advance this year,” Graczyk said. “You look across the board in Double-A, and there are a lot of teams that are fairly evenly matched. We don't have the stud pitcher or big home-run hitter that some teams have, but we play hard and do a lot of things well, which should even it out for us.”
While the baseball team dropped its first game, Freeport's softball team advanced to the quarterfinals last year before being shut out by eventual state champion Neshannock, 4-0.
The Yellowjackets have power bats in Taylor Massart, Karlie Hill and Alexis Roenigk, who combined for 16 of the team's 21 home runs this season. They will be tested by GCC sophomore pitcher Nikki Adisey, who will be making her first playoff start after leading the Centurions to a section title this season.
Alyssa Meta will be in the circle for Freeport, and she will face a GCC lineup led by Mercyhurst recruit Julia Lang. Freeport outscored GCC this season, 165-117.
Section 3-A co-champion Leechburg, which is seeking its first playoff win since 2010, will face a South Side Beaver team that was Section 4-A runner-up.
With the gap between the end of section play and his team's first game, Leechburg coach Jim Oberdorf is letting his players regroup and refocus before starting on its playoff push.
“I gave them this weekend to rest,” Oberdorf said. “We had a situation with three starters missing because the band and chorus are away this weekend, and we've been going at it pretty much every day. They're definitely at a point where a break will do them more good than harm, and we'll start back at it Monday.”
Leechburg has just two seniors, but pitcher Kenzie Young is one of them.
Young will be facing a South Side Beaver lineup that has a trio of players batting over .400 — Michelle Klein (.478), Tricia Lamont (.435) and Cheyenne Seik (.407) — and is led by pitcher Alexis Tripp, who boasts a 1.67 ERA.
Leechburg has had its own success producing runs with Young, Miranda Reesman and Marissa George in the middle of the lineup, as they have scored six or more runs in 12 of 16 games.
“I don't know much about (South Side Beaver), but we're probably two very evenly matched teams,” Oberdorf said.
“We're a very young team with only the two seniors (outfielder Mindy McCorkle is the other), but a lot of the girls who are starting played last year. We still have a long way to go, but we've got a solid group.”