WPIAL softball postseason newcomers making inroads

| Monday, May 20, 2013, 1:46 a.m.

There's no denying that the Serra Catholic baseball team has been there, done that.

The Eagles have won two WPIAL titles, a state championship and 140 games — including 27 in the playoffs — over the past seven years.

The same can be said about Elizabeth Forward's softball team. The Warriors have played for the Class AAA championship twice over the past six years, including last season.

But this year, things have changed … well, sort of.

Serra (18-1) is in the semifinals for the sixth time in seven years. The Eagles will play Western Beaver (16-2) on Tuesday at North Allegheny.

EF (17-4) will play West Allegheny (11-6) in the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Monday at Baldwin.

This year, those two perennial playoff winners are joined by some newcomers — McKeesport, West Mifflin, Steel Valley and Serra. All four softball teams won first-round playoff games last week for the first time in quite a while.

“We've been talking about the past for so long, and we're done worrying about the past,” West Mifflin coach Casey Phillips said.

The past hasn't been pretty for the four teams before this season:

• McKeesport won the Section 2-AAAA title, then won its first playoff game in what is believed to be 25 years when the Tigers beat Baldwin, 11-10.

McKeesport, led by a powerful offense and veteran pitcher Jess Beitler, takes on North Allegheny (15-4) at 4 p.m. Monday at Hampton.

“We're not done with this game, and we want to keep going,” McKeesport coach Missy Conrad said. “We've got NA … they know what we have, we know what they have and we just have to keep the bats rolling.”

McKeesport (17-4) scored 10 runs or more 12 times this year.

McKeesport has a group of veterans, but it's freshmen Vanessa Falce, Katie Barry and Dom Clark have been important contributors.

• After winning its first section in nearly 20 years, West Mifflin won its first playoff game in 15 years when it beat Mt. Pleasant, 16-2.

The Titans (16-4) take on Trinity (12-4) at California (Pa.) at 2 p.m. Monday with a berth in the Class AAA semifinals at stake.

“We are worrying about the future and winning three more games,” Phillips said. “I think we're good enough to win three more games. ”

West Mifflin junior pitcher Paige Flore is 11-3 with 79 strikeouts. The Titans rely on four seniors: Marla Small, Kaylyn Andress, Sydnei Zalice, Amanda Leschak.

• Steel Valley (12-5) will attempt to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1999 at 4 p.m. Monday against undefeated Riverside (16-0) at North Hills.

Steel Valley leans heavily on a pair of freshmen: pitcher Maddie Cotter and catcher Chelsea Rohan. Cotter is 12-4 with 128 strikeouts; Rohan is batting nearly .500.

“Anything is possible,” Cotter said. “We just have to believe in ourselves and go out there and win.”

• Serra (11-6) lost nine of its past 10 first-round playoff games before beating Bishop Canevin last week to advance to Monday's 2 p.m. quarterfinal against top-seeded Neshannock (15-2) at North Hills.

The Eagles are led by catcher Haley Havrilla, and pitchers Samantha Andrekanic and Nicole Jezerski.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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