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West Mifflin softball shifts focus to consolation game

Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
West Mifflin base runner Kaylyn Andress is caught in a rundown between Trinity catcher Delaney Elling and third baseman Makayla Watson in the sixth inning of their WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal-round playoff game Monday, May 20, 2013, at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field. West Mifflin defeated Trinity, 9-5.

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By Keith Barnes
Thursday, May 23, 2013, 10:51 p.m.

West Mifflin had a long day and late night Wednesday.

Not only did the Titans have to wait through two lengthy rain delays during the Deer Lakes-Beaver matchup played prior to their semifinal date with Ambridge — they didn't take the field until 9:19 p.m., 2 hours and 19 minutes after the scheduled start time — they didn't leave the North Allegheny sports complex until almost 11:30 p.m.

After losing, 5-4, to the Bridgers, the midnight bus ride home gave the team quite a bit of time to reflect on what could have been. And what is yet to come.

“At first we were really disappointed and things like that, but the team and I talked about it (that) night, and you really have to look at the big picture and everything we've done this year and how far we've come,” West Mifflin coach Casey Phillips said. “At the beginning of the bus ride they were feeling somber, but by the end they were feeling good, and they know what they've done and what they're capable of doing.”

It might have been different if the loss to Ambridge had ended West Mifflin's season, but it didn't. Instead the Titans (17-5) have an opportunity to play at least one more time in the WPIAL Class AAA consolation game at 5 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny against West Allegheny (12-7), with a berth in the state playoffs as a reward for the winner.

West Mifflin has never played in the state playoffs, and prior to this season had not qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs since 1998. West Allegheny, meanwhile, has been a regular postseason participant but has not been in a consolation game since losing to Yough in 2010.

West Allegheny also is coming off a disappointing loss; it completed a suspended game with Greensburg Salem at California (Pa.) University on Thursday. The Indians trailed, 2-0, when the game was halted Wednesday but came back to tie it up with a pair of runs in the fifth before the Golden Lions scored a run in the top of the 10th for a 3-2 win.

“I said, ‘Go home and be upset.' We're going to take tomorrow off to clear our minds,” West Allegheny coach Mindi McFate said. “I said, ‘You come back and take it out on the next team.' Knowing that your season's not over is at least one benefit of the situation.”

For West Mifflin to earn a date in the PIAA first round with the District 10 champion June 3, the team will have to find the one thing it left behind on its last trip to McCandless: its ability to hit with runners in scoring position. It wasn't a problem in their first two playoff wins when they scored 16 and nine runs, respectively, but the Titans were only 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. They stranded 12 base runners — seven in scoring position, including the potential tying run in the bottom of the seventh.

“You have the rare opportunity to learn from your mistakes in a loss, which is something you don't get to do in the playoffs very often,” Phillips said. “We have a chance now to go back and work on some of those things that we struggled with during the (Ambridge) game and to put that to use Tuesday against West Allegheny.”

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