West Allegheny denies West Mifflin a trip to state softball playoffs
West Mifflin ended up in the WPIAL Class AAA softball consolation game because it couldn't come up with a clutch hit in a semifinal loss to Ambridge.
Unfortunately for the Titans, their season came to a close Wednesday when they could barely scratch out a hit of any kind against West Allegheny.
Indians starter Brianna Lach allowed only one West Mifflin (17-6) baserunner after the third inning, while Titans right-hander Paige Flore didn't get out of the fifth inning. West Allegheny came away with a 5-1 victory and earned a spot in the PIAA playoffs Monday against the District 10 champion at a site and time to be determined.
“We did not do a good job at the plate, and it was really out of character for us,” West Mifflin coach Casey Phillips said. “We hit the ball well all year, but we lacked a little bat speed, and we could have done a little bit better hitting ahead in the count.”
West Allegheny (13-6) had the leadoff batter on all five innings against Flore and scored in three of those frames.
Conversely, West Mifflin could get the leadoff batter on only twice, including the top of the first when Amanda Leschak singled and scored on a wild pitch.
West Mifflin was held to only four hits by Lach. It was only the second time the Titans were held to one run this season; the other was in a 2-1 loss at Elizabeth Forward on April 18.
“I told my kids before the playoffs that whatever happened before in the season doesn't matter; it's who's playing their best now, and we just keep getting stronger and stronger,” West Allegheny coach Mindi McFate said. “Our pitcher, this is the best I've seen her pitch all year. She's hitting the zone. We've struggled hitting, and this game we came out and started hitting early, and hitting is contagious.”
Though West Mifflin took a quick, 1-0, lead after the top of the first, West Allegheny came right back with one in the bottom half. Flore walked Brooke Bagnell, and Emily Garvin hit a two-out RBI double to tie it.
Flore ducked in and out of trouble throughout. She pitched her way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third, and it appeared she'd be able to escape again in the fourth when Morgan Partyka was cut down trying to stretch a leadoff double into a triple. But with two outs, McKenzie Johnson walked, Taylor James doubled, and Bagnell singled home both to put the Indians ahead to stay.
“It wasn't just Paige because she's one of the best pitchers around, and we just didn't hit behind her,” Phillips said. “Altogether, we just picked a bad day to have a bad game.”
Despite the loss, Phillips took a moment to step back and put the season into perspective.
For a team that had not qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs since 1998 to share its section title and move within a win of both the WPIAL championship game and a berth in the state playoffs, the season as a whole was an unmitigated success.
“It's the greatest season in the history of the program, and it's not often that a coach can sit here and say it and mean it,” Phillips said. “My seniors took their lumps for four years, and now we're here. I hate to lose, but I'm thrilled for these kids, and it was a great year.”