PIAA rematch would suit Deer Lakes
In most sports, the PIAA postseason is structured so teams that clash in their district playoffs — often the semifinals or finals — renew acquaintances in the state bracket.
The tournament is not a matchmaker, it's a rematch maker.
And a good one could be in the works.
While hinting around with guarded-caution, Deer Lakes softball players and coaches stopped short of admitting their desire for another shot at Riverside (20-0). But one only has to glance at the Class AA bracket to see that the possibility exists.
If both teams win Thursday in the quarterfinals, it will happen — time and site to be announced — Monday.
Deer Lakes (19-1) plays Philipsburg-Osceola (22-1) at 2 p.m. at Bedford.
Riverside plays Ligonier Valley (17-4) at 4 p.m. at Fairhaven Park in Kennedy Township.
“I'm sure we'd come out with so much fire if we played them again,” Deer Lakes outfielder Leanne Crawford said.
“But we can't get ahead of ourselves. We can't be cocky.”
Riverside and star pitcher Kirsten Wilson downed defending champion Deer Lakes, 5-1, in the WPIAL championship at California (Pa.) University.
Wilson struck out 11 in a three-hitter. Outfielder Andrea Lippman made a potential home run-saving catch of a drive hit by Deer Lakes' Sierra Sarver.
It's a stretch to say that Deer Lakes and Riverside are rivals after just one showdown, but who wouldn't want to see two of the best teams in the state play again?
Deer Lakes believes it can play with Riverside, which has 17 shutouts this season. The Lancers made four errors in the loss.
“We want to play whoever is there (in the next round),” Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani said. “This is where we were last year. You can't look past anybody.
“It's simple: There's no Riverside if we don't do our part and get past the quarters.”
There's always another scenario: One team advances, and the other doesn't.
“Actually, we would like to see (Riverside) get beat (Thursday),” Crawford said. “We'll see what happens.”
Deer Lakes senior catcher Hannah Blinn said history, not just Riverside, is driving this state-playoff run. Deer Lakes is in the PIAA tournament for just the second time and has never made the semifinals.
“I don't think we're thinking about (Riverside) as much,” Blinn said. “We just really want to get past that second game. If we do that, getting a chance to beat Riverside (in the semifinals) would be that much better.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.