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Mt. Pleasant softball looking for revenge against West Mifflin in 1st-round matchup

| Thursday, May 15, 2014, 12:51 a.m.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Maddie Kromer (front) and Paige Hertzog (right) will try to help Mt. Pleasant defeat West Mifflin in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff game Thursday, May 15, 2014, at Gateway.

This year, the Mt. Pleasant softball team qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the ninth straight season. For first-year coach Lauren Shaheen, it's a nice accomplishment for a team that worked hard to achieve a 9-7 record and third place in Section 4-AAA.

“That was a goal of ours from the get-go,” Shaheen said as she watched her team practice on Mt. Pleasant's artificial turf football field Wednesday afternoon. “To be able to make it is phenomenal. It's a good feeling and they deserve it.”

The Vikings garnered the 14th seed in this year's tournament and will play West Mifflin at 4 p.m. Thursday at Gateway.

The Titans (16-2) earned the third seed after finishing at the top of the Section 3-AAA standings. It's the second year in a row the two teams have met in the first round of the playoffs. West Mifflin defeated Mt. Pleasant, 16-2, in 2013.

“I know that they are very good,” Shaheen said. “Other coaches have said they are a dominating team. They have good pitching, good hitting and good fielding.”

The Titans' biggest strength is likely their pitcher. Senior Paige Flore is 15-2 and has given up just seven earned runs all season. She has racked up 100 strikeouts and walked just 13.

Mt. Pleasant will counter with some strong bats, particularly from middle infielders Paige Hertzog and Kayla Queer. According to Shaheen, Hertzog, a senior shortstop, is hitting .679, while Queer, a sophomore second baseman, has a batting average north of .500. Senior pitcher Ashley Pospisil has posted a 9-7 record with 44 strikeouts this season.

While coming up with some offensive production will be a priority against West Mifflin, Hertzog noted the Vikings' play in the field will be just as critical.

“We need to have good defense and if we keep our energy level up, I think we can do anything,” Hertzog said.

Hertzog is thrilled to be returning to the postseason again with her teammates, and she recognizes the significance of the program being an annual postseason participant.

“It means a lot,” Hertzog said. “All the work is paying off and it's a good feeling knowing that some teams don't make the playoffs, and we do. I'm excited to see us compete.”

While the Vikings have a nice string of consecutive playoff appearances going, success in the postseason has eluded Mt. Pleasant. In the past eight seasons, Mt. Pleasant has only managed two playoff victories (a quarterfinal win in 2012 and a pigtail win in 2007).

But nothing can be done about the past, and the Vikings are focused solely on making the most of the opportunity in front of them.

“It's a new year and a new game,” Shaheen said. “Our biggest thing is that we have to play as a team and pick each other up and be ready to make the next play.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at jblack@tribweb.com.

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