Leechburg to meet familiar foe in softball playoffs
It isn't deja vu that Leechburg softball is experiencing. History really is repeating itself.
Leechburg will open this year's WPIAL Class A playoffs with the same matchup it had last season, a first-round game against South Side Beaver at 3 p.m. Thursday at North Allegheny. The other local WPIAL playoff qualifier, Freeport, will play a Class AA first-round game against Waynesburg at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Hempfield.
Not only is the opponent the same for the Blue Devils (10-4), but every detail of the matchup is similar.
Last year, Leechburg was the No. 7 seed, and South Side Beaver was seeded 10th.
This year, the Rams (13-3) are the No. 7 seed, and the Blue Devils are No. 10. The game also is at the same venue and start time as last year, and like in 2013, the teams will wait until Thursday, the final day of first-round games, to take the field.
“We figured we'd play either South Side Beaver or Burgettstown, and we thought if it was South Side that it would be at North Allegheny again,” Leechburg coach Jim Oberdorf said.
“All I know about them is they have a freshman that beat us last year on a home run, and we're going to have to figure out something to deal with her.”
That freshman, Connor McGaffic, accounted for the only run in the Rams' 1-0 win last year, and she is one of the many familiar faces Leechburg will see. South Side Beaver returns all but one player from last year's team, including pitcher Sarah Androlia.
While Leechburg only graduated two seniors from last year, its lineup has more differences with senior pitcher Lindsey Rowe making her first postseason start in the circle and a group of freshmen playing key roles.
“My second baseman, (Lexie) Young, has done well, our right fielder (Kasey Klapheke) has made some catches I'm not sure anyone could make and I have a freshman (Brooke Blumer) who leads us with five home runs,” Oberdorf said.
“The thing in the playoffs is that every team can knock every other team off. If we get hot, we can play with anybody, but we're going to have to play a nearly perfect game. The good thing is, we get three extra days to get ready for them.”
While Leechburg's matchup is one of familiarity, 12th-seeded Freeport (10-4) will face an unknown quantity in No. 5 Waynesburg (12-8).
The Raiders are the champions of Section 2-AA, just one year after missing the playoffs completely. On the other hand, Freeport's players — including senior starters Alexis Roenigk and Alyssa Ravotti — have been to the playoffs in every year of their careers.
“I think it's good for us. We have those seniors, and juniors like (pitcher) Jess Kelley and (first baseman) Karlie Hill, but we also have a couple of freshmen that have been big for us,” Freeport coach Sam Ross said.
One of those freshmen, catcher Morgan McCarthy, leads the team in home runs (seven) and shares the lead in doubles (six) and RBIs (21). She and third baseman Kristie Radvan, a .407 hitter, have helped the Yellowjackets again have a dangerous lineup from top to bottom.
“Even though we lost to Deer Lakes (10-6 on Wednesday), we knocked a good pitcher around a little bit,” Ross said. “We're swining the bat well, and we did win four of five games in three days this week.”
As Ross pointed out, Freeport played five of its 14 games this week, while Waynesburg played a full schedule this year, in part because of an early-season trip to South Carolina.
Jordan Moore is likely to be in the circle for the Raiders as the team's leader in innings pitched and only senior pitcher, but Waynesburg has used four pitchers this season. As for a scouting report, Ross will rely on his players and let them go out and perform.
“I don't know much about Waynesburg, but I usually rely on the girls for that. They play travel ball all summer, and someone's going to know something about their players,” Ross said. “It's nice when you can get nonsection games in. We started 0-3, and we didn't really have our lineup set the first couple of weeks, but now that we've been playing, we're doing well.”