Valley-area WPIAL softball capsules: Highlands faces Elizabeth Forward; Leechburg takes on South Side Beaver

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Thursday's games

Class AAA

First round

No. 10 seed Highlands (7-4) vs. No. 7 Elizabeth Forward (11-5)

2 p.m. at Hempfield

Winner plays: No. 2 South Fayette (13-1)/No. 15 Ambridge (5-6) winner.

Extra bases: It's not a surprise Highlands is back in the postseason after returning several key members from last year's team that almost pulled the upset of the playoffs. Highlands rallied for a pair of runs in the seventh but fell 6-5 against heavily favored No. 1-seeded Greensburg Salem. Four key seniors who have had significant impacts on the program are Cassidy Runyan, Dakota Yaworski, Holly Penn and Danielle Yoytko. Last year's playoff loss was the last game for longtime coach Mike Zendarski, who resigned. First-year coach Jen Koprivnikar, who used to coach Springdale, leads the team. Highlands took three of its last four Section 5 games to clinch a playoff spot, including a 15-11 win over Mars. Like most WPIAL teams, Highlands had its schedule raked over by bad weather. With just 11 games played, Highlands is tied with New Castle for fewest games by a playoff team. Highlands has seven home runs, including three by Runyan and two by Voytko. ... Elizabeth Forward opened the season with a productive trip to the Disney Tournament in Orlando, Fla., and finished second in Section 3 behind West Mifflin. The Warriors closed the regular season with a 14-3 victory over Baldwin, a playoff team in Class AAAA. Junior shortstop Caitlyn Arico is one to watch.

Class A

First round

No. 10 Leechburg (10-4) vs. No. 7 South Side Beaver (13-3)

3 p.m. at North Allegheny

Winner plays: No. 2 Carmichaels (14-3).

Extra bases: Leechburg has turned the playoff experience into an annual rite, advancing to the tournament for 28 straight seasons. The Blue Devils will look to avenge a first-round loss to South Side Beaver, which clipped them, 1-0, last season. The only difference was a reversal of seeds. A number of freshmen have contributed for the Blue Devils, including Brooke Blumer, who leads the team with five home runs. Junior shortstop Miranda Reesman is one of the better players in the A-K Valley and will look to add some pop to the lineup in the postseason. ... South Side Beaver used a home run by then-freshman Connor McGraffic to edge Leechburg last year in a defensive struggle. Only one player graduated from last year's team. The Rams have recorded nine shutouts and scored 11 or more runs 10 times.

— Bill Beckner Jr.

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