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Friday, May 30, 2014, 10:17 p.m.
 

Latrobe softball coach Alexa Bryson knows about big games.

The first-year coach pitched Latrobe to WPIAL Class AAAA titles in 2007 and '08 and to the PIAA championship game during those seasons. She also spent four seasons pitching at Robert Morris.

Now she is coaching the Wildcats in the state playoffs.

Latrobe (16-5) will face WPIAL champion Shaler (17-3) in a first-round PIAA playoff game at 4 p.m. Monday at Hampton. WPIAL Class AAAA runner-up Canon-McMillan (18-4), which was denied a third consecutive WPIAL title by Shaler, will play District 9 champion DuBois at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Brockway.

“I'm just glad we're playing,” Bryson said. “We can only control what we do. The games are exciting to play in, but your heart races a little as a coach in certain situations.”

Shaler took advantage of five errors to defeat Canon-McMillan, 9-5, for the Class AAAA title. Now the Titans will try to avoid a letdown as they enter PIAA play for the first time since finishing second in 2010.

“We'll try not to let that happen,” Palmer said. “Our pitcher is young, and we're a really hungry team. We're excited about our chances in the tournament.”

Thomas Jefferson surprised many by winning its first WPIAL Class AAA title. The Jaguars only won three games in 2013 but came on strong this season to win the title.

They will face District 6 champion Bellefonte (13-8) at 4 p.m. Monday at Baldwin.

“We only have two days to prepare for Bellefonte,” Thomas Jefferson coach Heidi Karcher said. “I don't know much about them except what I read online. It comes down to basic softball.

“We're going to scrimmage Canon-McMillan (on Saturday) and practice Sunday with the starters. The scrimmage will get the players back in check. We'll have to play solid defense and pitch well.”

Thomas Jefferson (15-6) got hot in the playoffs and won four consecutive games, including a 5-3, nine-inning affair in the final against Mars.

Kayla Prickett drove in three runs against Mars, including two on a third-inning home run.

Latrobe can thank a sixth-inning rally for clinching a state playoff berth.

The Wildcats scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth to upend Section 1 rival Penn-Trafford, 2-1, on Thursday at West Mifflin.

Senior Ashley Perillo delivered the game-winning hit, a single, to score Alexis Fearer. Perillo had three hits.

Perillo was a freshman when Latrobe last played in the state playoffs. The Wildcats reached the semifinals but fell to Pennsbury.

“We worked hard to get back in the state tournament,” Perillo said. “We bounced back from the tough loss to Canon-McMillan in the semifinals even though we played a good game.”

Freshman pitcher Meredith Carr allowed six hits and five walks, but she was backed by solid defense. Penn-Trafford stranded 10 runners.

“Meredith got stronger as the game went on,” Bryson said. “The first inning is always the toughest in the playoffs.”

Penn-Trafford scored its only run in the first inning against Carr.

“Latrobe has a pretty good freshman pitcher, and it's going to be tough to beat her,” Palmer said. “But if we hit like we did in the finals, we'll be OK.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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