Next step arrives for Latrobe nine at Shippensburg
In previous years, playing at Shippensburg University meant you were in the Class AAAA state championship game. Now that the PIAA has moved title games to Penn State, a trip to Shippensburg is just the final step toward the biggest stage.
Latrobe has played at Shippensburg three times under coach Bob Kovalcin, losing twice in the state final. The Wildcats' win came in the 2007 PIAA semifinals, 2-0 against Garnet Valley.
In the 2007 title game, they lost, 3-2, to this year's opponent, Pennsbury. The teams meet again at 4 p.m. today at Robb Field.
"They're a young team but well-coached," Kovalcin said. "(Coach) Frank McSherry has been around a long time, so we'll have to be prepared for anything."
After winning its third WPIAL title, Latrobe has won consecutive 1-0 games in the state tournament. It defeated State College in the opening round and Erie McDowell in the quarterfinals.
Kovalcin said he felt his team was fortunate to beat State College, but it played what he called a perfect game against Erie McDowell.
"We played much better," he said. "No errors, no walks and no poor at-bats -- that's what we'll need against Pennsbury."
Senior Alexa Larkin, who is headed to Pitt, has been strong throughout the playoffs. She struck out 12 in six innings of relief against State College, and she allowed two hits and struck out 16 against McDowell.
"Alexa has been strong all through the playoffs," Kovalcin said. "It seems she tells her teammates, 'Get me a run, and I'll make it stand up.' "
Larkin also scored the winning run in Latrobe's past two games. Ashley Petrillo had the big hit against McDowell, and Carmelena Moffa the winner against State College.
Kovalcin also has used senior pitcher Rebecca Taylor, who started against State College and against Shaler in the WPIAL semifinals. Taylor has been slowed by a sore arm, but Kovalcin said she's working hard to return to form.
"We're two steps away from achieving our goal," he said. "I give the girls the 'Latrobe bible' to winning softball: 29 steps to success. We're at 27 now."
Pennsbury was the No. 1 seed in the District 1 playoffs but lost to Hatboro-Horsham, 8-5, in the final. In the state tournament, the Falcons have beaten Philadelphia Northeast, 12-2, and District 1 rival Souderton, 5-0.