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Valley hopes to stifle Washington in title game

| Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pitching often dominates in softball championship games, and the team that handles the pressure and wards off a sloppy day in the field usually wins.

Valley is closing in on its first WPIAL softball title, but the Lady Vikings must avoid letting nerves get in the way.

No. 4-seeded Valley (17-1) will tangle with No. 2 Washington (21-2) in the WPIAL Class AA championship game at 2 p.m. today at California (Pa.) University's Lilly Field.

"We have to do what we've done from the first day of the season," Valley coach Carol Perroz said. "Obviously, it's not going to be easy, but we need to keep an even keel."

Valley has played well defensively this season, commiting only 17 errors in 18 games. The Lady Vikings stumbled a little in the quarterfinals and had four miscues, but they made just one meaningless error in the semifinals.

Washington, on the other hand, played errorless ball in the semifinals.

At times, Valley hasn't needed much defense because senior pitcher Bethany Nealer has struck out 207 batters in 109 innings.

But Nealer was below her average with eight strikeouts in the semifinals and relied more upon the defense in that game. She expressed confidence in her teammates.

"They're always good," Nealer said. "When I don't get as many strikeouts, the infield and outfield does the job. They're solid everywhere."

Nealer says she tries to block out everything but the catcher's glove during games.

"I have my catcher (Erica Teichman) with me," Nealer said. "She always calms me down."

Valley's infielders go through a routine during warmups between innings that helps them relax.

After the throw from catcher to second base, they tap their gloves together. Then, senior second baseman Erica Brubaker and sophomore first baseman Olivia Traini slap hands, flutter them into the air and point upward.

"You have to have fun," Brubaker said.

It has been an exhilarating ride for Valley this season.

The Lady Vikings advanced past the quarterfinals after experiencing four consecutive losses in that round. And their only loss this season was a 5-4 decision against Hempfield, which was stopped in the Class AAAA semifinals.

"This is amazing," freshman third baseman Casey Bonk said. "This year has been so great, getting past the second round. To be a freshman and go to the championship game, I'm speechless."

Additional Information:

Today's game

WPIAL Class AA softball championship:

No. 4 seeded Vikings (17-1) vs. No. 2 Washington (21-2).

2 p.m. � California (Pa.) University's Lilly Field.

Road the final: Valley -- defeated West Shamokin, 8-0; defeated South Allegheny, 4-1; defeated South Park, 4-0. Washington -- defeated Mohawk, 1-0; defeated Burrell, 5-0; defeated Riverside, 13-1.

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