Simms speaks with his team

West Greene coach Bill Simms talks to his team between innings during Friday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal playoff game against Clarion at Slippery Rock University. (Photo by Luke Campbell)

West Greene is known as a dominant softball team and rightly so with the way it has overwhelmed its opponents in most games over these past four seasons.

But don’t let the Lady Pioneers fool you into thinking they might crack in a close battle.

That just hadn’t been the case for coach Bill Simms’ squad heading into its PIAA Class A semifinal game against DuBois Central Catholic at Slippery Rock University on Tuesday. If the Lady Pioneers won that game, they will be playing for the state championship for the fourth straight year today at Penn State University.

West Greene was 7-1 in the postseason since 2016 in games decided by three runs or less and 3-1 in one-run games with the only loss coming to Williams Valley, 9-8, in walk-off fashion in 2016.

The Lady Pioneers (21-4) showed their mettle again last Friday when they survived a 5-4 clash with Clarion at Slippery Rock in the quarterfinals to keep alive their hopes of winning a third straight state title to go with four consecutive WPIAL championships.

The Lady Bobcats, down 5-0, loaded the bases with no outs and eventually got the tying run on base and the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning.

West Greene’s fielders stayed calm, thanks in part to a visit to the mound by Simms during the Clarion uprising, and took the sure outs, ignored the meaningless runs as they scampered home and secured the win on a sharp ground out back to pitcher Jade Renner.

“I went out and told them, ‘Hey, don’t try to make a hero play here. If there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind, we’re going to first base with it,’” Simms said. “(Third baseman) Madison Lampe probably had a chance to get a girl in a rundown at home right beside her but she did the veteran thing and just threw it over to first base. We thought we could get three outs before they could get five runs.”

West Greene may have found itself in another tight battle with DuBois (16-9), the District 9 champion, if history was any indication. The Lady Pioneers defeated the Cardinals 5-2 in 2016 and 9-5 in 2017, both also in the state semifinals. This year’s team was forced to forfeit nine games due to using an illegal player, which means DuBois had yet to lose a game on the field this season going into Tuesday’s clash.

“We went out and watched them at Mount Aloysius (a 6-5 quarterfinal win over Claysburg Kimmel) and they had a nice come-from-behind victory,” Simms said. “They tied it in the bottom of the seventh and then won it in the bottom of the ninth.

“They showed they’re battle-tested in tight games as well. They’re outfield is extremely long and athletic and the catcher has a great arm. We don’t know a full scouting report from what you would get in watching them 10 games but in the one game we saw them we know that they’re a very, very solid team, well-coached.

“It should be a great game in the state semifinal I think.”

While West Greene has steamrolled its section foes for the most part since 2016, it’s putting together a competitive non-section schedule that has sharpened the Lady Pioneers in tight games, according to Simms.

“We’ve spent a lot of money to go to Myrtle Beach to play in high-level games at the beginning of the season against much bigger schools and classifications, that’s why it, hopefully, pays off here at the end,” Simms said.

“We need to go out and play a huge non-conference schedule and we have. That’s what’s prepared us for these playoff games like the one we got into on Friday.”

While this is the final go-around for the Lady Pioneers’ legendary senior class, which includes senior starters Kaitlyn Rizor, Madison Lampe, McKenna Lampe, Brianna Goodwin and Mackenzie Carpenter, Simms prefers not to ponder about that just yet.

“We’re trying to kind of put that on the back burner and just ‘carpe diem,’ live for the moment,” Simms said. “We know our days are numbered with this group but we’d just like to do what we can do to extend the season one more game.

“DuBois Central is going to be a formidable opponent but I’m sure they’re going to get our best shot.”

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