NORTH FRANKLIN TWP. — West Greene softball has done everything in the playoffs these last four seasons.
But in Wednesday’s WPIAL Class A semifinal at Trinity Middle School, the Lady Pioneers came up against a circumstance they had never faced before.
They were against a Greene County rival in Jefferson-Morgan.
Despite the unique circumstance, West Greene was focused and unfazed as it rolled to a four-inning, 15-0 victory to advance to the final for the fourth straight year.
“Our focus level is always there,” WG coach Billy Simms said. “As a coach I worried about every little thing and the kids just play. There’s so many things in May, like senior trip, prom, sports banquets and all the other stuff. There’s a ton of distractions, but the girls just come ready to play.”
The Lady Pioneers (18-4) will now face Union, a 5-3 winner over Leechburg, in the championship game at Peterswood Park on May 29 or May 30.
“We have played Union in the playoffs before,” Simms said. “It will always come down to pitching and playing defense. I will be sitting on pins and needles the rest of the week and trying to think of 10 more things to worry about. Union is a formidable team.”
The Lady Rockets (11-7) still have a chance of getting to the PIAA postseason, as they will meet Leechburg in the consolation game Tuesday with a site and time to be determined.
“West Greene is just an elite team,” J-M coach Rich Rush said. “They are not your typical Class A team and there’s really no comparisons. We just have to regroup and get our sights back on the consolations. Whoever will play next week is not West Greene. That gives us a chance to win if we do the fundamental things right.”
Kaitlyn Rizor led the offense with a 4-for-4 day that included two doubles, a triple, a home run, four RBIs and four runs scored.
“I have been working really hard on my hitting outside of practice these last couple of weeks,” Rizor said. “I left school early to hit some balls in the cage today. The hard work has paid off and I’m just squaring the ball up.”
Jade Renner, Brianna Amos and Jersey Wise all had three hits for West Greene.
“That’s the best we hit ever I think because that’s a good pitcher over there,” Simms said. “Jefferson is a really good team and we wish them the best in the next game. Rich has done a tremendous job with them and has stuck with that program to get them back into the playoffs. We just have a lot of power in our lineup and we all hit today.”
Renner was the winning pitcher and improved her postseason record to 16-0. Over four innings, the junior lefty allowed one hit with four strikeouts and no walks on 42 pitches.
West Greene jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first after an RBI triple by Rizor, an RBI double by Renner and an RBI single by Wise.
The Lady Pioneers increased their lead to 8-0 in the second, via an RBI triple by Madison Lampe, an RBI double by Rizor, an RBI single by Renner and a two-run double by Mackenzie Carpenter.
West Greene added four runs in the third with the big hits coming from a run-producing double by Rizor and a two-run single by Renner.
“We live for the playoffs,” Rizor said. “We are totally focused and don’t overlook anybody because if you lose one then your season is over. We just clicked today.”
The Lady Rockets didn’t have a baserunner until the fourth when Jasmine Demaske led off with a single and stole second, but she was doubled off after a sharp line drive to shortstop.
West Greene evoked the mercy rule in the bottom of the inning after a two-run, inside-the-park home run by Madison Lampe and a walk-off solo shot by Rizor.
“We have all stayed together and put in so much hard work over the years,” said Rizor, who will be playing softball at West Virginia Wesleyan next spring. “We don’t take it for granted and we are as excited to get to the finals as we were the first time.”
Caitlyn Dugan was tagged with the loss for J-M.
“With them, you have to make ever play you can and you can’t give them extra outs,” Rush said. “They jump on you and there’s no easy out in their lineup. Cait hit her spots and was effective, but they timed up her pitches. Every hit they had just fell into a gap.”
West Greene has won the last nine meetings against its county rival with J-M’s last win against the Lady Pioneers coming in 2015.