McMURRAY — There was a storm brewing well before the meteorologists predicted one would hit the area early Wednesday afternoon.
It was forming shoulder to shoulder from the right-handed batter's box down to third base as the national anthem played over the loudspeaker at Peterswood Park, wearing black and blue, just how it has left one opponent after another over the last four years.
The storm, also known as the West Greene High School softball team, has been predicted annually for late May.
It struck for the fourth consecutive year.
Breaking open a one-run game with six runs in the third inning, West Greene continued its dominance over the district with an 11-0 six-inning mercy-rule victory over third-seeded Union in the WPIAL Class A softball championship.
The Lady Pioneers join a small group of programs to win four straight WPIAL titles. The Pioneers became the fifth softball team to complete a four-peat. Swissvale was the first team to win four straight, from 1979 to 1982. Baldwin, Sto-Rox and Hempfield, which won its fourth last year and will try for a fifth consecutive today, are the others.
"We thought we had a nice team four years ago when we battled Beaver, the defending Class 3A champion, in a fall tournament. We then beat Deer Lakes in Myrtle Beach," West Greene coach Bill Simms recalled. "We thought we were legit. As coaches, you always think you have a good team. Our girls have just done a great job maxing out their talent level."
West Greene (19-4) has also maxed out a lot of scoreboards.
The latest win was the 58th time in the four-year stretch the Lady Pioneers have inflicted the mercy rule on an opponent. They have won nearly twice as many mercy-rule games than games that have been decided by five or fewer runs (32).
"We try to play the game like we are down 2-0 at all times," Simms said. "Anything can happen. You just don't know what can transpire. We aren't looking to run up the score, but we are trying to add on and add on. It isn't our goal when we get on the field. If we can close out a game, that is our goal."
And with a 7-0 lead entering the fourth inning, players filed into the Lady Pioneers' dugout to hear one message from Simms.
"We never have enough," he shouted.
The Lady Pioneers added another run in the fourth inning on a shallow line-drive to left field from Brianna Amos to score Madison Lampe. They then reached the 10-run rule with three runs on five Union (13-6) errors to take an 11-0 lead.
It was the first time West Greene has induced the mercy rule on the Lady Scotties, who have become familiar postseason opponents. The Lady Pioneers knocked Union out of the WPIAL playoffs in last year's semifinals. They also beat Union in the quarterfinals in 2016. West Greene won each of those games by 8-2 scores.
"I really don't think they are any better than us. I really don't," Union coach Doug Fisher said of West Greene. "They put their uniform on, just like we do, every day. I'm going to give them credit, they are a good team. We are a great team, also. There is nothing I can say that they are better than us."
West Greene started the onslaught when pitcher Jade Renner helped her own cause at the plate. Renner singled through the left side of the infield to score McKenna Lampe in the first inning to give the Lady Pioneers an early 1-0 lead.
The Lady Pioneers' merry-go-round third inning methodically broke Union. West Greene batted around and five of the 10 hitters had an RBI. Kaitlyn Rizor hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Lampe. On a full count, Renner found the same gap she did in the first inning for another run-scoring single. Katie Lampe raced home on a wild pitch. Jersey Wise and Kylie Simms each singled in runs and Kylie Meek hit an RBI triple to end the damage and give West Greene a 7-0 lead.
Renner went 2-for-4 with three RBI and scored a pair of runs. McKenna Lampe, Brianna Amos and Wise also had two hits each.
"When I'm in the circle and know my bat can contribute, it really helps," Renner said. "We always have a target on our backs. That makes me have to hit and pitch my best."
Renner was equally as dominant in the circle. Relying on a steady defense behind her, including two phenomenal plays by centerfielder McKenna Lampe and Rizor at shortstop, the junior didn't allow her first hit until the bottom of the fifth inning. She pitched all six innings, allowed two hits and struck out two for her 11th shutout of the season.
McKenna Lampe's catch robbed Union's Katelynn McCurdy of extra bases, and possibly a run, in the second inning. McCurdy lifted a pitch to right centerfield. Running into the gap, Lampe reached over her left shoulder for the running catch.
Rizor, who is in her first year at shortstop, made a backhanded diving stop and threw from her knees across the infield to prevent a hit in the fifth inning.
Renner ended the game by fielding a ground ball hit back at her and casually flipping on to first base as her teammates quickly surrounded her to celebrate in the pitcher's circle.
"We are always hungry," Rizor said. "We are in it until the end. We don't stop until that scoreboard shuts off."