SLIPPERY ROCK — Jade Renner jokes that the nervousness she plays with is passed down by her mother.
But the West Greene High School softball pitcher and cleanup hitter doesn’t know where her gene for being clutch was derived.
“I really have no clue,” Renner said. “My mom played and wasn’t that good. My dad played and all he did was pick daisies in the field. My sister (Madison) and I always ask that question and we don’t know.”
One time after another last Friday afternoon, Renner turned all the nerves of the Lady Pioneers’ faithful into sighs of relief.
After breaking the game open in the fifth inning with a three-run double, Renner fielded a hard-hit grounder for the final out to end a nerve-racking seventh-inning rally as West Greene held on for a 5-4 win over Clarion in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal game at Slippery Rock University.
Clarion (18-5), the District 9 runner-up, scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning but left the game-tying run at first base.
“I told the team huddle, ‘(Clarion) has to do something extremely phenomenal. Well, they did. We didn’t expect any quit. But it’s about girls’ moms and dads taking them all over the country and having them in games like that. We made sure to get easy out.”
Renner’s flip on to first base for the final out sent the Lady Pioneers to the semifinals against DuBois Central Catholic Tuesday back at Slippery Rock. A win would have West Greene (21-4) playing in its fourth consecutive state title game this Friday at Penn State.
All of the scoring by the Lady Pioneers came much later than normal.
Entering the fifth inning scoreless, West Greene loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a single by Madison Lampe. Kaitlyn Rizor then hit a hard grounder to third base that was bobbled, scoring Kylie Meek with the game’s first run. Renner ripped her double into the gap to score the Lampe twins, McKenna and Madison, and Rizor for a 4-0 lead.
“It doesn’t look like I’m nervous. I look calm but don’t let me kid you,” Renner said. “Going into the fifth inning without a score made me nervous. We were struggling, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, this doesn’t look good.’”
Katie Lampe, who was a courtesy runner for Renner after the double, stole third base, then beat a tag while colliding with Clarion catcher Jordan Best on a wild pitch for the final run of the five-run fifth inning.
“West Greene took advantage of our mistakes,” Clarion coach Dan Shofestall said. “That’s what good teams do. That one bad inning really hurt.”
West Greene right fielder Mackenzie Carpenter was a big reason the game was scoreless. On a single by Clarion’s Tori Vega, Carpenter threw out Breanna Campbell trying to score from second base in the fourth inning.
“When the ball was hit, I saw her rounding third and knew I had to gun it to the plate,” Carpenter said. “That would have changed the whole momentum of the game. I know I have to make those plays. I was worried but as I let go of the ball I knew it was going to be good.”
An inning later, after the Lady Pioneers scored their five runs, Carpenter started a relay to second baseman Brianna Amos to throw out a runner at third base.
“She has been our Player of the Game a couple of times this year,” Simms said of Carpenter. “She might not light the scoreboard up and put up fantasy-league stats, but what a player. I like to pride ourselves on believing that defense wins games. Our defense was incredible today.”
Clarion standout pitcher Kaitlyn Constantino was the other reason the game remained scoreless so long. Constantino held the Lady Pioneers without a run for longer than any other pitcher in their 27 postseason games over the four years.
Constantino had six strikeouts and limited West Greene to six hits.
Renner was equally as dominant but in a different fashion. She gave up 11 hits and didn’t walk or strike out a batter all game.
“Give her credit, she pitches to contact,” Shofestall said. “That’s where she is so effective. That’s what makes her good. They have the defense behind her to do that.”