A-K Valley notebook: Highlands, St. Joseph, Springdale have lofty postseason goals

Friday, May 17, 2019 | 6:27 PM

As pleased as Highlands and St. Joseph baseball felt to end years-long WPIAL baseball playoff droughts, and as excited as it made Springdale to make the softball postseason for the first time in nearly two decades, all three teams had loftier goals than that.

And all three teams proved themselves as more than just “happy to be there,” earning strong first-round victories this week.

Highlands, the 14th seed in the WPIAL Class 4A baseball bracket, upset No. 3 Thomas Jefferson, 6-4, Wednesday to earn the victory in its first playoff appearance since 2003. That win came shortly after No. 11 St. Joseph routed No. 6 Monessen, 10-1, in the Class A first round.

Springdale followed a day later with a 14-0, five-inning rout of Quigley Catholic in the first round of the WPIAL Class A softball playoffs.

“It was sort of a culmination of everything we’ve talked about all year: putting together the pitching, the fielding and the good at-bats and really playing a complete game and really showing that we belonged,” St. Joseph coach Kurt Krebs said.

Krebs said he believed it was the first playoff victory in school history. The Spartans last appeared in the playoffs in 2000.

That was the same length of drought for Springdale, which jumped on Quigley Catholic early and never looked back.

“Even on the way out on the bus, you could tell they were focused,” said coach Anthony Pototo, who described himself as “smiling cheek to cheek” after the win.

”… They looked like a playoff team out there. We’re not happy to just be there. I told them, you’re here for a reason. You put in all the hard work, practices and games and all that — you deserve to be here.”

Highlands emphatically proved itself as well, jumping on favored Thomas Jefferson with a five-run fifth inning and holding on as the Jaguars scored four runs over the last two innings to make it close.

All three teams play again Monday: Highlands against Beaver and St. Joseph and Springdale both against Union.

“There could be no stopping this group,” Highlands coach Jeff Campbell said. “They worked hard, they know what they have to do. I don’t know if anything will be a surprise now.”

Sharp ends of the stick

Speaking of turning heads, the Freeport boys lacrosse team is making the deepest postseason run in its short program history.

The Yellowjackets advanced to the WPIAL semifinals for the first time after back-to-back upsets in the first two rounds Tuesday and Thursday.

Freeport, a WPIAL quarterfinalist last season and seeded 12th in the WPIAL Class AA bracket, toppled No. 5 Chartiers Valley, 11-10, in overtime in the first round. Garret Schaffhauser scored the game-winning goal, his third of the game, in overtime; Sean Fennell also had a hat trick, while Luke Miller and Keith Smilowitz both tallied a pair of goals.

Not to be outdone, the Yellowjackets knocked off No. 4 Moon, 7-6, on Thursday evening. Fennell scored four goals in the win.

Freeport will play top-seeded Mars in the Class AA semifinals at 6 p.m. Monday at Fox Chapel.

Remembering Sacco

The Plum Mustang Football Alumni Club’s annual golf outing, which takes place Saturday at Rolling Fields Golf Club in Murrysville, will have an emotional and reflective tone as organizers and others remember the life of former Mustangs player and coach Frank Sacco.

Sacco, who served as the head coach of the Plum varsity football team from 2009-12 after 15 years as an assistant, died in December. He was 53.

The outing is dedicated to his memory.

The event in the past has raised funds to benefit the William Rometo Sr. Scholarship Fund. This year, proceeds will go to the Sacco family, said Bill Rometo, Jr., a senior adviser for the club.

A Plum graduate, Sacco started two years at flanker and safety and helped the Mustangs win the 1982 Quad East Conference championship. He also played at Cal (Pa.) and was a member of the Vulcans’ 1984 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship team.

Sacco coached Plum to the WPIAL playoffs in 2009 and ‘10.

For information on how to submit a donation, email pfacgolf@gmail.com.

Recruiting roundup

Kiski Area’s Angelo Pisani committed to Pitt-Johnstown for cross country and track and field. Pisani shined in the 800-meter run during the spring season, with a third-place finish at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association championships and another medal at the Baldwin Invitational.

Kiski Area’s Dara Zelonka will play a pair of sports at the next level, as she committed to the women’s volleyball and basketball programs at Chatham. A middle hitter, Zelonka helped Kiski Area finish second in Section 1-AAA and reach the WPIAL volleyball playoffs in the fall. She finished as the basketball team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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