Alle-Kiski Valley high school notebook: Burrell softball hopes for better luck in playoffs
By: Doug Gulasy
Sunday, May 13, 2018 | 12:21 AM
Burrell might want to avoid any black cats, ladders or shattered mirrors before its WPIAL Class 3A softball playoff opener next week.
The Bucs (11-4), the No. 5 seed, are making their 13th consecutive postseason appearance, but they experienced bad luck in their two most recent trips. First came a 2-1, 10-inning loss to Steel Valley in 2016, after the International Tiebreaker Rule placed the go-ahead run on second base. Then, last season, the Bucs saw a three-run lead slip away against top-seeded Ellwood City in the seventh inning; the Wolverines rallied to win, 6-5, on their way to a WPIAL championship.
Of course, Burrell can put its fate into its own hands with a strong performance against No. 12 McGuffey, the team the Bucs beat in the first round last season. The Bucs closed the regular season with nonsection wins over Plum and Apollo-Ridge.
“They're pretty loose right now,” Burrell coach Brian Eshbaugh said. “At least they're focused, which makes it nice for me. We played some close games, lost a close game, won a close game. … If our bats are alive, that'll be a big plus for us.”
The WPIAL champion in 2011, Burrell advanced as far as the quarterfinals in 2014, '15 and '17, but no further. Eshbaugh hopes that will change this season.
“We need to get past that second round,” he said. “That'll make us actually more happy.”
In the long runs
Leechburg holds the longest softball postseason streak in WPIAL history at 32 consecutive years and counting, but some other Alle-Kiski Valley teams are on pretty sizable runs as well.
Burrell is making its 13th straight appearance, while Freeport is at nine and Deer Lakes at eight, respectively.
Plum holds the longest active streak of any A-K Valley baseball team, as the Mustangs qualified for the postseason for the 12th consecutive year.
Jake Herrit stars in a pair of sports for Knoch, but his volunteer work outside of sports helped him land a national award.
The Knights senior was named the MaxPreps Semper Fidelis Male Athlete of the Month and will receive his award at an assembly Monday afternoon at Knoch. Steelers quarterback Landry Jones and a U.S. Marine Corps representative will be on hand to present the award.
A Gannon football and baseball recruit, Herrit started at quarterback for Knoch and plays several different positions for the baseball team, which last week won the Section 1-4A title for the second consecutive season. He played for the Knights' WPIAL and PIAA championship baseball team as a freshman in 2015.
He also volunteers for PARC Pennsylvania, which helps children with Down syndrome.
The Semper Fidelis award, presented by MaxPreps and the U.S. Marine Corps, is in its second year, with one male and one female receiving it each month from September to June. It goes to athletes who “display ideals that the Marines stand for like bravery, dedication, perseverance, personal sacrifice for others and being a positive influence in one's community,” according to a press release.
On the trail
• Riverview recently held a large signing day for its senior athletes, with eight making their college commitments official.
Boys soccer players Sean Abraham and Michael Komaniak, who led the Raiders to the WPIAL quarterfinals, signed with Penn State Behrend and Washington & Jefferson, respectively.
Alivia Acierno, Carys Kenny-Howell and Alaina Mazur, three members of the softball team that tied for second place in Section 3-A, will attend Geneva, Simon Fraser and Chatham, respectively.
Ariel Rafferty signed with Point Park for volleyball, while Cal Fisher — a Riverview senior who plays volleyball for Penn Hills as part of a co-op agreement, will go to Penn State.
Sprinter Maggie Conte rounded out the Riverview signees. She will attend IUP for track and field.
• A second member of Freeport's PIAA championship volleyball team will play in college, as Courtney Grubbs signed with Thiel. Grubbs started at setter for the Yellowjackets, who won their first state title in 2017. Grubbs was named to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association's all-state team.