Freeport, Leechburg softball teams welcome 1st-round bye

Thursday, May 10, 2018 | 11:12 PM

Freeport allowed itself a brief moment to consider the “outside possibility” of receiving the top seed in the WPIAL Class 3A softball playoffs, coach Sam Ross said.

Ultimately, the Yellowjackets ended up exactly where they expected.

After running through the regular season with an unbeaten record and claiming its first section title since 2000, Freeport (12-0) received the No. 2 seed in Class 3A and a first-round bye. The Yellowjackets will play the winner of the first-round game between Waynesburg and Freedom in the quarterfinals May 17.

Defending PIAA champion South Park — which beat Freeport in the 2017 quarterfinals — earned the No. 1 seed in 3A.

“We've never been in that situation before,” Ross said. “We've always played first round, first game of the week, it seemed like. You always looked at the people that got the byes and higher seeds, and you just thought one time you'd be there. This is our time, so that's good.”

Ross described his team as “itching to play,” but the Yellowjackets will need to wait another week to so.

“This whole year we've played a couple games and had a week off, then play a couple more because of the weather,” Ross said. “They're a good group. When the first pitch is thrown, they'll be ready for it.”

A total of 10 Alle-Kiski Valley playoff teams learned their playoff seeds and matchups or potential matchups Thursday.

Like Freeport, Leechburg received a first-round bye. The Blue Devils (12-4), who are making their WPIAL-record 32nd consecutive postseason appearance, received the No. 3 seed in Class A and a berth all the way to the May 16 quarterfinals, where they'll play the winner of Monday's game between Sewickley Academy and Mapletown.

“I figured they gave us a little bit of respect considering the game that we played versus West Greene (in the 2017 semifinals),” Leechburg coach Debbie Young said. “It appeared during the playoffs that we played West Greene the best of any team that had played them during the playoffs, so I figure that's where our respect was earned — and (it's) highly appreciated.”

Burrell, the runner-up to Freeport in Section 1-3A, came within one spot of a bye of its own, as the Bucs (11-4) were slotted No. 5 in Class 4A and will play No. 12 McGuffey (4-7) in the first round at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Latrobe.

Bucs coach Brian Eshbaugh said he thought his team could have received the No. 4 seed and a bye, but it ultimately went to Avonworth. Burrell beat McGuffey in the first round last season before falling to No. 1 Ellwood City on a walk-off in the quarterfinals.

“The way we're looking at it, we would rather play while the other teams abstain,” Eshbaugh said. “Last year, Ellwood City sat and we had a game before, so they were a little tight, and we'd already been through. Actually, playing first is probably a good thing.”

Deer Lakes received the No. 11 seed and a matchup with No. 6 Steel Valley at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Hampton. The Lancers (5-7) were Class 3A runners-up last season.

Riverview and St. Joseph tied for second in Section 3-A.

Riverview (11-4), which saw its eight-game winning streak end Wednesday, received the No. 7 seed and a first-round matchup against No. 10 Quigley (6-6) at 2 p.m. Monday at Plum.

St. Joseph (10-3), which made the playoffs for the first time last season, got the No. 8 seed and will play No. 9 Western Beaver (7-5) at 4 p.m. Monday at Fox Chapel.

“I really can't pinpoint the exact game, but it really started to click with the girls,” Riverview coach Jim Ashbaugh said. “We started playing more as a team and really making less errors.”

After ending long playoff droughts last season, Kiski Area and Apollo-Ridge made it back to the postseason this spring. Kiski Area (10-6), which won its section finale to clinch a playoff spot, was seeded seventh in Class 5A and will play No. 10 Mars (10-8) at 4 p.m. Monday at Hampton.

Apollo-Ridge (6-6) received the No. 13 seed in 2A and will play No. 4 Mohawk (12-1) at 2 p.m. Monday at Hampton.

“The girls I think are very excited but also confident,” Kiski Area coach Maggie Jones said.

“Last year we didn't know what to expect, but this year you can see there's more confidence and eagerness to get out on the field Monday instead of the butterflies we had last year.”

Highlands qualified for the playoffs with a three-way tie for fourth place in Section 1-4A. The Golden Rams (3-9) were seeded No. 14 in the Class 4A bracket and will play No. 3 Beaver (11-1) at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Baldwin.

Fox Chapel (6-8) received the No. 9 slot in Class 6A and will take on No. 8 Canon-McMillan (9-6) at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Peters Township.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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