George Guido: A-K Valley teams set to open PIAA baseball, softball playoffs

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Saturday, June 5, 2021 | 4:17 PM


There are four A-K Valley teams ready to enter the PIAA softball/baseball playoffs Monday at three sites.

It also marks the complete resumption of scholastic activities following the first phases of the pandemic in March 2020 when the plug was pulled on the PIAA basketball playoffs after two rounds.

Here’s a closer look at Mondays matchups:

Baseball

Riverview vs. Kennedy Catholic, 1 p.m., Jack Crutchfield Park, Slippery Rock

While covering the Raiders for a 2017 season preview at the old Oakmont High School gym on 10th Street, there were barely enough players to field a team, and the future of the program was being questioned.

Now, the Raiders are in the state playoffs for the third time in history and get to play at one of Western Pennsylvania’s finest baseball facilities.

The Raiders’ last PIAA baseball game was an opening-round loss to perennial powerhouse Mount Union in 2001. Before that, Riverview won the state title on June 17, 1983, by defeating Schuylkill Valley, 4-3.

Kennedy Catholic is more famous for its basketball, but the baseball Eagles are in the state playoffs for the first time since 1990, when they defeated Ridgway in the second round.

The school originally was set to open as Shenango Catholic in 1964, but with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Erie Diocese decided to name the school after the nation’s first Catholic president.

Softball

Leechburg vs. DuBois Central Catholic, 4 p.m., at Heindl Field, DuBois

The Blue Devils are in the PIAA playoffs for the 13th time, by far the most in A-K Valley history. But Leechburg hasn’t won a PIAA game since defeating Iroquois in the 2005 first round.

The Cardinals beat Leechburg in the opening round at Heidl Field two years ago en route to the state finals, where they lost to Williams Valley.

The school originally was known as DuBois Central Christian when it opened in 1961. It was a merger of several predecessor schools, including St. Catherine of Siena, which dates to 1898.

DuBois Central has won four District 9 titles in the past four seasons, but went from 1981 to 2014 without any district titles.

Highlands vs. Clearfield, 2 p.m., at Heindl Field, DuBois

The Golden Rams reach the state playoffs for the first time after a grueling schedule featuring 15 games (of 22) against playoff teams. That includes battling the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 seeds in the WPIAL tourney.

Clearfield is one of the largest and oldest school districts in Western Pennsylvania. It started sponsoring sports in 1913, and the district takes up 345 square miles, compared to Highlands’ 22 square miles.

Clearfield defeated Somerset, 10-0, last week in a PIAA play-in game. Emma Hipps pitched a no-hitter. The Bison made the PIAA semifinals in 2019, losing to Bald Eagle Area, 1-0.

Fox Chapel vs. North Hills, 6:30 p.m. at North Allegheny

It also is the first PIAA trip for the Foxes, who split the season’s series with the Indians.

This also marks the 60th anniversary for Fox Chapel, opening in 1961. The school district and borough get their name from John Fox, who emigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1831. His daughter, Eliza Fox Teats, was responsible for building the Fox “Chapel” Protestant Methodist Church in 1892.

It has been a pretty good past couple of weeks for North Hills. The 1980 state championship softball team was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame on May 28, the softball team won its sixth WPIAL title Wednesday — the same day favorite son LaVar Arrington was nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame.

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