H.S. softball notebook: Section 2-5A teams representing in WPIALs

Monday, May 20, 2024 | 7:35 PM

Section 2-5A, it’s your time to flex.

A number of local softball coaches have pointed to the section as being one of the strongest in the classification.

“Watch out for Penn-Trafford,” said Franklin Regional coach Jim Armstrong, whose Panthers play in the Section 2 but were clipped by Shaler, 3-2, in the first round. “I have a feeling they’re going to do something. Our section is solid.”

The teams have not disappointed when it counts.

Three Section 2 teams have made the semifinals: Armstrong (16-3), Penn-Trafford (14-5) and Latrobe (11-10).

Both semifinal games will be Wednesday at Gateway.

Top-seeded Armstrong and No. 4 Penn-Trafford will play at 3 p.m., and No. 11 Latrobe meets No. 10 Thomas Jefferson (10-7) in an underdog matchup at 7.

Hempfield and Norwin will play in between on Wednesday in the 6A semis (5 p.m.), making it a local tripleheader in Monroeville.

On the run

Ligonier Valley pitcher Cheyenne Piper has been sensational with three straight no-hitters, including a perfect game in a first-round win against Keystone Oaks, and a 17-strikeout effort against Ellwood City.

But do the second-seeded Rams (15-5) have enough offensively to back their ace and win a WPIAL 3A title and make a PIAA title run?

They have scored only 78 runs, the fewest of any semifinalist in all six classes.

“I think we’ll be OK,” Ligonier Valley coach Mark Zimmerman said. “We had a number of chances (against Ellwood City), but the ball was hit to to someone or didn’t get through. We have been hitting the ball.”

On Plum’s short field Thursday, a few sharply hit balls made it back to the infield as quickly as they left it.

“It’s the turf, too,” Piper said. “The ball hits and just goes.”

With Piper, the Rams only needed a single run to get past Ellwood City (1-0).

The Rams, who are batting .256 as a team and have no home runs, have five wins where they scored two or fewer runs.

Zimmerman will take small ball if it means scraping together enough scoring for Piper. A whatever-it-takes mentality is fine with the veteran coach.

“That reminds of of (UCLA basketball coach) John Wooden when he had (Lew) Alcindor and (Bill) Walton and those guys and won all those championships. When they didn’t win by a lot, and by the margin that some of the alumni predicated, people were questioning whether they failed because they weren’t winning by enough.”

The Rams take on No. 3 seed South Park at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Penn-Trafford.

Bat signal

Greensburg Central Catholic had an early exit from the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs, but the Centurions left their mark in the statistical leaders.

The Centurions had three players who batted .500 or better during the regular season in Makenzee Kenney (.684), Macee Magill (.628) and Grace Kindel (.578).

Kenney’s average led Westmoreland County, as did Magill’s 29 runs.

Fulton county

Franklin Regional junior standout Toryn Fulton came close to a triple crown in Westmoreland.

The shortstop and South Florida commit hit .673 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs.

State bound

Ligonier Valley was the latest local team to clinch a spot in the PIAA playoffs.

The top four teams in 3A advance to the state tournament, so the Rams got in when they made the semifinals.

Penn-Trafford and Latrobe also qualified by making the semis in 5A, where the top four move on.

Horvat signs

Yough senior Maddie Horvat signed to play college softball at Mt. Aloysius.

Horvat is a four-year starter who has played right field, second base and third base for the Cougars. She is a career .295 hitter.

Stat of the day

Of Cheyenne Piper’s 229 strikeouts for Ligonier Valley, 106 are via looking.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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