Leechburg softball team proud to uphold playoff streak

Wednesday, May 3, 2023 | 6:46 PM

Anna Cibik found herself in an unfamiliar position last week.

The Leechburg senior starting pitcher, also one of the leading hitters for the playoff-bound Blue Devils, exacerbated an existing foot injury during her team’s Section 3-1A win over Monessen on April 26 and was held out of the section victory over Jeannette the next day.

“Landing on it pitching kind of tweaked it,” Cibik said.

“(Jeannette) was the first high school game I missed. I begged to play. It was hard. But it was just better to rest it so I would be ready for the rest of the regular season and playoffs. I was just glad to see my team play well and get the win.”

Leechburg has been doing some winning lately. After a tough start — 1-5 against bigger teams such as Valley, Apollo-Ridge, Deer Lakes and Mt. Pleasant as well as Section 3 leader Frazier (9-1, 8-0) — the Blue Devils have won six of seven to take control of second place in the section behind the Commodores.

The 7-5 victory over Jeannette also extended WPIAL softball’s longest playoff streak to 36 seasons.

“That win was huge for us,” said Cibik, who owns 80 strikeouts over 66 1/3 innings and is batting .452 (14 of 31) with 14 RBIs.

“It basically secured second place in the section, which is good. With the streak, each year we clinch it, we’re like, ‘OK, let’s go. Now we have to be ready to play.’ The streak is cool because I get to share that with my mom, who was on the teams who started it. At the start of the season, when we were facing the bigger schools, there might have been some pressure because we weren’t sure how we, as a young team, might be able to turn it around and start winning. But we just went out there and played, and we backed each other up. The first game against Jeannette (7-2 win, April 12), our bats came alive, and we knew we would be all right.”

Leechburg (7-6, 7-2) entered the week with three section games left — a road matchup at Bishop Canevin and a home senior-day doubleheader against Springdale.

The Blue Devils, like many teams throughout the region, have danced around raindrops the past couple of days with cancellations, postponements and practices moved indoors.

The final day to complete all section games is May 10. The next day, the WPIAL softball committee is scheduled to meet to map out the playoff pairings in the six classifications and release the brackets.

The playoffs are to begin May 15.

Senior Karli Mazak said the Blue Devils, a mix of veteran talent and youth improving with each passing game and practice, are excited to be able to test themselves in the playoffs.

“Playing those tough teams early on made us better for what is to come,” Mazak said. “In those games, there was always action, and we always had to be on our toes. No matter who we face in the playoffs, it’s not going to be easy. But I think that we have built up a lot of confidence. I am just excited for the opportunity to keep the season going. It’s my senior season, and I’m not ready for it to be over.”

Mazak and Cibik are the only seniors on the 14-player roster.

Frazier, who dropped down from Class 2A for this two-year cycle, is expected to be one of the top two seeds for the Class A playoffs. The Commodores finished as the Class 2A runners-up last year.

“I would love to match up Frazier in the playoffs,” Cibik said. “I think we can play a lot better than we did the first two times. They weren’t two of our better games, and we just let them get away from us.”

In the playoff clincher against Jeannette, freshman Addie Zanotto made her first varsity start in the pitching circle.

Zanotto worked into the seventh and allowed eight hits, five earned runs and two walks. She struck out six.

“I told her she just needed to be confident in herself,” Cibik said. “That was the biggest thing. She will be in a lot of big games the next couple of years. We got close in volleyball, so it was great to see her do so well (against Jeannette).”

Mazak was 3 of 4 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. Sophomore Ava Ferretti collected two hits and three RBIs, and junior Grace Richards singled twice and scored twice.

“I was really proud of the way we all came together and played the roles that we needed,” Mazak said. “I was proud of Addie, who came in and did well under pressure. It was a great team win. In the end, we came out on top. That is just what we do.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.


More High School Softball

Trib 10: Baseball power rankings shaken up despite poor week of weather
Westmoreland County softball notebook: Southmoreland captures elusive section title
Close games sharpen Greensburg Central Catholic softball for battles ahead
Trib HSSN softball player of the week for May 1, 2023
Trib HSSN softball team of the week for May 1, 2023