Ligonier Valley softball energized after ‘long cold wait’ for this year’s playoffs

Saturday, May 18, 2019 | 5:34 PM

With laser-like focus and precision, the Ligonier Valley softball team did exactly what they set out to do in the Heritage Conference this season — beat everybody.

A conference title was all part of the plan. Sure, there was some celebration. But for a team driven by the pain of tough postseason losses, the Rams didn’t need any added motivation, just a little recollection.

“This team is on a mission,” junior standout pitcher Jane Garver said. “It’s been a long cold wait for this postseason to come. We had plenty of time to prepare for it, and it’s time to get things done.”

Ligonier Valley (17-2, 11-0) got it done Tuesday when the Rams rallied from a 4-0 deficit to score seven runs in the fourth inning and snatch the Heritage Conference title from Marion Center with an 8-4 come-from-behind win.

“We’re playing well right now,” Ligonier Valley coach Mark Zimmerman said. “We’ve been playing pretty good defense, and we’re pitching pretty well. All in all, I like where the team is right now.”

What’s not to like? The Rams earned the No. 4 seed in the District 6 Class AAA postseason bracket. The Rams will face No. 5 Central Martinsburg (14-6) in the quarterfinal round at 4 p.m. Monday at Donaldson Fields. The Rams are in pursuit of their third District 6 title, also winning in 1981 and 2015.

“We do have them at home, and that’s a little bit nice,” Zimmerman said.

It should come as no secret as to how Ligonier Valley is getting it done this season. Just look at the schedule. The Rams outscored their opponents 182-27 during the regular season.

While the Rams have hitters up and down the lineup, their success begins with leadoff hitter Maddie Griffin and her .500 batting average.

“(Griffin) will set the table for us at times and if she can get on, there’s a lot of stuff we can do,” Zimmerman said. “Garver is hitting the ball well and that’s always a welcomed sight’ too.”

Garver (.417), Taylor Bojtos (.466), Courtney McKlveen (.403) and Kaylee Colt (.383), among others, have all been an example of consistency at the plate this season. As a team, Ligonier Valley is batting .387.

“I think it’s our bats,” Garver said. “We’re just solid the whole way through (the lineup) with our batting.”

Garver, a Robert Morris commit, posted a 14-2 regular-season record. With all of the run production, Garver hasn’t had much to worry about. Pitching with a lead is a pitcher’s best friend.

Garver holds a 1.43 ERA with 125 strikeouts through 83 innings.

“She tends to rise up when the situation calls for it,” Zimmerman said. “That’s a nice trait to have.”

Central Martinsburg (13-6) isn’t likely to be intimidated. The Dragons defeated Ligonier Valley, 8-2, on May 1 in a nonconference matchup.

“It’s the same team,” Zimmerman said. “We didn’t play too well up there. We left a few too many pitches over the plate. They’re a good hitting team.”

The game was Garver’s worst outing of the season. She gave up six hits, six runs (four earned), over 11/3 innings.

Central will roll into Ligonier as the third-place finisher in the Class AAA Mountain League standings. The Dragons’ most recent District 6 title came in 2015 when they were in Class AA.

The Dragons are coming off a 7-0 win over Mountain League rival Tyrone. Central is a senior-laden team led by Dylan Claycomb and her .650 batting average, 19 RBIs and seven home runs. As a team, the Dragons are batting .391.

Claycomb is also the Dragons’ ace. She is 9-4 with a 1.87 ERA and got the start in the regular-season meeting between the two teams.

“We want to take a piece from Central Martinsburg more than anybody out there,” Garver said. “We think we can beat them. This season has been all about winning and taking pieces of teams that want a piece of us and coming out on top.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.


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