No. 3 Leechburg rallies past No. 4 Springdale in Section 3-A slugfest

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 | 8:07 PM

The numbers Leechburg and Springdale put up through the first two weeks of the softball season created some extra anticipation for their first meeting of the season, and they created some more eye-popping statistics Wednesday.

In a wild game featuring multiple rallies by both teams, visiting Class A No. 3 Leechburg scored nine runs over the final two innings to pull away for a 19-11 victory over No. 4 Springdale.

“It was definitely a really, really good game,” said Leechburg sophomore Emma Ritchie, who earned the win in the circle and drove in two runs. “I had one slip-up inning, but I’m really glad that my teammates got me back up with amazing hitting.

“It was really exciting because we knew it was going to be a good game. It feels really nice to take the win.”

Leechburg (6-0, 5-0) mercy-ruled its first five opponents, including wins of 23-0 and 18-0 in its previous two games before Wednesday; the Blue Devils outscored those five teams 73-2. Springdale beat five of its first six opponents by 10 or more, racking up a scoring margin of 72-10.

On Wednesday, they combined for 30 runs on 26 hits, with 15 walks and nine errors. Leechburg rallied from deficits of 6-1 and 11-10, while Springdale came back from down 1-0 and 10-6.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Leechburg coach Debbie Young said. “We were prepared for it. That’s what a playoff game’s going to be like for us. Hey, we’re excited. That was great. That’s a feel-good win.”

While Leechburg and Springdale were longtime section opponents, they spent the last two seasons split apart before realignment placed them back together this year.

Springdale (6-1, 3-1), which won just one game each of the past two seasons in Class 2A and is mired in a 16-year run of losing seasons, was looking for a signature win over Leechburg, the back-to-back Section 3-A champion and the WPIAL record-holder for consecutive playoff seasons with 32.

The chances looked strong early, as Springdale led by five runs after two innings. But some big Leechburg innings — seven runs in the fourth, five in the sixth and four in the seventh — did the Dynamos in.

“They’re a good team, but we played well today,” Springdale coach Anthony Pototo said. “We hit the ball just as good. We had a few bad innings, but we learned from that. We’ll come to practice tomorrow and get better. It’s early in the season.”

Springdale pitcher Alexis Hrivnak dominated the Dynamos’ first six games, racking up double-digit strikeouts in each one. She had a dozen on Wednesday, but Leechburg also got to her for 17 hits and five walks and took advantage of six Springdale errors.

Aubry Skeel had four hits for the Blue Devils, including a double, and two RBIs. Kristen Knapp tripled, scored four runs and drove in two. Ritchie doubled and drove in two runs, while McKenna Pierce and Olivia Shimer added two RBIs apiece. All nine Leechburg batters reached base at least once.

Springdale showed its growth in building its early lead. The Dynamos took advantage of a pair of Leechburg outfield errors on the same play in the bottom of the first inning, as Natalie Woitas’ single to right ended up becoming a three-run “Little League home run.” They widened the advantage to 6-1 in the second as Ritchie walked five batters in the inning.

Pierce’s RBI single and Ritchie’s RBI double cut Springdale’s lead to 6-3 in the third, and Leechburg retook the lead with a seven-run fourth, rapping five hits and getting assistance from three Springdale errors.

Then, after Springdale retook the lead with a five-run fourth, highlighted by a Hrivnak RBI double and two-run single by Dayna Zezza, Leechburg scored five in the sixth and four in the seventh to put the game away.

“We don’t drop our heads,” Knapp said. “We keep going, and obviously we’re going to try our hardest. We’re not going to let one play put us down.”

Emily Wilhelm had three hits for Springdale, while Hrivnak and Zezza drove in two runs apiece.

“I think it was a good learning experience for my young girls that you’re not going to come out and win every game by 15 runs,” Pototo said. “Playing these good teams, (you’re) realizing what you need to work on to get better as we move forward throughout the season.”

The teams meet again April 30 at Leechburg.

“This game really set us up for playoffs,” Knapp said. “A lot of the other games have been a little easier, but this one — the momentum (was changing), everyone was motivational. It was just insane the whole entire way through.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, or via Twitter .

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