Penn-Trafford not shaken after WPIAL title-game loss, refocuses on PIAA playoffs

Saturday, June 4, 2022 | 7:30 PM

A mixture of stunned numbness and grace-in-defeat omitting from their faces, Penn-Trafford players and coaches posed for their runner-up photo but didn’t have to force smiles.

There weren’t many tears shed. And there was even some giggling as people bunched up in rows and glared at cellphone cameras.

“We’re not upset,” senior pitcher Mia Smith said Friday night after the Lady Warriors were edged, 6-5, on a walk-off home run by Armstrong in the WPIAL Class 5A softball championship at Cal (Pa.). “Did we lose? Yeah. This is s setback. But hopefully, we can make a run at states. That is the positive side.”

Smith clutched the second-place trophy as she returned to the bus and headed home, a new goal in clear view.

While the dooming dinger by junior Jenna Clontz was a gut punch, it did not end the Warriors’ season. A new season begins Monday.

Penn-Trafford (18-3) will open the PIAA tournament at 4 p.m. at Twin Valley (17-8), the District 3 runner-up.

If this season is anything like 2019, Warriors fans should start thinking about making their reservations for State College.

That year, the Warriors lost in the WPIAL semifinals but rallied to win five straight to claim their first PIAA title.

They downed Lampeter-Strasburg, 5-3, in the state final at Penn State.

It was the school’s first state championship before football doubled down in the fall. “Harrison City of Champions” signage made its way to campus.

“We’re going to work triple-time and work as hard as possible to get ready,” Smith said. “I have full faith in my teammates.”

WPIAL No. 2 seed Penn-Trafford came back from 5-1 down to tie No. 1 Armstrong, 5-5, heading to the seventh.

Little worked some pinch-hit magic again in the sixth, sending three backups to the plate in a four at-bat stretch to scrape out the tying run. Junior Alexa Forsythe delivered for the third time off the bench in the playoffs with a one-out single to score courtesy runner Olivia Popovich, a freshman.

The biggest hit of the game, Clontz’s shot to right-center, awarded the River Hawks their biggest win in program history, but it came with the slimmest of margins.

“It was a great battle,” Little said. “They’re a good team, and they lived up to their name.”

Watching Armstrong celebrate at Lilley Field was tough, but certainly understandable Friday after a classic title game between the top two seeds in 5A.

“They earned it,” Little said. “They earned the right to party all night long. (Coach) Doug (Flanders) and his staff are very professional, and we appreciate that.”

Penn-Trafford’s four seniors were freshmen in ‘19.

That season, after a 10-4 loss to Connellsville in the WPIAL semis, the Warriors beat Franklin Regional in the WPIAL third-place game, 6-2.

Then, with a determined look in their eye and a repurposed resolve, they toppled Central Mountain, 13-6, at Penn State; defeated West Allegheny, 6-2, in McMurray; and edged Donegal, 5-4, at Mount Aloysius, before the championship win.

The team finished its finest season at 23-2.

“It can be done,” Little said. “We have a winning tradition. Our girls refuse to lose. They gave everything they had like they did all year. They will be ready. They are battle-tested. We lost a heartbreaker, but we have a chance to come back from it. We have great senior leadership.”

Twin Valley, located in Everson, Burks County, is about 250 miles east of Harrison City.

The quarterfinals will be Thursday, the semifinals June 13 and the 5A championship is set for 4 p.m. June 16 at Penn State’s Beard Field.

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


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