Penn-Trafford softball notebook: Warriors have shot at redemption

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Sunday, June 12, 2022 | 4:34 PM


The beauty of the state softball playoffs for many WPIAL teams lies in the chance for redemption.

Lose to someone in the WPIAL championship; beat them in the PIAA tournament.

Erase the past and advance at the same time.

Penn-Trafford (20-3) gets another shot at Armstrong (22-4), the team that clipped it 6-5 in the WPIAL Class 5A final. The teams play at 2 p.m. Monday at Mars Centennial School field in the state semifinals.

The winner goes to the PIAA championship Thursday at Penn State.

“We need this comeback,” Penn-Trafford senior outfielder Hannah Allen said. “It’s great that we get an opportunity to do it.”

Junior Jenna Clontz broke the Warriors’ hearts with a walk-off solo home run in the WPIAL final, sending a 3-2 pitch over the fence at Cal (Pa.) to give the River Hawks the first WPIAL title in school history.

Penn-Trafford rallied from a 5-1 deficit to tie the River Hawks in the sixth inning. Junior Alexa Forsythe’s pinch-hit RBI single tied it 5-5.

Allen singled to open the sixth and start the late rally.

“We have to get the bats on the ball,” said Allen, who had two hits and two RBIs in the loss. “We have to hit better and score more runs.”

Penn-Trafford is seeking its second state title in three seasons after bringing home the trophy in 2019.

Armstrong made the state final last season and lost to Lampeter-Strasburg, the team Penn-Trafford beat in ’19, by a final of 10-7.

“We have to put the ball in play more,” Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little said. “We didn’t play our best game last time, but you don’t always have to play your best game to win.”

Senior pitcher Mia Smith injured her hand while batting Thursday and left the game briefly before returning.

“I was okay,” she said. “Ice and Advil. That helped, and I was ready to get back out there.”

Said Little: “She pitched with some anger. I think she will be poised for (Armstrong).”

Shorter trip

The state semifinal will save the charter bus driver at Penn-Trafford some gas money.

The Lady Warriors have given new meaning to travel softball, logging about 850 miles in the first two rounds of the PIAA tournament with road trips to Twin Valley in Elverson for the first round and Fayetteville in the quarterfinals.

They have seen enough “Drink Milk” billboards to make them hungry for cookies.

But the team will get to go the other way on the Turnpike on Monday when they travel about 40 miles to Mars to play Armstrong.

“The girls have been great about the traveling,” Little said. “They sing to music, and that keeps them loose. Last game we put on ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ and the old guys all watched. They weren’t interested.”

Fan bus

Penn-Trafford will offer a fan bus to Mars on Monday. The bus will leave the Warrior Center at the high school stadium at noon for the 2 p.m. game.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

More information: lorjoenoah@msn.com.

Travel can wait

Penn-Trafford softball players Mia Smith, Maddy Rapp, McKenzie Rapp and Kylee Piconi play on the same travel team, the Nitro. The team opened the season over the weekend with a tournament at IUP.

The Warriors foursome had planned to play but only if their high school team ran out of gas in the PIAA quarterfinals. It didn’t happen.

“It can wait,” Smith said of travel season. 

Rich and Boomer

Counting Little, Penn-Trafford has six regular coaches on the bench. But the staff can stretch to eight when two others join in as their schedules allow.

Volunteer assistants Rich Ginther and Ron “Boomer” Prady coach when they can. They have made a handful of games this season, including the WPIAL final.

Both were on staff for the PIAA title run in 2019.

Ginther is the former Penn-Trafford wrestling coach, and Prady helped the Warriors football team win WPIAL and PIAA championships last fall.

Prady since has been named the head football coach at Latrobe.

Keep up with the Joneses

Little has been keeping an eye on Avonworth in the state playoffs. The Antelopes will play Bald Eagle, the team that defeated Southmoreland in the first round, in Monday’s semifinal at St. Francis (Pa.).

Jayla Jones is a freshman outfielder for the Antelopes. She is the daughter of former Greensburg Salem wrestling standout Vertus Jones and Rachel (Stewart) Jones.

Rachel Jones is the daughter of former Greensburg Salem baseball coach Jim Stewart.

Little teaches elementary school physical education at Greensburg Salem.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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