Penn-Trafford softball tops WPIAL champ West A to advance in PIAA playoffs

Thursday, June 6, 2019 | 9:10 PM

When Penn-Trafford learned its PIAA quarterfinal opponent after a Class 5A first-round victory earlier this week, the players were giddy.

It was no disrespect to West Allegheny, the three-time defending WPIAL champion, but rather the opposite, said sophomore slugger Brooke Cleland, who belted two home runs to lead Penn-Trafford to a 6-2 victory Thursday at Peters Township.

“The WPIAL playoffs didn’t go like we wanted,” Cleland said. “When we found out we were playing West A, we were ready to go. It was a tough game, but everyone did their job tremendously and, of course, we loved the outcome of the game.”

Penn-Trafford (21-2), which was upset by Connellsville in the WPIAL semifinals before defeating Franklin Regional in the consolation game to earn a spot in the state playoffs, will play District 3 runner-up Donegal in the Class 5A semifinals Monday at a time and site to be determined.

Donegal (24-2) blanked District 1 runner-up Bishop Shanahan, 7-0, in the quarterfinals.

“The girls were just honored to be here playing West Allegheny,” Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little said. “You’re talking about West Allegheny. They just three-peated in the WPIAL.”

Cleland drove in three runs with her latest roundtrippers, two on the first one to cap a three-run third-inning rally that gave Penn Trafford a 3-0 lead. She also hit a solo shot in the seventh after the Warriors built a 5-2 advantage on Carlee Lamacz’s two-run double in the fourth.

Emma Armstrong’s RBI double preceded Cleland’s first homer.

“It’s a team effort with us,” Cleland said. “Seeing our team get hit after hit after hit, it gets me fired up.”

Three of the Warriors’ runs were scored by players reaching base after being hit with a pitch from West Allegheny’s Angela Costa.

Morgan Hilty and Mia Smith combined to limit West Allegheny’s offense. Hilty pitched the first 5 1/3 innings before being lifted after yielding Alyssa Goldstrohm’s leadoff double and Costa’s single.

Hannah Schook greeted Smith with an RBI single to account for West Allegheny’s second run.

The Indians (13-8) scored their first run in the third, when Maddie Reiter singled and eventually scored on Maci Priddy’s bases-loaded groundout.

“We did a lot of things this year that nobody thought we’d do,” West Allegheny coach Mindi McFate said. “You hate to lose, but it’s been a great ride.”

The Indians, who finished as PIAA runner-up in 2018, entered this season with a high turnover in their roster, and it made for an interesting scenario, McFate said.

“Winning as the underdog has a different thrill to it, instead of coming in as the top seed and everybody is expecting us to win,” she said. “I’m incredibly proud of our kids. They just surprised us every day. They came out and played hard and won some big games.”

Little said the Warriors perhaps caught a bit of luck by using their stellar fielding prowess. West Allegheny hit some hard shots.

“It got sticky. They were hitting the ball and getting people on base,” Little said. Penn-Trafford pitchers issued five walks. “Morgan fields her position like no other, and that’s part of pitching.”

Penn-Trafford assistant Rich Ginther missed the game because he was on a hunting trip with his son for a graduation present.

“Richie was on a bear hunt and said he got the bear,” Little said. “And now, he said, it’s time to get the other bear.”

Penn-Trafford’s PIAA title hunt has two games to go.

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