Plum, Freeport, Valley awarded No. 5 seeds in WPIAL baseball playoffs

Friday, May 11, 2018 | 10:04 PM

The WPIAL gave the Alle-Kiski Valley a high five.

That represented the seeds awarded to the Plum, Freeport and Valley baseball teams, the top ones given to teams from the A-K Valley when the WPIAL released its playoff brackets Friday.

In the cases of Freeport (12-3) and Valley (10-6), it meant they fell one seed shy of a first-round bye. Instead, the Yellowjackets and Vikings will begin their postseason runs on Tuesday along with the majority of the WPIAL.

Seven Alle-Kiski Valley baseball teams qualified for the WPIAL playoffs.

Valley coach Jim Basilone said he thought the Vikings might get a top-four seed after they earned a share of the Section 1-3A title with Burrell. Instead, the top three seeds went to Section 2-3A teams Riverside, Avonworth and South Side Beaver and the fourth bye went to Section 3-3A champion Brownsville, leaving Valley and Burrell with the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively.

“It is what it is,” said Basilone, whose team will play No. 12 Beaver Falls at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Shaler. “You've got to go through all the good teams anyway, so it doesn't matter. You've got to play.”

Valley last season ended a nine-year playoff drought and followed that with its first section title since 2004.

“I knew we would be OK strength-wise, but (our success) depended on how well the kids would come through mentally,” Basilone said. “If we would have that mental toughness in close games, it would be OK. That happened quickly.”

Burrell, a perennial postseason qualifier under coach Mark Spohn — the Bucs have missed just once in his 21 seasons — will play No. 11 Mt. Pleasant at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Latrobe.

“You've just got to show up and play whoever they tell you to play,” Spohn said. “You've got to play good baseball, no matter what. It's a single-game elimination, so you've got to show up and have it that day.”

Freeport looked in line for a top-four seed and bye for much of the season after winning 11 of its first 12 games, but a pair of one-run losses to Knoch and Derry in its final two section games might have proved costly. The Yellowjackets will play No. 12 New Castle at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Seneca Valley.

“I thought it was fair, to be honest with you,” said coach Ed Carr, who said he thought his team got back on track with a nonsection win over Shady Side Academy on Wednesday. “You play who you play. You get in the playoffs, all teams are good. The seed matters for one day. Once you get on the field, you kind of forget about the seed.”

Deer Lakes, which finished fourth in Section 1-4A behind Knoch, Freeport and Greensburg Salem, received the No. 11 seed in the Class 4A bracket. The Lancers (11-7), who advanced to the WPIAL semifinals last season, will play No. 6 West Mifflin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Gateway.

Plum, making its 12th consecutive playoff appearance, received the No. 5 seed in what coach Carl Vollmer called a “wide-open” Class 6A field. A total of 13 6A teams made the postseason, leaving one fewer bye.

The Mustangs (15-4) will play No. 12 Mt. Lebanon at 4 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny.

“You don't go into any game saying we're the favorite, we should win this game,” Vollmer said. “I really do believe it's wide-open. Everybody's going to have their No. 1 (pitcher) on the mound, which makes everybody a very good opponent. … I think you just look at each game individually, you focus on it, you don't look at anything else. I think there's been examples of teams overlooking; we certainly can't do that.”

Fox Chapel returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence in coach Jim Hastings' first season at the helm. The Foxes (9-10) were given the No. 13 seed in Class 5A and will face No. 4 Laurel Highlands at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Hempfield.

“We knew we'd be somewhere from 10 to 13, so it was no shock to us,” said Hastings, whose team finished fourth in Section 1-5A.

“We know that Laurel Highlands is a good team … it should be a good game, a challenge, and we like our chances. We played in a really tough section, and we feel that prepared us for the playoffs.”

Leechburg qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2011 after placing fourth in Section 1-A. The Blue Devils (4-10), the No. 12 seed in Class A, will play No. 5 Jeannette at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Fox Chapel. The Jayhawks won the WPIAL title last season.

After first-round games Tuesday and Wednesday, the WPIAL baseball quarterfinals are scheduled for May 21, with semifinals on May 22 and the championship games May 29 and 30 at Wild Things Park in Washington.

“We know we've got to play good, solid baseball,” Carr said. “Otherwise, it's going to be a short postseason.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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