South Park’s Sydney Sekely throws perfect game to win duel with Ligonier Valley’s Cheyenne Piper

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | 8:21 PM


Make it four consecutive no-hitters for Ligonier Valley. Only the fourth one belongs to the other team.

South Park and pitcher Sydney Sekely had a perfect day in Harrison City.

Third-seeded South Park was the team that finally defanged Rams standout pitcher Cheyenne Piper, breaking up her streak of 23 no-hit innings and three straight no-hitters while putting its own ace on display in a 3-0 victory Tuesday in the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals at Penn-Trafford.

Piper has been sensational, but the unheralded Sekely showed everyone that she isn’t too shabby herself. In fact, the sophomore was exemplary in her first semifinal appearance in the circle for the Eagles (19-1), showing command and poise while forcing the No. 2 Rams (15-6) to chase out of the zone.

She struck out nine in a 21-up, 21-down perfect game that propelled her team to the finals.

Seeing Piper and Ligonier Valley getting all the headlines lately only served to motivate South Park, which hadn’t been to the semis since 2019.

Getting to Piper challenged the Eagles, fired them up, gave them purpose.

“They had a couple of no-hitters in the WPIAL (playoffs) and got a lot of attention,” South Park coach R.J. Matetic said. “But our pitcher is pretty damn good, too.”

Another sophomore, Kaitlyn Polk, hit two solo home runs for the Eagles, who will play No. 4 Mohawk (17-5) in the championship next week.

Ligonier Valley will play in the third-place game against No. 1 Avonworth (14-4) to determine state-playoff seeding.

“We were prepared for what (Ligonier Valley) was going to do,” said Sekely, who has 232 strikeouts and 19 walks this season. “We wanted to take their slap-hits away and get those outs. My curve ball was really working today, and I got them to chase outside a lot.”

Not only did Sekely prove she belongs in the same orbit as Piper, who also threw a perfect game in the first round against Keystone Oaks — and struck out 17 Ellwood City hitters in the quarterfinals — but she also showed she can perform on a large stage.

A perfect game in the semis is no small task. Sekely was in control from the start as she outdueled Piper.

“Syd’s fastball sped up (in the offseason), and she developed a breaking pitch,” Matetic said. “She pitched extremely well as a freshman, and we knew she would continue to develop. She was pumped up today.”

It was Sekeley who finally broke up Piper’s string of hitless innings, ripping a two-out single to center in the top of the first, the first hit against Piper since May 7 when Latrobe singled in the top of the sixth.

While the game remained scoreless until the third, the Eagles saw the hit as an important breakthrough.

“You hear all this hype (about Piper),” Matetic said. “And rightly so. Hats off to her. We’re thinking, OKy, how good is this girl? She pitched well against us. But once we got that first hit, it kind of (broke the ice).”

Said Sekely: “We were excited after that first hit. We started to read (Piper’s) patterns and got some base hits. I was glad to have my team believing in me and backing me.”

To the Eagles’ offense: A harmless-looking sacrifice bunt by sophomore Sydney Dubyak moved up junior Kylie Mettrick, who singled. But when Mettrick took off for third, a throwing error sailed over the fence near the Eagles’ dugout and she scored to make it 1-0.

Polk led off the fourth with a blast to deep center for a 2-0 lead.

She came up again in the sixth with two outs and again cleared the fence in center.

“That lifted them up a little bit,” Rams coach Mark Zimmerman said. “We certainly did our best (to hit Sekely). It was hard to get bunts down. And when we got them down, we couldn’t beat them out.

“Cheyenne was not at her best today, but that’s OK. We’re humans, not machines.”

Piper allowed four hits and struck out eight while walking two.

South Park was sure-handed in the field with no errors.

“It was clean,” Matetic said. “If we pitch well and play great defense, this is what can happen.”

South Park has won 18 straight games and has allowed only 12 runs all season.

The Eagles have six straight shutouts.

“I got more comfortable once we had the lead,” Sekely said.

In 2021, its second year in the WPIAL, Ligonier Valley also lost in the WPIAL semifinals but made a run to the PIAA title game behind ace pitcher Maddie Griffin.

This team hopes to follow a similar map with Piper.

“We’ll get regrouped and work some things out,” Zimmerman said. “The biggest prize is still out there.”

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

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