West Greene hunting another PIAA softball title against familiar opponent

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 | 5:30 PM

Before an early-season game at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C., West Greene softball coach Bill Simms was talking enrollment numbers with the coach of Liverpool (N.Y.) — the Pioneers' opponent that day.

“He's telling me how small his school's become since he went there,” Simms said. “I'm thinking, ‘Well, this is good. We're playing another small school.' Then, I ask him what's their enrollment and he says it's down in the 500s, only about half the size of when he went there. Then, I tell him we have 68 girls in grades 9-12.”

West Greene, the tiny public school that covers the western half of Greene County, lost that game 9-1. That's a rarity these days as one of the WPIAL's smallest schools has been doing big things the past three years.

With a hard-fought 7-4 win against Section 2 rival Monessen in the PIAA semifinals Tuesday at Peterswood Park, West Greene — winner of three consecutive WPIAL championships — reached the state title game for the third year in a row.

The Pioneers (23-4) get an opportunity for a second consecutive state title against District 11 champion Williams Valley (23-2) at 11 a.m. Thursday at Penn State's Nittany Lion Softball Park.

It's the third year in a row West Greene and Williams Valley will play for a state championship.

In 2016, the Vikings were 3-2 winners. Last season, the Pioneers won 9-8.

“It's such a long season, and there's so many good teams, we never assumed we'd be playing Williams Valley again,” Simms said. “It is funny though, the TV commentators for last year's (title) game said both teams were so young and so talented, that they thought we'd both be able to get back here. We did keep our eyes on Williams Valley during the season, but we never went as far as to assume we'd play them.”

The similarities between the two powerhouse programs go beyond postseason success and late-game rallies like Williams Valley's wild 5-4 win over Greenwood in the PIAA quarterfinals where it scored five runs in the seventh inning or West Greene's walk-off win against Monessen in the WPIAL title game.

Statistically, the teams are almost mirror images.

West Greene brings a healthy .438 batting average and .492 on-base percentage into the championship.

Junior outfielder McKenna Lampe is batting .545 (48 for 88) with 49 runs, 13 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases. Twin sister Madison Lampe, who plays third base, is batting .524 (43 for 82) with seven home runs, 39 RBIs and 33 stolen bases. Senior infielder Madison Renner is batting .557 with seven homers and 41 RBIs. Her sister, sophomore pitcher Jade, is batting .545 with 14 doubles and 37 RBIs.

Williams Valley is batting .431 with a .497 on-base percentage.

The Vikings are led by Mya Achenbach, who has 43 hits, 43 runs scored, four homers, 32 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. Morgan Updegrove (31 RBIs), pitcher Stevie Unger (28 RBIs) and Destiny Dubois (27 RBIs) are difficult outs.

“Williams Valley is a phenomenally athletic group, especially on defense. Achenbach is as good as you'll see in center field. She can go get anything,” Simms said. “She's definitely one of their catalysts. And, of course, we have the Lampe and Renner sisters. Both teams have a couple pitchers. Both teams can hit and run. I'm looking for another classic.”

No matter the result for West Greene, this group has made a significant impact on the school's athletic program and could be remembered as the most successful high school team from Greene County for some time.

Last year, the Pioneers became just the second Greene County team to win a PIAA championship, joining the 1998 Carmichaels softball team, winners in Class AA when there were only two classes. Only two other teams from the county — Waynesburg baseball (1999, Class AA) and Carmichaels baseball (2008, Class A) — even reached a state title game.

West Greene's success, and the following created by it, isn't something Simms takes lightly.

“I told someone last week that we're not Aliquippa football. This isn't something that's going to happen every year here, and we know that,” Simms said. “What this group has done is just phenomenal. Three straight years in the finals, who would've thought that could happen here a few years ago?

“In Greene County, we've got kids wearing blue-and-gold T-shirts. After a win, I get 30, 50, 60 texts, and half of them are from people from other schools in the county. It's very humbling how this community and people around the county have rallied around us. You could probably rob anything you wanted to in Rogersville on Thursday.”

Mike Kovak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mkovak@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MKovak_Trib.

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