West Greene softball fights off pesky Shade to advance in PIAA playoffs

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Monday, June 7, 2021 | 6:39 PM


In opening-round PIAA playoff games following its previous four WPIAL championships, the West Greene softball team has cruised into the state quarterfinals by a combined score of 40-5.

So few people outside of District 5 runner-up Shade gave the Panthers much chance against the 2017 and 2018 Class A state champion Pioneers.

The game came down to the final pitch as West Greene held on to beat Shade, 5-4, Monday afternoon at Peterswood Park in Peters Township.

“Anytime you can get a W, it’s a good one,” a relieved West Greene coach Billy Simms said afterward.

Trailing 5-3 going into the top of the seventh inning, Shade scored a run and had the bases loaded with two outs after two infield singles and a pair of walks; however, Pioneers junior pitcher Kiley Meek got Panthers junior catcher Cassidy Mauger to pop up to second base for the game’s final out.

Mauger was heavily involved in the second inning for Shade, both on offense and defense.

Her solo home run gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning.

In the bottom, with the bases loaded with Pioneers and one out, Lexi Six hit a ground ball to Panthers first baseman Jenna Muha, who fired a strike to home plate for a force out. When Mauger tried to throw back to first base for an inning-ending double play, the throw ended up in the right field corner and Ali Goodwin, Taylor Karvan and Six all scored on the three-base throwing error.

Shade was quick to tie the game in the third inning when senior Taylor Rapsky singled and Emily Rapsky reached on an error, putting Panthers at second and third with nobody out.

Back-to-back run producing groundouts by McKenzie Baer and Mauger tied the game, 3-3.

The scored remained tied until the bottom of the fifth inning when a Baer inside pitch hit something and trickled toward first base. After a conference between umpires, they ruled the ball hit Jersey Wise and that she was not swinging, thus it was a hit batter and Wise was awarded first.

“I heard it hit the bat, and then I see her in the act of swinging,” Shade coach Jason Baer said. “(The umpire) said it hit the bat, then it hit her, and I said if it hits her hands, it’s a strike. He said she wasn’t swinging. What are you going to do?”

The call was a big one. Two batters later, Meek drove a pitch over the center field fence for a two-run homer that put the Pioneers up for good.

“I was just looking to get it in play and get (Wise) around the bases to score,” Meek said. “I thought it was a solid hit, but I wasn’t sure where it was because I didn’t see it.”

The Panthers made some noise in the top of the seventh to make for some anxious moments for the WPIAL champions, but they left the tying run at third base.

“We had seven, eight and nine coming up, and to walk the leadoff batter, I was dying a slow death,” Simms said. “(Meek) threw some tight pitches and found a way to make them put it in play, so I was very pleased with her in this pressure situation.”

The coach’s daughter, McKenzie Baer, was sparkling in the circle for Shade, holding a West Greene team that averaged nearly 11 runs a game in three district playoff wins to only two earned runs on four hits.

“She kept us off balance,” Simms said. “She was in on our fists, and we don’t see a lot of kids that come inside.”

This was the first PIAA softball playoff game for Shade (17-6), a week after playing in its first District 5 championship game.

West Greene (19-2) advances to the state quarterfinals Thursday to face District 10 champion Cambridge Springs at a site and time to be determined.

“We battled hard and I think we might have even got outhit (6-4), but we scored when we needed to,” Simms said.

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