West Mifflin dismantles Highlands softball in WPIAL 1st round

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | 9:19 PM


Highlands had high hopes for another lengthy postseason softball run going into Wednesday’s first round Class 4A playoff game at Norwin High School.

But those hopes were dashed quickly as West Mifflin’s Emily Buchleitner hit an inside-the-park home run on the second pitch of the game.

The Titans added two more in the first inning and erupted for five more in the second en route to an 11-1 victory.

Even with the early surge, West Mifflin coach Erik Hilligsberg wasn’t ready to put it in cruise control.

“It’s never under control. I’m never satisfied,” Hilligsberg said. “I’m always on edge there. You never have enough runs. But it was nice to start out the way we did.”

After Buchleitner’s drive to the left field corner, Abigail Farmer doubled home Jasalin Guenther to complete the outburst.

In the second, the Titans sent eight batters to the plate. Even the outs were productive as Trinity Tewell hit a sacrifice fly to score Lia Salopek, who reached base on a bunt single. Aurora Russo brought home Buchleitner on a grounder, and another hit by Farmer drove in Guenther for a second time to make it 8-0.

No. 10-seeded West Mifflin (12-9) will play No. 2 Elizabeth-Forward Monday at a site and time to be determined.

Meanwhile, nothing was going right for No. 7 Highlands.

Even with the early deficit, Golden Rams coach Jenn Koprivnikar wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.

“We’ve overcome a lot of adversity this year,” Koprivnikar said. “Our girls are very resilient. They’re a good-hitting team. We got some hits, but we didn’t put them together.”

Freshman Madison Gorney relieved starter Abbie Deiseroth in the third inning. Buchleitner’s double, her third hit in as many innings, drove in a ninth run, but Gorney shut the door until West Mifflin pushed across two more runs in the sixth as the game ended after six innings.

“We haven’t done that too often this year, putting up double-digit runs,” Hilligsberg said.

Pitcher Addison Hilligsberg struck out four and let her fielders do the rest. The Titans infield recorded 11 putouts.

“Defense has been a challenge to us sometimes this season,” coach Hilligsberg said. “I was very proud of the way the girls played defense today. Our defense was very strong today.”

Things were going so well that two bloops that landed barely inside the right-field foul line turned into West Mifflin doubles.

“That was tough,” Koprivnikar said. “It was just one of those days. Their balls fell, and ours didn’t. We hit the ball hard, right at people.”

Highlands senior Jaycee Haidze was described as “under the weather” and didn’t pitch Wednesday. She played the infield corners and concluded her outstanding Highlands career with two base hits.

Haidze, last year’s Valley News Dispatch softball Player of the Year, combined with fellow seniors Jess Cekada and Maera Williams to compile a 28-12-1 record the last two seasons, including appearances in the WPIAL finals and PIAA semifinals.

“Jaycee, Jess and Maera always play with everything they’ve got,” their coach said. “It going to be hard losses. We’re losing 10-0, and Jess is diving for balls just out of her reach.”

The loss gave No. 7 Highlands a 10-6 record.

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