West Mifflin tops Belle Vernon, sweeps season series

Thursday, April 18, 2019 | 12:33 AM

Prior to the 2019 season, the West Mifflin softball team suffered seven straight defeats at the hands of Belle Vernon.

Considering the dominance and pedigree of the two-time defending champion Leopards, that isn’t surprising. But for the second time this year, West Mifflin found a way to defeat the rival, and now that losing streak is firmly in the rear view mirror.

Behind a three-hit complete game twirled by freshman pitcher Emily Buchleitner, West Mifflin downed Belle Vernon, 4-2, on a warm Wednesday afternoon at West Mifflin High School.

Buchleitner’s only mistake came in the first inning when, with two outs, Leopards sophomore Sophia Godzak belted her fourth home run over the left-field fence to give Belle Vernon a 2-0 lead.

To her credit, Buchleitner showed the maturity of a senior and limited the hard-hitting Leopards (5-7, 3-4 Section 2-4A) to only one more hit, a sixth-inning single by Jordan French with one out.

“Emily has ice water in her veins. Nothing really gets to her when she pitches, so I knew she’d be OK,” Titans second-year coach Erik Hilligsburg said.

It didn’t take West Mifflin (10-2, 5-2) long to turn that deficit into a lead. The Titans scored four runs in the bottom of the first.

Leadoff hitter Lauren Yuhas doubled to right-center field off Leopards starter Vanessa Porter. Yuhas then stole third base, her 12th of the year in 13 attempts. After back-to-back walks to Buchleitner and Allyssa Schmidt, Isabella Farmer lifted a double off of the center-field wall to score both Yuhas and Buchleitner to tie the game, 2-2.

After Belle Vernon recorded a couple of outs, senior Casey Bornak drilled a ball into the left-center field gap that plated both Schmidt and Farmer to give the Titans their first lead.

“I just came to the plate with the mindset of hitting the ball hard and it worked out for me,” Bornak said.

That’s all the support Buchleitner needed as Belle Vernon was never able to advance another runner past second base.

“We have a nice mix of seniors, right down to the freshman class and all of them have played key roles at various points in the season,” Hilligsburg said. “One to 13 in our lineup — anyone can be called upon.”

He also likes the diversity and challenges his lineup brings to their opponents.

“We have four or five players with great speed in our lineup that can steal bases at any moment, and then we have some girls that can hit the ball out of the park,” he said.

After West Mifflin finished 2018 with an 11-10 record and a 13-11 first-round loss to Latrobe, a game in which they lead 7-0, Hilligsburg said he likes the trajectory of his team and the maturation that he sees.

“Our goal always remains the same, but this year we want to make the playoffs, win the section title, get to the state playoffs and win the WPIAL.”

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