Westmoreland County softball notebook: Ligonier Valley’s Griffin gets aggressive

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 | 9:01 AM

The owner of a 21-strikeout perfect game and three no-hitters this season, Ligonier Valley senior pitcher Maddie Griffin has all the physical tools to dominate in the circle.

She has proven that beyond a doubt over the last season-plus of WPIAL and PIAA softball.

But the Youngstown State commit, who has 28 wins, 479 strikeouts and an ERA under 0.40 in her career, is focusing more on the mental approach this season as she tries to lead the Rams to WPIAL and PIAA titles in 2A.

That has led to a less conservative approach.

“Recently, I have learned that pitching is mostly your mindset,” she said. “I have been taking the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. It’s hard when you aren’t performing your best to step up against a team and think, ‘I’m going to strike all of you out because I’m a good pitcher.’ So right now, I’m taking an attack approach to every batter I face.

“I’m trying to get away from the defensive pitcher I was at the beginning of this season.”

Griffin clearly regrets losing in the PIAA championship last season, 1-0, to Line Mountain, to end the team’s season at 22-3.

She wants a WPIAL title and another shot at a state title but isn’t getting too far ahead of herself.

“We have a lot to work on before I’d consider us ready for Penn State,” she said. “With practice and more experience, for sure. We only have three upperclassman who start, so we have a young team. With a young team, we are bound to make mistakes. Having each other’s backs and getting to know each other more will help with that.”

The Rams had six upperclassmen last season.

Playoffs, anyone?

The local WPIAL playoff picture is nearly clear as the final week of the regular season dances through the raindrops and winds to a close.

Westmoreland qualifiers are Hempfield in Class 6A; Franklin Regional, Penn-Trafford, Latrobe and Kiski Area in 5A; Burrell and Yough in 4A; Southmoreland, Mt. Pleasant and Valley in 3A; Ligonier Valley in 2A; and Greensburg Central Catholic in A.

Hempfield, Penn-Trafford and Ligonier Valley are section champions.

Playing pairings are expected to be announced next Thursday.

Hold that thought

Yough and Elizabeth Forward have to wait a week to resume their suspended game from Tuesday — a game that will decide the Section 2-4A champion.

Elizabeth Forward was up 2-0 and batting in the bottom of the fourth inning when a tornado warning sounded, forcing everyone to leave the field.

A damaging thunderstorm rolled through and the game was suspended. It will be finished starting at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday in Elizabeth.

P-T No. 1

Penn-Trafford (12-1) has surged to No. 1 in the TribLive HSSN WPIAL Class 5A rankings, leap-frogging four teams after sitting at No. 5 last week.

That makes two No. 1 teams in the area.

Hempfield remained No. 1 in 6A, despite a loss to Seneca Valley.

Will the WPIAL give them both No. 1 seeds when the playoff seedings come out next Thursday?

State ranks

Westmoreland County has a strong presence this week in the TribLive HSSN state rankings.

Penn-Trafford and Yough made appearances for the first time this season. Penn-Trafford is No. 5 in Class 5A, while Yough is No. 4 in 4A.

Hempfield dropped one spot in 6A to No. 5.

The top-ranked teams are Pennsbury (6A), West Scranton (5A), Beaver (4A), Avonworth (3A), Union City (2A), and Tri-Valley (A).

A Little awkward

Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little couldn’t believe it when the PSAC softball playoff bracket came out last week. He thought the Division II conference was playing a trick on him.

A first-round matchup in the double-elimination tournament pitted Seton Hill against Bloomsburg.

Little is a part-time hitting coach for Seton Hill, while his daughter, Emma, is a freshman catcher/outfielder for Bloomsburg.

“I didn’t sleep well (last) Saturday night. My head almost blew up,” Little said with a laugh. “She is not a nice girl. She said, ‘We want to kill you guys.’”

Need for speed

Little knew his team could hit, and he knew what he had in senior pitching ace Mia Smith, but he likes what he sees from his players on the basepaths.

“This is the fastest team we’ve had,” Little said. “We have seven, eight girls who can fly. The track team wishes it had these girls.”

Touch ‘em all

Mt. Pleasant senior Katie Hutter is one of the most talented players in the WPIAL, proven and championship seasoned, and she is showing it. She hit for the cycle and drove in five runs in a 16-3 win over McGuffey.

Belle Vernon also has a rising talent — among several — in junior Maren Metikosh. Just 5-foot-4, she packs power. She went 3 for 3 with a triple, home run and five RBIs in a 12-8 victory over West Mifflin. She is hitting over .600 for the season.

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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