Day 1 of the two-day marathon of PIAA baseball and softball championship games is now in the books — so it’s only fair to turn the attention to Friday.
Penn State will once again host six PIAA championship games — three in baseball (Class 2A, 4A, 6A) and three in softball (Class A, 3A, 5A) — before high schools around the state officially shut the door on the spring season. No area teams may have made their respective title games this season, but there are still plenty of notable players to watch at Nittany Lion Softball Park and Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Here’s a closer look at the Friday matchups:
Softball (Nittany Lion Softball Park)
Class A: Williams Valley (20-5) vs. West Greene (25-1), 11 a.m.
No, that sense of déjà vu you might be feeling isn’t out of place. These same two teams met last year in the state championship — and, according to the Observer-Reporter, this is just the third time in state history a rematch has occurred in any classification. Williams Valley took the state title last season, 3-2, and West Greene is out for revenge. West Greene is collectively batting above .400 as a team and boasts a freshman pitcher in Jade Renner, who holds a 1.47 ERA. The Williams Valley Vikings have been incredibly consistent — every starter had a hit in the semifinal — and more than half their lineup is batting over .400.
Class 5A: Donegal (25-3) vs. Cedar Cliff (19-8), 1:30 p.m.
Don’t let Cedar Cliff’s record fool you. Donegal may boast the far-better record this season — but, about two weeks ago, Cedar Cliff beat Donegal in the District 3 semifinals by a score of 9-5. Cedar Cliff then ended up winning the program’s first-ever district championship. These two teams are both very familiar with one another, but that doesn’t mean no surprises will come. Cedar Cliff has several standouts — such as Olivia Jordan (.443 BA) and Jimiah McDonald (.485 BA) — and Donegal is strong all around. The Donegal Indians have five players who made the all-state team last season.
Class 3A: South Park (20-3) vs. Pine Grove (25-2), 4 p.m.
South Park is making its first appearance in the state title game, fresh off eliminating Centre County’s last survivor, Philipsburg-Osceola, 4-0 Monday. The Eagles’ roster is filled with talent, including sophomore Kaitlyn Morrison, who has already committed to Penn State, and junior Katlyn Pavlick, who plans to play at Pitt. Adding senior Justine Dean, who is tough to beat pitching and a major threat at the plate, and the team has three tough outs. They lead a prolific offense that has beaten its three PIAA opponents by a combined 31-1. Pine Grove isn’t too shabby either, entering the finals on an 18-game win streak while sporting a team batting average over .400. Seven starters are batting over .400, led by Jen Kaufman (.518) and Trish Kopinetz (.506) and the team had 31 hits in their three PIAA games. The Cardinals are built more for speed, with bunts and slap hits to test defenses.
Baseball (Medlar Field at Lubrano Park)
Class 2A: Neumann-Goretti (22-4) vs. Bishop McCort (19-7), 10:30 a.m. Friday
Like the Class A softball game, this one’s a rematch of last season. Neumann-Goretti beat Bishop McCort 3-0 last year behind a complete game by senior right-hander Ethan Pritchett. Neumann-Goretti’s three solid pitchers will want to limit McCort’s opportunities on the basepaths as the District 6 champion Crimson Crushers have speed on their roster. Chris Miller leads McCort with 20 stolen bases, Cameron Bunn has 11, Boston Bradley has 10 and Logan Kasper has nine. Bradley is also McCort’s top hitter with a .429 batting average, while Bryce Kramer is hitting .312 with a team-high 25 RBIs.
Class 4A: Dallas (14-6) vs. South Park (23-3), 1 p.m. Friday
South Park will look to capture the state title in its first trip to the championship game in program history. South Park will likely have to face Dallas closer Josh Lydon during Friday’s championship game. Lydon, who has pitched in 15 games this season, has a 4-3 record with a 2.10 ERA, according to The Citizens’ Voice. Lydon closed out Dallas’ 7-5 win over East Pennsboro in the PIAA semifinals, which extended the team’s winning streak to 12 games. It’s quite the time to be a South Park fan, though, as three hours after this game starts, the softball team will also take the field in another state title game.
Class 6A: Pennsbury (21-6) vs. Dallastown (23-4), 3:30 p.m. Friday
Dallastown reached the state championship game by ending State College’s postseason run in the semifinals Monday. The Wildcats broke through against Little Lions ace Mason Mellott, who went into the game having thrown 17 2/3 scoreless innings in three playoff games. Mellott allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings in the loss, and Dallastown finished with four doubles in the win. Coastal Carolina commit Nick Parker, who threw a complete game against State College, has combined with sophomore Alex Weakland to lead the pitching staff. “Both of those guys have done a phenomenal job, especially in the past six weeks with kind of going back and forth with the two of them,” Dallastown coach Greg Kinneman said after the win over State College. “If we defend behind them, we know that more than likely, we’re going to have a really good shot coming into the game to win a game.” Weakland earned the win in the state quarterfinals for the Wildcats, who have won 20 straight. Pennsbury cruised to 12-0, five-inning win over Liberty in the state semifinals. Billy Bethel earned the win for Pennsbury.