West Greene defeats rival Monessen to return to PIAA championship game
One step is all the Monessen softball team needed to continue its historical run to a state championship berth.
But its nemesis got in the way again.
West Greene will play for a second straight PIAA championship thanks to a 7-4 win over the Greyhounds at Peterswood Park Tuesday afternoon.
The two heavyweights punched and counterpunched until it was the Pioneers delivering the knockout blow with a four-run bottom of the fifth inning.
The Greyhounds (17-5) got the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Destiny Habeck flied out to right to end the game.
“A couple bounces didn’t go our way, a couple calls I thought could have went the other way, but in the end, you can’t give a good team like them more than one opportunity,” Greyhounds coach Bo Teets said. “They’re the state champs for a reason. We counterpunched, but they hit us right back.”
WPIAL champion West Greene (22-4) will play District 11 champion Williams Valley (23-2) in the PIAA Class A title game at 11 a.m. Thursday at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park.
The Pioneers got on the board early to snatch the first momentum swing with two runs in the bottom of the first.
McKenna Lampe reached on a bunt single and stole second and third on consecutive pitches.
Madison Lampe followed with a bloop single into shallow right to make it 1-0.
Madison Renner followed with a groundout to move Madison Lampe to second just before Jade Renner knocked her in with a single up the middle to give West Greene a 2-0 advantage.
The score remained the same until the Greyhounds finally struck in the top of the fourth.
Hannah Yorty reached on a two-out single before Madison Guzzie reached on an error by shortstop Madison Renner. With runners on second and third, Cara Wheeler jacked a three-run homer deep to left-center to give the Greyhounds a 3-2 lead.
“That was a stupid call on my part,” West Greene coach Bill Simms said. “I wanted to get in on her inside, but if we missed inside I wanted it farther in. Bo moved her up and got her calmed down, and she put a good swing on that one.”
The Greyhounds kept the lead until the fifth.
Kaitlyn Rizor doubled down the line to left with one out. She went to third after Wheeler fumbled the ball in the corner and threw to second instead of her cut-off man.
Lexie Mooney bunted safely for a single and took second on defensive indifference.
Linzee Stover followed with a bunt to Vatakis, who fired to Habeck covering at first for the second out. Rizor took off for home and scored on a great slide, catching her fingertips on the back corner of the plate to tie the game. Mooney went to third on the play.
Carpenter ripped a shot to short that was booted by Guzzie, allowing Mooney to score the go-head run and make it 4-3.
With Carpenter on, No. 9 hitter Jersey Wise ripped a 1-1 pitch from Dana Vatakis over the center-field fence for a two-run shot and gave the Pioneers a 7-3 lead.
“She’s our DP, and we know the potential for pop is there with her,” Simms said. “We wanted to limit (Vatakis’) strikeouts looking. We wanted to get swings on her. We know if we do that, we win. Jersey had one of those quality at-bats we were looking for against her.”
Vatakis finished with three strikeouts and allowed four earned runs.
The Greyhounds showed their mettle and fought until the end.
In the top of the seventh, Wheeler led off with a single and moved to second on a groundout by Carly Rock.
Gabby Simpson followed with a soft liner down the right-field line that dropped for a double to score Wheeler and make it 7-4. Simpson went to third on the throw home.
Vatakis reached on the fifth West Greene error, this one by Jade Renner.
Sydney Caterino struck out trying to slap one down to third to bring up Habeck, who flew out to the fence in center in the sixth. She flew out to Carpenter to end the game.
Lexie Mooney finished 3 for 4, while Madison Lampe finished with a pair of hits for the Pioneers, who took advantage of four Greyhound errors.
Freshman Hannah Yorty was the lone Greyhound with more than one hit.
“I told them, as much as this hurts over the next few hours or few days, I couldn’t be more proud of a team,” Teets said. “They’re going to look back on this season and see everything they’ve accomplished and they’re going to see why they should be so proud. They took this program to new heights it’s never been to before. They have nothing to hang their heads about.
“We had 7-8-9 up there in the top of the seventh and we had the tying run at the plate down four runs. That’s the fight we have. I’m proud of what we did here today. We fought a great team.”
Jeremy Sellew is a Mon Valley Independent staff writer.