Meadville Tribune

June 3, 2013

PIAA CLASS A SOFTBALL: Panthers take on WPIAL runner-up to open title quest

By Lisa Byers
Meadville Tribune

June 3, 2013 7:00 a.m. — One of the perks to wrapping up the District 10 tournament earlier than most other districts in the state is the opportunity it creates to go out and scout your first round opponent in the state playoffs.

Saegertown’s coaching staff of Mark McKissock, Tom Brunot and John Kutz did just that Thursday morning.

They took the drive down Interstate 79 to California (Pa.) University’s Lilley Field to watch the WPIAL Class A championship game between Carmichaels and 2012 Class AA state champion Neshannock.

And just how did McKissock and Co. come away feeling after watching the Lady Panthers’ first round opponent fall to Neshannock 10-4?

“Like all WPIAL teams they look strong,” said McKissock, who leads the Panthers into today’s state playoff game against Carmichaels at Penn State Behrend. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. “It’s no secret the WPIAL is a strong conference.”

Neshannock was the first team to score on Carmichaels in the postseason. Carmichaels (21-3) entered the title tilt having outscored its opponents 34-0 in through three games in the WPIAL tournament.

The Mighty Mikes did that riding the pitching arm of sophomore Erica Burns, who going into the WPIAL championship game had thrown 188 strikeouts.

“They are very comparable to Iroquois,” McKissock said. “She isn’t going to throw the ball by us. We need to stay back try to pick our pitches and put the ball in play.

“We need to do what we always do. Nothing different.”

Saegertown has had a pretty impressive postseason of its own. The Panthers have allowed just one run thus far. That run came in an 11-1 five-inning win over Reynolds in the District 10 semifinals.

This postseason, Arianna Hanley has allowed just one run (unearned) in 12 innings of work. She has allowed 10 hits, walked two and struck out five.

“They kind of have the approach like somebody is going to win this game and it’s no reason it can’t be them,” McKissock said. “That is the mentality they have.”

Many of the players for Saegertown were in this very spot a year ago. The Panthers won their first round game against Bellwood-Antis. Their season eventually came to an end with a 4-3 loss to Chartiers-Houston in the quarterfinals.

The Panthers feel even better prepared this go around.

“They do,” McKissock said. “We had one or two of the say before the first District 10 game they said, ‘Man, I’m nervous, but I’m not scared like I was last year.’ They are nervous but confident.

“Five, six, seven years ago I may have been worried about how loose they are.”