SLIPPERY ROCK — We’ve been here before.
For the third time in four years, the DuBois Central Catholic and West Greene softball teams will meet in the state semifinals for the right to play for a Class A state title.
West Greene knows what that feeling is like, having competed in the last three state championship games and winning the last two state crowns. The Lady Pioneers knocked off DCC in the teams’ previous two meetings — 5-2 in 2016 and 9-5 in 2017.
The Lady Pioneers finished as the state runner-up after that ’16 victory, falling to Williams Valley, 3-2, in the finals. West Greene captured its first state title a year later after beating DCC, knocking off Williams Valley in a slugfest, 9-8, in thre 2017 state finals.
Those two schools met for a third straight time in the finals a year ago, with West Greene winning another slugfest, 11-7, to repeat as state champs.
Speaking of Williams Valley (D-11 champ), it could be a potential opponent for the winner of the DCC-West Greene contest. Williams Valley battles D-3 champ Milersburg in the other state semifinal today and will look to reach the state finals for the fourth state year.
On the other side, Central Catholic hopes to experience that feeling of playing for a state title as the Lady Cardinals look to beat West Greene for the first time to advance to the program’s first-ever state championship game.
To do so, the Lady Cardinals will have end West Greene’s reign as the two-time defending state champs when the schools lock horns today at 2 p.m. at Slippery Rock University.
The teams have a different makeup than they did in that first meeting three years ago, especially DCC, in what was the first state semifinal appearance for both schools. The Lady Cardinals featured a veteran varsity squad in 2016 — one led by the likes of Jordy Frank, Riley Assalone and Macey Hanes among others — and had just two freshmen on its roster in Ashley Wruble and Alyssa Bittner.
Wruble and Bittner, who started at second and first base, respectively, in that 2016 game are the lone DCC players on the current roster who played in both playoff matchups. And, only two others — senior Carley Semancik and junior Shayleigh Gulvas — played in the 2017 loss to the Lady Pioneers.
West Greene, meanwhile, entered that 2016 contest as a young squad that featured nine freshmen on its 19-player roster. Four of those freshmen — the Lampe sisters (McKenna and Madison), Kaitlyn Rizor and Mackenzie Carpenter — started back then and have played in both meetings.
A handful of other Lady Pioneers are still around from the 2017 meeting — most notably junior pitcher Jade Renner and her junior battery mate Kylie Simms.
Outside of a host of different starters, especially for DCC, the other big difference in the third postseason meeting between the schools is the game location.
West Greene’s previous two wins both came at North Allegheny High School, a field where more than a few softball teams from the Tri-County Area have seen their seasons come to an end in the state playoffs.
This time around the schools will battle at Slippery Rock, a venue where local teams have enjoyed far more success over the years.
Curwensville (2007 and 2009) and Elk County Catholic (2015) each won semifinals game at The Rock en route to winning state titles in those given years, while Clarion also won its state semifinal contest there to reach the 2011 finals before falling to Minersville.
Good karma aside, the field itself will have little bearing once the game begins today. Instead, it will come down to which team plays better once the home plate umpire yells, “Play ball.”
Both teams come into the game off close quarterfinal victories.
DuBois Central Catholic ( rallied to tie its game against Claysburg-Kimmel on a two-run single by Ashley Wruble in the bottom of the seventh before winning it, 6-5, on a walk-off single by freshman Avery Sickeri in the bottom of the ninth.
As for West Greene (21-4), it made a five-run top of the fifth stand up in a 5-4 victory against Clarion. The Lady Cats made a valiant comeback bid in the bottom of the seventh, scoring four runs off Renner, but came up just a little short.
Now its up to a potent DCC lineup to see if they can solve Renner (20-4), who likes to pitch to contact and let her defense do the work behind her. Renner sports a 1.61 ERA with 121 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 126 innings.
Renner started and won the 2017 matchup, allowing five runs (four earned) on 12 hits while striking out two and walking none.
This time, she faces a DCC squad that features a team batting average of .505.
The Lady Cardinals are led by the the likes of Wruble, Sickeri, Gulvas, Semancik and sophomore Mia Meholick.
Wruble leads the team in average (.654), hits (53), RBIs (47), runs (47) and triples (7) and is second in home runs (6) and tied for third in doubles (10).
Sickeri saw her average dip just below .600 despite having the winning hit against Claysburg but still sits at .592. She is second in the team in hits (460 and runs (46) and tied for third in RBIs (33). She also had 15 extra base hits (7 doubles, 3 triples, 5 homers).
Meholick (.506 average) leads the team in homers (7) and doubles (11) and is second in RBIs (41) and fourth in hits (41). Semancik is hitting .500 (37-for-74) with 10 doubles, 33 RBIs and 37 runs scored. As for Gulvas (.477 average), she is tied for first on the team with 11 doubles and is third in hits (42), RBIs (33) and runs (45).
Pitching-wise, DCC has rode the right arms of Wruble and freshman Morgan Tyler all season _ splitting the innings almost evenly between the duo. Expect both to see time today, just like they did Thursday in the win against Claysburg.
When either enters the circle, they will be facing West Greene for the first time. Wruble started at second base in the first two meetings when Assalone led DCC in the circle.
Both are undefeated on the field — Wruble 12-0 and Tyler 10-0. After Friday’s outing, Tyler has thrown 59 2/3 innings, posting a 1.41 ERA with 105 strikeouts and 18 walks. Wruble has tossed 55 innings and had a 1.78 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 13 walks.
They will face a Lady Pioneer lineup led by Renner, Rizor and the Lampe sisters — who comprised the first four spots in the order in the win against Clarion.
McKenna Lampe sits in the leadoff spot and has a team-best .558 average. She leads the teams in hits (43) and runs (41) to go along with nine doubles and 24 RBIs. Sister Madison, who hits second, is hitting .488 (39-for-80) with 33 RBIs and 37 runs. She has a team-high four homers and eight doubles.
Rizor, who hits third, sports a .518 average while also leading the way in hits (43) and doubles (11) and triples (6). She also is second in RBIs (35) and third in runs (35). Renner (.513 average), the cleanup hitter, has a team-high 37 RBIs while ranking third in hits (40).
The West Greene lineup had just six hits against Clarion’s Kaitlyn Constantino in Friday’s win but capitalized on two walks and two errors during their big five-run fifth.