STATE COLLEGE – A school tucked away in the bottom left corner of Pennsylvania is now at the center of PIAA softball history.
West Greene became the first Class A softball team to win back-to-back state championships, defeating Williams Valley 11-7 Thursday at Penn State.
“West Greene went from a nobody school to ‘Wow! West Greene is pretty good,’” said senior shortstop Madison Renner.
As West Greene (23-4) took an 8-3 lead in the fifth inning, it was impossible for the Pioneers not to think back to the last two state title games against Williams Valley (23-3).
“It’s in the back of your mind,” said head coach Bill Simms.
West Greene played one-run games against the Vikings in 2016 and 2017, with 2016’s ending in a walkoff and last year’s seeing West Greene come back from down 7-0 to win 9-8.
The flashbacks came alive in the sixth innings as the Vikings scored four unearned runs on four hits, and aided by an error and a passed ball, to trail by only one run.
“When it got to 8-7, I kept getting flashbacks to last season,” said sophomore pitcher Jade Renner, who also started the title game last season.
All momentum was in Williams Valley’s favor, especially after two of the first three Pioneers to bat in the sixth were retired. Jersey Wise, who went 3-for-3 in the No. 9 hole, then singled to bring to the plate the leadoff hitter Williams Valley didn’t want to see hit with runners on base: McKenna Lampe.
The junior center fielder hit a deep fly ball to the warning track in left field that narrowly landed out of the reach of Kati Whitcomb’s glove and went for a triple. With the hit, Lampe completed the cycle, going 4-for-5 with four RBI and three runs.
“If we go to the top of the seventh up 8-7, it’s a totally different feeling,” Simms said. “It could’ve been a totally different game than going to the seventh up 11-7.”
Williams Valley, which is in Tower City, about 45 minutes north of Harrisburg in District 11, drew scored first in the top of the first, as Stevie Unger, who got a second life after a West Greene infielder dropped a foul popup, doubled to score Whitcomb.
The Pioneers then tied the game in the bottom of the inning against Unger, who also started last year’s championship game. Madison Lampe, who went 4-for-5 with three RBI, hit a one-out double, and Jade Renner singled her home with two outs.
West Greene took a 3-1 lead in the second when McKenna Lampe roped a two-run, two-out home run to center field on the seventh pitch of the at-bat. The Pioneers would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
“We were playing catch-up for most of the game,” said Williams Valley head coach Ryan Underkoffler. “They kept the pressure on us.”
The Vikings tied the game in the fourth after the Pioneers stranded the bases loaded with no outs in the third, which was the only inning West Greene didn’t score. Destiny Dubois singled home Unger, and Kenna Ferron scored on an infield throwing error with two outs.
Unger’s run was the only earned run allowed by Jade Renner. The southpaw allowed 10 hits while not walking a batter and striking out five. Renner did not walk a batter in her four PIAA playoff games, spanning 25 innings.
West Greene retook the lead with three runs in the fifth, knocking out Unger, who allowed six earned runs and 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings. Madison Lampe singled to score Wise, Madison Renner hit a sacrifice fly to score McKenna Lampe and Kaitlyn Rizor doubled home Madison Lampe for her third hit of the day.
Two more West Greene runs came across in the fifth when Madison Lampe hit a single that scored Linzee Stover. Wise also scored on the play after McKenna Lampe got in a rundown that frazzled the Vikings and gave the Pioneers an 8-3 lead.
While the top five hitters had all 10 RBI, the bottom of the order scored six of the runs. Eight Pioneers had at least one hit, as West Greene totaled 19 hits to Williams Valley’s 10.
“You just know if you get out, the girl coming up behind you is going to pick you up,” said senior Linzee Stover, who went 2-for-4. “I trust all of the girls in the lineup.”
Jade Renner fielded a swinging bunt with two outs in the seventh and threw the ball wide of first base. First baseman Lexie Mooney, who already had one solid stretch on the batter before, extended as far as her body would allow to corral the throw. The excellent stretch was the last play of the senior’s high school career.
“It makes me feel really good that I did my part today and helped my team,” Mooney said. “But having my team behind me made me confident enough to (stretch) for that.”
West Greene is only the sixth school in PIAA softball history to win back-to-back titles. The Pioneers’ two team titles is more than the one title from the rest of Greene County combined, which might explain the approximately 500 West Greene fans who made the three-plus-hour commute.
“We have a heck of a following,” Simms said. “That’s not just a West Greene crowd; that’s a Greene County crowd.”