SLIPPERY ROCK — Most of the large group from Rogersville sat still as DuBois Central Catholic shortstop Shay Gulvas moved to her left, fielded a grounder and threw to first for the final out.

They stayed stagnant — and shocked — for moments after the final out.

The stupor of a playoff loss, what a group of seniors have fought off the last several years en route to making history, ended a run that will long be remembered.

And as West Greene High School softball coach Bill Simms made his way to the bus, fighting off tears of a final question, he knew it was the last of so many smile-filled bus rides.

The two-hour trip back to Rogersville after a 3-2 loss to DuBois Central Catholic in the PIAA Class A semifinal at Slippery Rock University Tuesday afternoon was going to feel a little longer than the others.

The ride was going to feel different because so many of those same rides, including 19 straight in the playoffs, have been after victories.

"I don't know that I created anything but so much as having a great class come through. I have to give all the credit to that senior class. They deserve a lot. They put a lot of banners up," Simms said. "It's going to be tough to get on the bus with them, but I wouldn't want to have it any other way."

The Pioneers pioneered their own way.

They did it with skill, speed, strength and sisters.

They did it with dominance — 58 of the Pioneers 96 wins over the last four years have ended with the Mercy Rule.

They did it with epic comebacks — a seven-run reversal to stun Williams Valley, 9-8, in the 2017 PIAA Class A Championship to win their first state title.

You didn't have to know what the last four years have been like for West Greene. All that needed to be done was to see the awe on the faces of those wearing white, blue and yellow shirts with "Pioneer Nation" written on the front of them.

They told a four-year story in only a brief amount of seconds.

A story that turned a team, and town, from the little engine that could into a group that nobody could turn away from come early June.

After the moment of pause from the Pioneer faithful, the players from West Greene exited the dugout. With many having yellow uniforms lifted to their faces to stop the tears, that same crowd stood for one last standing ovation.

A standing ovation that wasn't for the fight the Pioneers showed one last time Tuesday afternoon. It was an ovation, a thank you, for the last four years.

"What other coach gets to go through that with a bunch of kids?" Simms said through tears. "Four section titles, four WPIAL titles, three state title appearances, two state championships and a semifinal this year. I mean, it's been pretty sweet."

Staff Writer

Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.

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