The Greensburg Salem softball program has moved into uncharted territory this season and veteran coach Jody Morgan couldn't be happier.
"This is the first time in school history that we qualified for the PIAA playoffs," said Morgan, now in her 34th season as the Golden Lions head coach. "We made the state playoffs when I coached basketball, but never in softball ... until this year."
Greensburg Salem earned its first PIAA berth by placing third in the WPIAL Class AAA tournament.
"This is clearly the best team I've ever had," Morgan said. "We went undefeated in the section and went further in the WPIAL tournament than ever before in team history. It's a banner year, and it's getting better and better."
Morgan is referring to the Golden Lions' PIAA debut, which occurred Monday at McGibbney Field in Brookline. Greensburg Salem needed only five innings to dominate City League representative Carrick, 16-0.
"Everything was working for us," Morgan said. "We had a great day at the plate and Jayne Oberdorf pitched a one-hitter."
The victory advances Greensburg Salem to the PIAA quarterfinals. The Golden Lions will face WPIAL champion Montour at 2 p.m. today at North Allegheny High School.
"The last time we faced a Montour team was two years ago," Morgan said. "We met in the WPIAL quarterfinals at Baldwin. The game was scoreless until the seventh inning, when Montour scored twice to win the game, 2-0.
"Montour has to be considered the favorite after winning the WPIAL title. We may be the underdog, but we've been playing very well in the playoffs. I expect a pitchers duel."
Greensburg Salem takes a 17-3 record into its showdown against Montour. The Golden Lions have won four of five games in the playoffs. They opened with a 1-0 win against Knoch, then defeated Mars Area, 5-2, in the quarterfinals. Their only playoff setback came in the semifinals, as they dropped a tough 2-1 decision to WPIAL runner-up Elizabeth Forward.
"The loss to Elizabeth Forward really hurt," Morgan said. "But the kids were determined to keep their season alive. I knew they wouldn't quit."
Greensburg Salem rebounded with a 1-0 win against Belle Vernon Area in the consolation for third place, earning the Golden Lions their first PIAA berth.
"Today's win against Carrick is icing on the cake," Morgan said. "We're just glad to be playing at this time of the year and having a lot of fun."
Oberdorf, a junior pitcher, has played a big part in Greensburg Salem's success this season. She has a 15-2 record, which includes three no-hitters and three one-hitters.
"Jayne is the best pitcher I've ever had," Morgan said. "She had 176 strikeouts [for the season] going into the Carrick game and picked up 11 more. That leaves her 13 short of 200. "
Oberdorf's younger sister, Claire, has become the Golden Lions leadoff hitter and shortstop in her freshman season.
"I haven't seen a better freshman than Claire," Morgan said. "She has a good on-base percentage and has great speed. She is also an excellent fielder."
Claire Oberdorf even has two home runs.
"Everybody in my starting lineup has hit a home run this season," Morgan said. "We hit 19 home runs during the regular season and have three in the playoffs."
Taylor Mehan, a junior catcher, leads the Golden Lions with seven home runs. She also has two grand slams, including one against Carrick on Monday.
Kelly Hutchinson, a sophomore second baseman, is a two-year starter who has a .750 average during the playoffs. Alex Garsteck, a senior left fielder, is hitting .650 in the playoffs. Alyssa Mellinger, a senior centerfielder, has a .500 average in the playoffs.
The starting lineup also includes sophomore third baseman Melissa Wagner, junior first baseman Sydney Bacha, senior right fielder Sara Stiffy and sophomore designated player Madison Hantz.
"[Senior] Megan Sandberg was our first baseman until the playoffs," Morgan said. "She suffered a fractured finger and is out for the season. It was a big loss for us, but Sydney has stepped in and done a fine job."
First Published June 7, 2012 12:00 AM