Despite a bit of a sour ending, this was a pretty sweet season for the West Allegheny High School softball team.
West Allegheny lost, 2-0, to District 10 champion Fort LeBoeuf on Monday in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament at Penn State Behrend. Despite the loss, this season left the Indians with many positives.
"The nice thing about the kids I'm coaching this year is that we don't have to rely on just one kid," West Allegheny coach Mindi McFate said.
In West Allegheny's 3-2 loss to Greensburg Salem in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals, it was the bottom of the Indians lineup that put a scare into the Golden Lions, who went on to win the WPIAL title. McKenzie Johnson and Taylor James had run-producing hits in that game.
In the Class AAA consolation match against West Mifflin, West Allegheny's Brooke Bagnell and Emily Garvin played key roles as Bagnell knocked in the game's go-ahead run. The 5-1 victory advanced West Allegheny to the PIAA tournament.
West Allegheny's pitching is one case where the Indians do rely on one player. Senior Brianna Lach was a starter last year as a junior and has continued through 2013.
"She's pitched extremely well for us in the playoffs," McFate said.
McFate described Lach's pitching as being like a gateway to the Indians' team defense.
"Brianna is not a dominant strikeout pitcher," McFate said.
But she is hard to hit.
"In the game with Greensburg-Salem, there were more pop flies to the infield than any game all year," McFate said.
The West Allegheny roster is dominated by sophomores this year (there are five in a list of 12 total players). The sophomores carry a lot of varsity experience, however. McFate explained that they have all started, in various roles, for West Allegheny.
Alexis Cogis, a freshman, has been a successful shortstop for the Indians.
"She did a really nice job for us defensively," McFate said.
McFate cited lack of hits as well as four errors as the reasons West Allegheny wasn't able to advance past Monday's game against Fort LeBoeuf.
"In the state tournament, everybody is good," she said.
What remains central to the Indians are the bright spots. They finished the season with a 13-8 record and finished in third place in the highly competitive Section 2, which also included playoff teams Trinity and Montour.
McFate said the team broke up the two-hour drive to Erie with a stop in Grove City and a meal at Eat 'n Park. The players kept busy with their phones and other electronic devices.
This summer, many on the Indians roster plan to continue to play in travel leagues and such.
"A lot of our kids do play in the travel ball system," McFate said. "We do have a community organization in the district that the players often start out in -- sometimes as young as 8 or 10."