West Xtra: Young teams clash in Class AAA softball

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Among the 20 players on the South Fayette softball roster, there is a combined two games of postseason experience.

While the playoff experience is limited, it could not be more valuable this year.

In 2012 the Lions reached the WPIAL playoffs as a No. 15 seed. They pushed No. 2 seed Seton-LaSalle to extra innings before losing 10-6.

Current senior outfielder Taylor Coyne and junior pitcher Ashley Iagnemma were on that team.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. South Fayette is ranked No. 2 and will meet a No. 15 seed in Ambridge today at 2 p.m. at Fairhaven Park.

Nobody needs to remind Coyne and Iagnemma how dangerous a 15-seed can be.

"We happened to be the 15-seed and we took the game to extra innings," South Fayette coach Vic Iagnemma said. "It is kind of interesting. The girls remember that. Ambridge is there to win just like everyone else."

South Fayette is riding a wave of momentum into the playoffs. It finished the regular season 13-1 and captured the program's first section title with an 11-1 record in Section 2-AAA. Its only loss was a 4-3 setback on the road at West Allegheny April 10.

The section title has been a goal for South Fayette since Vic Iagnemma, who is Ashley Iagnemma's father, took over as coach two years ago.

"That was our first ever and it meant a lot to us," Vic Iagnemma said. "We are very proud."

South Fayette is taking its new found success -- from missing the playoffs to a No. 2 seed -- in stride.

"We are not making a big deal about it," Vic Iagnemma said. "We are just continuing to play and trying to keep them busy with scrimmages as much as possible. We are trying to keep things very normal, it is an extension of what we have been doing. We are just going to keep playing softball like we did all year."

At this time last year South Fayette was returning equipment and packing up for the year while Ambridge was taking a 13-3 record and No. 3 seed into the WPIAL playoffs, where it would eventually reach the WPIAL Class AAA final and PIAA semifinals.

This Bridgers team is much younger and looking not only to advance to the WPIAL quarterfinals but also to reach .500. Ambridge enters the playoffs at 5-6 overall.

"Obviously it is Ambridge, you have to respect them because of their reputation if nothing else," Vic Iagnemma said. "They have been a solid team for many years. They tied for third in a very tough respectable section. We are not taking them lightly at all."

The field at Fairhaven Park might host the youngest collection of softball players in the WPIAL playoffs. Among the two teams there is only one senior. Ambridge has 10 freshmen and four sophomores, while South Fayette has 11 freshmen and seven sophomores.

"I told the girls, they are a good young team like we are," Vic Iagnemma said. "You have to give them all the respect that you expect when you go out on the field."

The fact that the opponent is Ambridge -- a perennial power, a WPIAL runner-up last season and the last WPIAL team left standing in the PIAA Class AAA playoffs last season -- only makes it that much harder to take the game lightly.

"Knowing that it's Ambridge, I think it helps keep the intensity up," Vic Iagnemma said. "They have a reputation of being such a good softball program over there."


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