East Xtra: Greensburg Salem bouncing back in style

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Not ones to cry, the Greensburg Salem softball team prefers to react to disappointment with anger ... in a good way.

The Golden Lions lost their chance to retain their WPIAL title after a stunning upset loss to No. 13 Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL semifinals.

They could not hold onto a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning, allowing three runs, including one on an error and one on a wild pitch, and lost, 4-3.

"They were burning up," Greensburg Salem coach Jody Morgan said of her team after the loss. "Most teams cry -- we don't cry, we get angry. We were mad."

Greensburg Salem had to stew for an entire week before a shot at redemption that came in the form of a WPIAL third-place consolation game. It kept its season alive with a 2-1 win against Elizabeth Forward to qualify for the PIAA playoffs.

"We used a bunt to win [against Elizabeth Forward]," Morgan said. "We haven't bunted much all year."

Four days after the win against Elizabeth Forward, Greensburg Salem knocked off District 10 champion Warren, 2-0, to reach the PIAA quarterfinals.

The Lions will get a chance for revenge when they play Thomas Jefferson, an 8-3 winner against Bellefonte, at noon today at Baldwin High School.

Greensburg Salem entered the WPIAL playoffs as the top seed with a 13-1 record but nothing has come easy in the postseason. It edged Central Valley, 1-0, in the first round and West Allegheny, 2-1, in the quarterfinals before two more one-run decisions in the WPIAL semifinals and third-place consolation game.

"I have been doing this for 36 years and I have seen everything," Morgan said. "These kids like the pressure. Pressure to them is just 'Whatever' -- not to me, to them.

"The kids are so relaxed maybe because they won [the WPIAL championship] last year."

Seven starters returned this year from the WPIAL title team, but the defending champions had to replace their pitcher-catcher combination of Jayne Oberdorf and Taylor Mehan.

Melissa Wagner moved from third base to the pitching circle and she has risen to the occasion numerous times this year in filling the large void left by Oberdorf's graduation.

"She did OK [against Thomas Jefferson]," Morgan said. "She didn't have a bad game, just one bad inning. We had a one-hitter before that. She has had a real good year, she has pitched every game."

Jayne Oberdorf's younger sister, junior shortstop Claire Oberdorf, is one of the WPIAL's offensive leaders. She bats leadoff for the Golden Lions.

Senior second baseman Kellie Hutchinson, a four-year starter, has come alive in the playoffs as expected. After struggling in the regular season, Morgan predicted Hutchinson would pick things up offensively in the postseason as she has done so many times in her career.

"She has only made three outs in four games," Morgan said. "She just seems to like the playoffs. She likes the pressure of these one-run games.

The loss to Thomas Jefferson was the Lions' first defeat to a Class AAA opponent this year. Greensburg Salem's only other loss came at Penn-Trafford, which shared the Section 1-AAAA championship.

"We just didn't have it," Morgan said. "We gave that game away; that is how it goes sometimes. All of the teams are pretty even. There is no dominant pitchers like there used to be. Everybody is throwing 55-56 [mph]. That is good, I am OK with that."

In the playoffs, Morgan prefers being the home team, especially considering her team's penchant for playing close games. She likes the advantage of batting last.

"Being a home team is so important in the playoffs," Morgan said. "It feels like you get an extra at bat. If you score the go-ahead run the other team doesn't get a chance.

"The coin toss is really important to me. It is like we have eight at-bats, at least that is how we look at it."

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