East Xtra: Seniors show pride of Lions

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When members of the Class of 2014 reached the varsity level of Greensburg Salem softball four years ago, the program had never been to the state playoffs.

Four years later the PIAA tournament seems as though it's part of the Lions' schedule now.

That is what happens when you qualify for states three consecutive seasons.

The three consecutive PIAA tournament berths are just one of the many accomplishments the eight seniors left behind when their careers ended Monday night after a 3-2 loss in the PIAA semifinals to Springfield-Delco.

The Golden Lions won 67 games over the past four seasons while losing only 14. They reached the WPIAL semifinals three years in a row, won the program's first WPIAL title last season and won four consecutive section titles, including three in a row outright. The seniors ended their careers on a 36-game section winning streak.

"I think now that it is all over, I think that we are pretty pleased with being in the semifinals, the top four of states," Greensburg Salem coach Jody Morgan said. "We would have liked to have gone one more game, we would have liked to have been in Friday's [state title] game. The seniors were trying so hard, they wanted it so badly, it might have worked against us."

For much of the past four years Greensburg Salem achieved success by holding onto leads and avoiding mistakes. On Monday the Golden Lions could do neither, losing a 2-0 lead after allowing three unearned runs.

While the result may have been surprising, the fact that it was a one-run game hardly surprised anyone who followed the team this season.

Even as a No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs, nothing came easy to Greensburg Salem. The Lions slipped past Central Valley, 1-0, in the first round and edged West Allegheny, 2-1, in the quarterfinals before losing to Thomas Jefferson, 4-3, in the semifinals. Greensburg Salem kept its season alive with a 2-1 win against Elizabeth Forward in the WPIAL consolation game.

"The last three years we have made states," Morgan said. "In basketball it is like they take a million teams but in softball they only take three so to be in the state playoffs three years in a row -- what an accomplishment for the seniors! We haven't had success getting into the state playoffs before, so we are pretty proud."

In the state playoffs, Greensburg Salem blanked District 10 champion Warren, 2-0. In the PIAA quarterfinals they avenged a WPIAL semifinal loss to Thomas Jefferson with a 2-1 win to reach the PIAA semifinals for the first time in program history. Greensburg Salem's prior two PIAA playoff trips ended in the quarterfinals.

"We thought we had a better team last year but we did not get as far in states," Morgan said. "I really feel we equaled our success from last year."

Of all the recent success Greensburg Salem has had, the 2013 WPIAL title stands out among the other accomplishments.

"I always think the WPIAL has such strong teams," Morgan said. "I think winning the WPIAL championship is equal to winning a state championship -- the kids may not feel that way. We are pretty proud of last year's accomplishment."

Greensburg Salem returned seven starters from a year ago but it had to replace Jayne Oberdorf, a pitcher who went onto Marist.

"For losing a Division I pitcher and coming back the way we did, I am really proud," Morgan said.

Oberdorf was replaced by senior Melissa Wagner who moved from third base to pitcher.

"We would not have gotten so far this year without her," Morgan said. "She had a great season. She pitched her heart out."

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