North Xtra: Vincentian battles former section rival

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Some will call this week the opening of the WPIAL softball playoffs -- others might refer to it as the beginning of non-section play.

For many WPIAL teams, constant weather-related postponements forced some teams to miss some or all of their non-section games.

When No. 8 Vincentian Academy (10-3) meets No. 9 Sewickley Academy (10-2) in a WPIAL Class A first-round matchup at 2 p.m. today at Hampton, it will mark the second non-section game of the year for the Royals and first for the Panthers.

The lack of non-section games should make for an interesting postseason. The Royals have played only seven different teams this year, the Panthers six.

"I think in some ways it can be a disadvantage," Vincentian first-year coach Tiffany Bergman said.

Vincentian finished 10-2 in Section 3-A to take second place while Sewickley was 10-2 in Section 1-A and also finished second.

The last time Vincentian and Sewickley met was when they were both in Section 3-A in 2012. The former section rivals played a doubleheader April 27, 2012 with Vincentian sweeping both games, 12-6 and 16-3.

A lot has changed since then.

Vincentian has its third coach in three years and the Royals no longer have a Melvin on the team.

First baseman Danielle Melvin graduated after last season, the last in a long line of Melvin sisters -- including Casey, Tricia, Nina and Bridget -- who helped the Royals win three consecutive WPIAL championships from 2008 to 2010.

This Vincentian team is led by senior pitcher Kim Corcoran and junior catcher Kelsey Hunter. Corcoran, who began her high school career at Fox Chapel before transferring to Vincentian, is a returning starter at pitcher. Hunter is a returning starter at catcher. She started at third base last season but moved behind the plate after catcher Katie Yauch sustained a concussion.

"Kim has all the pitches," Bergman said. "She is a smart player. I told her that at the beginning of the year.

"I don't have to say too much to her, she is almost like a coach out there. She is very smart on the field and very encouraging off the field, she is that player. She and the catcher have a great relationship, they work together."

The Royals received a major boost entering the playoffs with a dramatic season-ending win against Jeannette last week. The Jayhawks had already wrapped up an outright section title but they were seeking a 12-0 section record. Vincentian denied them that goal with a 5-3 win.

The Royals let a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning escape, as well as a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 10th inning, but they finally prevailed, 5-3, in 11 innings. Corcoran fired a three-hitter in the win, striking out 14.

"I told the girls that is the best game we could have played going into the playoffs, since we didn't have a lot of competition in our section," Bergman said. "They held it together the whole time. It looks good, it shows they can keep playing hard each and every inning whether they are up or down."

The Vincentian win avenged an early season 13-0 loss to Jeannette. That was the Royals' first game of the season and first time on a softball field in a year for most of the players, while Jeannette was playing in its sixth game of the year.

In the first round, Sewickley will counter Corcoran with sophomore pitcher Savannah Henry.

The Panthers are in the WPIAL playoffs for the third consecutive year.

Both Vincentian and Sewickley were eliminated in the first round last year. The winner of the game today will face No. 1 Neshannock (13-2, 13-1), the Section 4-A champion that received a first-round bye.

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