Below is a capsule look at the three PIAA softball and baseball quarterfinal playoff games on Thursday involving teams from the Beaver County Times’ coverage area.
Beaver Area (20-0) vs. Burrell (14-2)
Details: 3 pm Thursday at Mars Area High School
Scouting Beaver Area: After dominating Elizabeth Forward in a 6-0 victory last week to secure a second consecutive WPIAL title, Beaver Area looked untouchable. That was until the Bobcats’ 3-2 win against Fleetwood Area in the first round of the PIAA playoffs on Monday was a lot closer than they would’ve liked it to be. Head coach Amy Haggart called it a “championship hangover.” However they frame it, though, the Bobcats know that they’ll need to play better in order to achieve their lofty goal of becoming back-to-back PIAA champions. Star senior pitcher Payton List, who has posted a 12-0 record and tallied 255 strikeouts in 128.1 innings on the season, finished with 11 strikeouts and just four hits versus the Tigers. Senior shortstop Hanna Crowe had an RBI and a run in the contest. Going up against a Burrell squad that is coming off of a 6-0 win over District 10 champion Villa Maria Academy will prove to be more of a challenge. Beaver Area will need its supporting cast to elevate its game if it hopes to punch its ticket to the PIAA semifinals.
Scouting Burrell: Burrell is playing with house money. The Bucs ended a 12-year drought on Monday when they beat Villa Maria Academy 6-0 in the first round of the PIAA playoffs to win the program’s first PIAA playoff game since 2011. They did it in dominant fashion, too, with star junior Pitcher Katie Armstrong allowing only one hit and tallying 17 strikeouts. Burrell may be new to this stage, but it’s unlikely that the group lacks any confidence. The Bucs gave eventual WPIAL runner-up Elizabeth Forward all it could handle in a 2-1 WPIAL playoff semifinal loss in late May before going on to win its consolation game 3-1 over Montour last week. Armstrong, who gave up just her second earned run of the year in the win against Montour, has tallied 242 strikeouts in 113 innings on the season. She and her teammates will have their hands full as they look to upset the defending PIAA champion Beaver Area.
West Allegheny (20-4) vs. Bethel Park (18-4)
Details: 2 pm Thursday at Washington & Jefferson College (Ross Memorial Park)
Scouting West Allegheny: A recent unexpected boost to its lineup has elevated West Allegheny from a good team to a legitimate PIAA championship contender. The return of star senior third baseman and pitcher Gavin Miller, senior outfielder Devan Zirwas and junior outfielder Nick Longo from what once looked to be season-ending injuries has the Indians rolling. After winning its first WPIAL title since 2014, the group routed Thomas Jefferson 7-0 in the first round of the PIAA playoffs on Monday. Miller led the way in that contest with a home run, an RBI and a run. Zirwas also pitched in with an RBI and a run. Add that to a roster which already featured senior first baseman Colin Marinpetro (24 RBIs on the season) and senior pitcher Anthony Pass (7-1 record, 2.54 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 63.1 innings), and you’ve got a team that’s as talented as any still remaining. West Allegheny will face a Bethel Park squad looking for revenge after the Black Hawks fell to the Indians two weeks ago in the WPIAL playoff semifinals.
Scouting Bethel Park: The defending state champions have looked vulnerable at times this season. Bethel Park fell to eventual WPIAL runner-up Peters Township in an 11-2 loss in late April before coming up short in a 3-0 defeat against West Allegheny two weeks ago in the WPIAL playoff semifinals. The Black Hawks have shown the ability to bounce back, though. Bethel Park took care of business in a 6-0 victory over Thomas Jefferson in last week’s WPIAL playoff consolation game before edging out Central Mountain 4-3 in Monday’s PIAA playoff first-round matchup. But the rematch that lies ahead against the Indians will undoubtedly provide a tougher test for the Black Hawks than either of its past two games did. Senior shortstop David Kessler, senior center fielder Dylan Schmude and junior infielder Evan Holewinski — who combined for nine hits against the Wildcats — will lead the way offensively as Bethel Park seeks revenge against West Allegheny.
Riverside (17-6) vs. Neshannock (18-8)
Details: 3:30 pm Thursday at Seneca Valley High School
Scouting Riverside: Riverside’s youth movement has delivered results quicker than many initially believed it would. A roster made up of only two seniors found a way to climb out of a four-run deficit in its WPIAL playoff consolation game against Burgettstown to pull off an improbable 6-4 victory. Then, the Panthers went on to upset a two-loss Mount Union team 5-3 in their PIAA playoff first-round matchup on Monday. Senior outfielder Madden Boehm leads the group with 21 RBIs on the season, but sophomores Bo Fornataro (20 RBIs) and Darren McDade (17) have also been key offensive contributors. On the mound for Riverside, it’s been a by-committee approach — the same one it used in its win over the Trojans in the PIAA playoffs’ opening round. Junior Ronnie Harper has posted a 7-2 record and 1.85 ERA to go with 37 strikeouts in 45.1 innings, while freshman Christian Lucarelli has compiled a 3-3 record and a 2.72 ERA to go with 57 strikeouts in 36 innings. The Panthers will look to complete the season sweep of Neshannock after having beaten the Lancers twice already in early April.
Scouting Neshannock: After having struggled at times throughout the regular season, Neshannock has caught fire this postseason. The Lancers made a run to the WPIAL championship game as a No. 7 seed before ultimately falling short 8-2 against top-seeded Serra Catholic. They rebounded from that loss with a 4-3 win over West Middlesex in their PIAA playoff first-round matchup on Monday and now look to have another shot at Riverside after losing to the Panthers twice in April. Senior pitcher Sebastian Coiro, who tallied 10 strikeouts in the team’s victory against the Big Reds in the opening round of the PIAA postseason, has posted an 8-1 record on the year. Junior infielder Nathan Rynd and sophomore shortstop Giovanni Valentine had two RBIs apiece in that contest and will look to lead the way offensively yet again. Neshannock should be motivated heading into its game against Riverside to demonstrate that its postseason success so far has been no fluke.
Contact Parth Upadhyaya at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @pupadhyaya_,