Knights, Lady Dragons back in PIAA playoffs

Eisenhower’s baseball team and Warren’s softball teams are – again – right where they want to be.

For the first time since 2003, Eisenhower will play in the PIAA state tournament when it meets Bishop McCort at 4 p.m. Monday at Hollidaysburg High School.

“It’s exciting getting to states,” said Ike first-year coach Cody Vincent, who was on the last Knights team to make it to states as District 10 champion. “There’s 16 schools our size still playing baseball and more than that not playing baseball.”

So he said it doesn’t matter much that Eisenhower will meet a senior-ladened team that won a state title in 2012.

“What I told the kids, I expect to go down there and they’re going to be a solid team – pitchers (at states) usually bring it every game,” said coach Vincent, whose Knights are 9-7 and the District 10 Class A champions. Bishop McCort is 16-7 as the D6 champ. “They have maybe eight seniors that are starters and all are playing college baseball somewhere (next year).”

That said, Vincent is excited for the opportunity to be here.

“I’m trying to keep the kids focused,” he said. “Yes, we accomplished out team goals, but now we can do other things. They’re legit, but I’m interested in seeing how (sophomore starting pitcher Casey Vincent) matches up against a team like this.”

Vincent was the winning pitcher in the District 10 semifinal and final games and is 7-0 with a 0.28 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings.

Cody Vincent said, if you think back, this is the fifth time at the state level for Casey Vincent and teammate Kyle Hunt, for example, but that includes Little League and Junior American Legion Baseball.

“I don’t think it will be too big for these kids,” he said.

Bishop McCort has a roster in which 21 players have received at bats – with nine having 10 or more hits and RBI. Senior Ethan Neiderhiser has 22 RBI with a .354 batting average. Right-handed pitcher Brad Coleman threw a four-hitter in the D6 championship game. Centerfielder Nemo Trexler is a three-year starter.

Kyle Hunt and Casey Vincent lead Ike in batting, with Vincent’s three-run home run tying the game at 3-3 versus Union City in the D10 championship game at Slippery Rock University.

Warren softball returns to the state playoffs at 2:15 p.m. Monday vs. Greensburg Salem at Penn State Behrend after its first D10 title since 2010. Fort LeBoeuf, from Warren’s league, made it to the Class AAA state finals a year ago after defeating the Dragons in the D10 title game.

Warren coach Mark Bupp said nothing changes; “our focus this week is back to fundamentals,” he said. “Back to the things we’ve been working on all-season long.”

Senior pitcher Alexa Bupp and senior starters Kaitlin Ishman at shortstop, Kennedy Walter at third and Lauren Frazier in right have been around for four straight D10 championship games, but this is a first for them for states.

“There are 16 teams left in the state so you have to anticipate they’re going to be a good team,” said Bupp of Greensburg Salem, which was reportedly upset in the WPIAL tournament, but rebounded to finish third and advance to states. “They’re a seasoned team – the third straight year in the state championship tournament… They know how it works.”

Bupp said Greensburg Salem returns seven from last year’s team, and prior to Thursday’s game their No. 3 hitter (Hutchinson) was hitting .600 in the WPIAL playoffs, their leadoff hitter (Oberdorf) has 10 home runs on the season, their second-place hitter (Mellinger) hits for power, and their pitcher (Wagner) bats cleanup.

“They were seeded No. 1 entering the WPIAL playoffs, but were upset by Thomas-Jefferson,” said Bupp, whose Dragons are 19-1 overall and also boast a .600 hitter in Paige Wilson and leadoff hitter with power in Ishman (11 homers).

“Their senior pitcher has done a great job for them – the kind of pitcher that likes to work on top quickly and then tries to make you chase, so we have to stay focused,” he said. “When we look at the goals some of the kids set aside… one of (the players’ goals) was to miss graduation (ceremony),” for the state playoffs.

“These guys have very high expectations,” said Bupp. “We anticipate a very tough game and we have to be disciplined and focused and treat it like any other game.”