WR softball back in action today

Warrior Run pitcher Madi Waltman

TURBOTVILLE — The numbers just jump off the page.

Pine Grove will carry some lofty statistics into today’s PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal against Warrior Run, which is set for a noon start at Central Columbia High School.

For starters, the District 11 champion Cardinals are undefeated at 25-0 after posting a combined batting average of .498 (337-for-667) this season, with eight starters batting at least .319 (with more than 40 plate appearances).

Garth Watson and his Defenders (21-3) are ready for the challenge.

“The girls are super pumped and they are ready to go,” he said. “They got some good sticks. We are going to be careful (with their hitters) up and down the lineup and play good defense like we’ve done all year.

“Yeah, we’re battle-tested and we’ve played good competition all year and we’re up to the challenge,” added Watson, whose team is making its second consecutive appearance in the state quarterfinals (last year the team fell to North Schuylkill, 1-0).

Leading the way for Pine Grove is Katelyn Rittenbaugh, who is bound for West Chester University next season. The Cardinals’ leadoff hitter, Rittenbaugh is batting .727 (64-of-88) with six doubles and four triples.

In addition, Rittenbaugh has scored 63 runs to go along with 30 RBI and 30 stolen bases this season.

However, leading Pine Grove in the RBI department is fellow senior Trish Kopinetz, the team’s catcher who is no slouch when it comes to hitting for average or for power.

Kopinetz, who will be joining Rittenbaugh at West Chester in the fall, is batting .662 (49-for-74) and has a team-leading 69 RBI to go along with a team-best 14 doubles and 10 home runs.

A pure dual-threat player for the Cardinals is junior pitcher Maura Lehman.

At the plate, Lehman is batting .657 (44-of-67) with eight doubles, three homers, one triple, as well as 42 runs, 36 stolen bases and 32 RBI.

In the circle, Lehman is Pine Grove’s ace with a 22-0 record this season (111.1 IP) to go along with 115 strikeouts, 36 walks and a 1.57 ERA, but she has given up 96 hits and 37 runs (25 earned) this season.

“They push bunts a lot, and (Kopinetz) is their best (hitter),” said Watson. “They are super fast, and when they get on base our catcher will have to be on her toes, and I think Jade (Swartz) is up to the task. She’s a good catcher.”

But Warrior Run has seen teams like that before this season — Loyalsock and Bloomsburg most recently.

“Yeah, they are a lot like Loyalosck. Pine Grove is going to put the ball in play hard,” said Watson. “And (the Cardinals) are a lot like Bloomsburg — as far as bunting and things. Pine Grove is fundamentally sound, but we’ve been able to handle that all year.”

A big reason for that is junior pitcher Madi Waltman, who brings a 0.88 ERA into the contest. She’s struck out 308 batters in 167 innings to go along with 15 shutouts and four no-hitters this season.

“Madi is ready to go. On three days rest you never have to worry about her. The key for her is moving the ball around and focusing on one batter at a time,” said Watson. “I’m sure they are going to put some runners on and score some runs, but we have to hit with them — and their pitcher is someone we can hit against.

Warrior Run busted out the bats in a big way in Monday’s 11-3 first-round win over Kutztown, and Watson thinks they can do it again today.

“We exploded (Monday). It’s one of the things we’ve been waiting to do — the lid came off the pot — and it’s just a matter of us seeing the ball,” said Warrior Run’s coach. “(Monday’s game) will definitely propel us and we’ve had two of the best practices all year (on Tuesday and Wednesday), and this is when you really want to peak — it’s not how you start but how you finish.

“The girls know what’s at hand. Every game (in states) is going to be tough, obviously, and the girls are focused, gritty and a tough team,” Watson added.

The game plan going in according to Warrior Run’s coach is to attack early and play fundamental softball.

“We just want to stay within ourselves and not press. We want to jump on them early — and often. If we can score seven runs, and with our defense and Madi in the circle, I think we’ll be ready for whatever comes at us.

“If we execute that tomorrow, then it’ll be a favorable outcome for us.”

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