BY CARA SHUMAKER
The Ligonier Valley Rams continue their trek through the state playoffs reaching the state quarterfinal after a 6-5 victory over Chestnut Ridge on Monday.
They next play undefeated WPIAL champion Riverside at 4 p.m. today at Fairhaven Park in McKees Rocks.
Riverside is coming off a 6-0 Monday win over Curwensville and a perfect game thrown by pitcher Kirsten Wilson. Wilson added two home runs to her record on Monday as well. Riverside is entering the game with a record that mirrors Wilson’s game - perfect.
Knowing the Panthers’ reputation this season, Ligonier Valley head coach Mark Zimmerman said the Rams still aren’t doing too much differently in preparation.
“We’re trying to correct any problems on defense,” Zimmerman said. “And on offense we’re just trying to put the ball in play.”
Wilson has 238 strikeouts on the year and has helped the team remain undefeated at a sparkling 20-0. In the postseason, she threw two perfect games, including Monday’s. The other came in the WPIAL playoffs.
Although Wilson’s pitching is impressive, Ligonier Valley shortstop Maddy Grimm has equally impressive batting.
Grimm has yet to strike out this season and has 33 hits, eight of the team’s 11 home runs and an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.908.
Despite Grimm’s strong batting stats, Zimmerman said the team is trying to avoid triples and home runs.
“We’re trying to focus more on doubles and singles,” Zimmerman said. “We just want to get the ball in play.”
The Rams have a team batting average of .296 and an on-base percentage of 3.82. Helping out Ligonier Valley on the mound is Hailey Umbaugh. She’s thrown 138 strikeouts, walked 20 batters and given up 50 runs - only 31 were earned.
Wilson has hit 22 RBI, six home runs and boasts a .571 batting average. Natalie Pritts also has a strong batting record with a batting average of .450 and 16 RBI.
Umbaugh’s pitching should keep Wilson and Pritts at bay, but the fielding needs to improve. The Rams have committed 39 errors on the season, tallying five in Monday’s game.
“We are expecting and hoping to keep it a close game,” Zimmerman said. “This girl (Wilson) doesn’t yield very many runs. If we can hold on until the sixth or seventh inning and keep it close, we have a chance to win.”
The Rams will have to rely on their team chemistry and on their skills to continue moving on in the state playoffs. Riverside has a pristine record it wants to keep intact.