The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 13, 2014

WestPAC title games set for baseball, softball

— While teams are still scrambling to get regular-season games completed before district playoffs commence, a pair of conference championship trophies will be handed out by the WestPAC this afternoon.  

The baseball championship pits Portage against Meyersdale at Shanksville-Stonycreek. The softball tilt sees Conemaugh Valley take on Shade at V.E. Erickson in Richland Township. Both games are slated for 4:30 p.m.

Portage, under veteran coach Larry McCabe, is the top seed in the upcoming District 6 Class A tournament and carries a 16-1 record into today’s game. The Mustangs have outscored opponents 190-41 with six shutout wins.

Their only loss came on May 3 when North Star triumphed by a 7-6 tally.

“I know they’ll be well-coached under coach (Larry) McCabe,” Meyersdale coach Wayne Miller said. “The record speaks for itself, They’ll be well-prepared.”

Junior Michael Bryja (.509) paces a Portage attack hitting .386 as a team. Bailey Kerch has driven in 40 runs for the Mustangs with Brad Rosemas’ five home runs pacing the offense.

The stingy Portage pitching staff is fronted by Luke Dividock (5-0, 0.81 ERA), Kerch (5-0, 1.31 ERA) and Bryja (3-1, 2.26 ERA), along with C.W. Miller, the unit has combined to twirl a 1.50 ERA during the season.

We’ve had a pretty good year, offensively and defensively,” McCabe said. “Our pitching has been one of the key components, we’ve thrown three kids for most of the year.

“Throwing strikes, making plays on defense and hitting the ball. We’ve had a relatively good year doing all three.”

Meyersdale, under Miller, is 17-2 and has been just as impressive in carving out overwhelming wins over division and conference foes.

Only Southern Fulton (April 11) and Berkeley Springs (April 18) hold wins over the Red Raiders.

As a team, the Red Raiders carry a .416 batting average with Connor Christner (.544), Riley Christner (.517) and Lance Leydig (.500) leading the way among regulars in the Meyersdale lineup.

Brady McKenzie joins Connor Christner and Riley Christner to make a formidable trio on the mound for Meyersdale.

“They’re going to be the guys throwing the big innings,” Miller said. Our team strength is pitching, as we get into the conference championship and District 5 playoffs, I’m comfortable with all three getting outs in big games.”

The Mustangs and Red Raiders did not meet during the regular season.

“They’re very good, very well coached,” Portage coach Larry McCabe said. “We haven’t played them and we don’t play too many common opponents. They can hit the ball, they scored a lot of runs and that’ll be a major challenge for us.”

While the baseball contestants didn’t see each other before today, Conemaugh Valley and Shade met on April 21 with the Blue Jays emerging with a 4-3 win  at home.  

The Blue Jays went ahead to stay in the sixth when Mikayla Lint doubled and eventually scored on Brandi Dobrota’s single, knocking Shade from unbeaten status in the process.

Lint also swatted a solo home run in the second to help Conemaugh Valley build a 2-0 lead.

Mikayla Ott drove in a run for the Panthers.

“We had a real battle with Shade early in the season,” Conemaugh Valley coach Paula McCleester said. “We won 4-3 but it was a really tough game. We were able to manufacture a couple of runs and Mikalya Lint had a home run, but as I remember, it was a small game, a good defensive game. We had to earn the win.”

Shade coach Frank Karl is expecting more of the same today.

“We’re going to have a battle on our hands (today) if we want to win,” Karl said. “Hopefully it’ll be a good game.”

For Shade – batting .428 as a team with seven players batting over .400 – another chance at Conemaugh Valley and a WestPAC title has the group excited.

“We’re happy to get there, we came up short last year when we played Portage,” Karl said. “When we did face (Conemaugh Valley), it was a close game, 4-3. It seems like all the girls are up to play. Hopefully we can make it close, hopefully we can come out on top.”

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