Jun. 9—When veteran Ligonier Valley High School softball coach Mark Zimmerman has to make a rare visit to the circle this season, he keeps matters simple.
Zimmerman knows his ace pitcher, Maddie Griffin, is in command.
"I don't say anything to Maddie about anything," Zimmerman said of the junior standout with 11 no-hitters this season. "She controls herself. She gets herself ready.
"She gets out there and does what she needs to do."
Griffin and the District 7 third-place Rams (20-2) will play District 5 champion Chestnut Ridge (18-6) in a PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday at Mount Aloysius College.
"Maddie is a special person. She really is," Zimmerman said. "She's done very well for us. She's a fierce competitor.
"We talk about what pitches are working, what to stay away from. She is a very competitive person, one of those girls who just shows up ready to go. When it's time to go, she is ready to go."
Griffin has a 17-2 record in the circle with 276 strikeouts this season. She entered the state playoffs with a .500 batting average — adding a pair of singles in a 3-2 victory over District 10 Sharpsville on Monday.
Bella Schultz, Kailey Johnston, Bella Vargulish, Ruby Wallace and Kendall Domurot each singled in the first-round win.
The seven hits and three runs provided just enough support for a nine-strikeout, three-hit effort by Griffin.
"She throws around 60 (miles an hour). Her location is good. Her ball movement is excellent and her ability to spot is what really helps us," Zimmerman said. "She's not afraid to pitch in or pitch out. She'll pitch that ball on the inner half of the plate and that's a tough pitch to hit."
Chestnut Ridge beat District 7 runner-up Shenango 3-2 in 10 innings on Monday at Bedford High School.
The Lions trailed 1-0 and tied the game in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.
In the 10th, Shenango, which beat Ligonier Valley in the WPIAL semifinal round, scored once.
Chestnut Ridge again was down to its final at-bat before scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the 10th to win the softball program's first PIAA playoff game.
"We just kept battling, pushing runners and trying to pressure them a little bit," Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. "Finally at the end we got enough going to get one in."
Chestnut Ridge junior Zoie Dunlap allowed seven hits, with seven strikeouts. She fanned two batters in the top of the ninth to strand three Wildcats baserunners.
With the Lions trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 10th, senior shortstop Isabella Wingard took second base because she had made the final out in the ninth. Clean-up batter Alyssa Henderson smacked a hard shot that caromed off Shenango pitcher Mia Edwards' glove and resulted in an infield hit to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Henderson stole second and her aggressive slide presented Wingard the chance to score from third to tie the game at 2-all.
Mya Wingard's sacrifice bunt moved Henderson to third base with one out, and Shenango intentionally walked the next two batters to load the bases, setting up a potential force play at the plate.
Freshman Ava Snider fell behind 0-2 in the count before lifting a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Henderson with the game-winner.
"These girls and coaches put a lot of extra time in," Lazor said. "The girls want it a little bit more. They're working a little bit more. They're earning these opportunities for these types of wins. I couldn't be prouder of them."
The winner will advance to face the winner of a quarterfinal game between District 10 runner-up Union City and District 7 champion Laurel. The semifinal round will be on Monday.
Two other Thursday quarterfinal round softball games involve area teams:
Cambria Heights vs. Punxsutawney, 1 p.m., Heindl Field, DuBois: The District 6 champion Highlanders (22-1) will meet the District 9 champion Chucks (10-10) in Class 3A.
The winner will advance to play the winner of a quarterfinal between District 7 champion Mount Pleasant and District 7 third-place Avonworth. The semifinal round will be held on Monday.
Cambria Heights made its PIAA playoff debut with an impressive 8-1 victory over Bermudian Springs on Monday. Karli Storm went 3-for-3 with a pair of runs as the Highlanders won their 19th consecutive game. Highlanders pitcher Paige Jones allowed five hits and recorded her 200th career strikeout in the first-round win.
Punxsutawney beat Ellwood City 4-3 in 10 innings on Monday as Kaylee Guidce smacked a chopper up the middle to plate Laura Rittenhouse with the game-winner.
The Chucks were down to their final out trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh when Kendal Johnston walked and Ciarra Toven laced a game-tying double to left-center field. Toven had clubbed a pair of home runs in Punxsutawney's win in the District 9 title game.
The undefeated District 5 champion Red Raiders (23-0) will face the District 3 champion Wildcats (17-6) in Class 1A.
Meyersdale tallied six runs on four hits in the sixth inning to beat Williamsburg 6-0 in Monday's first-round contest at Windber.
The Red Raiders finished their District 5 title-game victory over Shade by scoring 19 consecutive runs in a comeback 20-9 win and has plated 25 straight runs against its past two opponents.
Pitcher Tara Knopsnyder had 13 strikeouts in a three-hit shutout against Williamsburg, her 14th win of the season. Meyersdale has won five District 5 championships during the past six contested seasons.
According to MaxPreps, Halifax has outscored its past three playoff opponents by a combined 39-5 including wins over Millersburg (5-0), Maritime Academy Charter (37-0) and Northeast Bradford (7-5) in the first round of the state tournament.
The winner will advance to play the winner of a quarterfinal between District 4 champion Montgomery and District 11 champion Tri-Valley in Monday's semifinal round.