Pine Valley looks for return trip to states

The Pine Valley Lady Panthers will take the field today to face off against Section 5’s Arkport Lady Blue Jays in a Far West Regional softball matchup held at the College of Brockport. The winner of today’s contest will earn a spot in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D Final Four.

Pine Valley enters today’s matchup as the No. 12 ranked Class D softball team in the state, according to the New York State Sportswriters Association. Arkport – boasting an impressive 20-1 overall record – is ranked No. 6.

The Lady Panthers will look to repeat their success at the Far West Regionals after making a trip to the Final Four in 2013.

“Last year, the first couple of rounds we scored a lot of runs. This year, they have been pretty tight games,” Pine Valley coach Mark Mansfield said. “But for the most part, it has been pretty similar to last year. We are pitching great and playing solid defense.”

Entering the circle for Pine Valley will be sophomore sensation Jessica Wilcox, who has had an impressive 2014 postseason and will look to continue her success against Arkport.

Wilcox pitched a no-hitter against Clymer in the opening round of the playoffs and followed that performance with a 5-3 victory over Forestville in the Sectional semifinals.

In the finals, Wilcox threw her second no-hitter of the postseason and helped Pine Valley to a 2-0 win over Brocton, earning her team a trip to the Far West Regional.

“She’s on top of her game right now,” Mansfield said of his standout sophomore. “Her confidence is really high. She knows that her teammates are behind her so she can go ahead and be relaxed out there and pitch the way she knows she can pitch. She is only a sophomore, but she went through the playoffs with us last year.

“It’s not like she’s new to this,” Mansfield added. “She’s throwing very hard right now so I expect her pitching will keep us in the ballgame and we’ll just need to score a couple of runs.”

Scratching across a couple of runs to earn a victory is something Pine Valley has grown accustomed to. Tough league competition and the quality of pitching in the playoffs has prepared the Lady Panthers to win low-scoring ballgames, according to Mansfield.

“We have faced really good pitching all year long. That was one of the advantages of playing in the league we were in,” he said. “It has proven to be a big help throughout the playoffs. We faced Sara Crandall (Cattaraugus-Little Valley) twice, Ally Haskell (Franklinville) twice and Alisha Szumigala (Forestville) three times. Those three pitchers right there have proven that they are three of the top pitchers in the area.”

It won’t be easy for Wilcox to shut down Arkport’s offense, which is averaging nearly 10 runs a game.

Wilcox will likely be the key to victory today, but at some point, the offense will need to produce. If Wilcox is unable to hold down Arkport, it will add pressure to an offense that hasn’t been putting up big numbers as of late.

Mansfield believes one way his team can alleviate some of the pressure is to get the offense going early.

“I’d like to see us put the bat on the ball early,” Mansfield said. “I would like to see us get a couple of runs in the first couple of innings. That tends to loosen us up if we can make good contact early. And just have Jess pitch her game. The way she has been pitching, she puts us right there in every ballgame.”

First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. The winner of today’s matchup will travel to South Glenns Falls to compete in the NYSPHAA Final Four, which begins June 14.

In the finals, Wilcox threw her second no-hitter of the postseason and helped Pine Valley to a 2-0 win over Brocton, earning her team a trip to the Far West Regionals.

“She’s on top of her game right now,” Mansfield said of his standout sophomore. “Her confidence is really high. She knows that her teammates are behind her so she can go ahead and be relaxed out there and pitch the way she knows she can pitch. She is only a sophomore, but she went through the playoffs with us last year.

“It’s not like she’s new to this,” Mansfield added. “She’s throwing very hard right now so I expect her pitching will keep us in the ballgame and we’ll just need to score a couple of runs.”

Scratching across a couple of runs to earn a victory is something Pine Valley has grown accustomed to. Tough league competition and the quality of pitching in the playoffs has prepared the Lady Panthers to win low-scoring ballgames, according to Mansfield.

“We have faced really good pitching all year long. That was one of the advantages of playing in the league we were in,” he said. “It has proven to be a big help throughout the playoffs. We faced Sara Crandall (Cattaraugus-Little Valley) twice, Ally Haskell (Franklinville) twice and Alisha Szumigala (Forestville) three times. Those three pitchers right there have proven that they are three of the top pitchers in the area.”

It won’t be easy for Wilcox to shut down Arkport’s offense, which is averaging nearly 10 runs a game.

Wilcox will likely be the key to victory today, but at some point, the offense will need to produce. If Wilcox is unable to hold down Arkport, it will add pressure to an offense that hasn’t been putting up big numbers as of late.

Mansfield believes one way his team can alleviate some of the pressure is to get the offense going early.

“I’d like to see us put the bat on the ball early,” Mansfield said. “I would like to see us get a couple of runs in the first couple of innings. That tends to loosen us up if we can make good contact early. And just have Jess pitch her game. The way she has been pitching, she puts us right there in every ballgame.”

First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. The winner of today’s matchup will travel to South Glenns Falls to compete in the NYSPHAA Final Four, which begins June 14.