It seemed just a short time ago that fans were bundled in blankets or winter coats watching the first week of Wyoming Valley Conference softball. Things have changed quickly. The weather is nice and the final full week of the season starts today.
It’s flown by so rapidly that we need to catch up on the divisional playoff races. Here’s a look at the three heading into the week.
Division 1: Hazleton Area (11-1) and Nanticoke (9-3) are the only teams in contention. They play at 11 a.m. Saturday at Nanticoke, but whether that game decides the title or will be a tune-up for the District 2 playoffs will be determined this week.
Hazleton Area’s magic number is two, meaning any combination of Hazleton Area wins and Nanticoke losses equaling two will give the Cougars the championship.
Hazleton Area is home versus Pittston Area (2-10) today and Crestwood (4-7) on Thursday. The Cougars handled both easily the first time around, winning 12-1 and 7-1.
Nanticoke hosts Wyoming Valley West (5-7) on Tuesday and Coughlin (4-8) on Thursday. The Trojanettes defeated both previously.
Division 2: It’s a three-horse race between Berwick (9-2), Tunkhannock (8-3) and Wyoming Area (8-4).
The key game is Thursday when Berwick visits Tunkhannock. That’s provided Tunkhannock gets past Lake-Lehman (0-12) on Wednesday.
Tunkhannock coach John Keefe voiced his concerns about Lehman last week. As ridiculous as that sounds, consider Lehman has lost three one-run games, another in extra innings and has a pair of 2-0 losses to Tunkhannock and Berwick. So a Tunkhannock victory isn’t a given.
After the Tunkhannock game, Berwick finishes up next week with two road games – at Wyoming Area on May 13 and at Crestwood (4-7) on May 15.
Tunkhannock ends its regular season against visiting Dallas (4-7) on May 13. Wyoming Area needs plenty of help to get the division. The Warriors play Tuesday at Dallas, which defeated them 5-2 on April 8.
Division 3: Holy Redeemer (8-0), Hanover Area (9-1) and Northwest (7-2) are vying for the title.
The division will essentially come down to Tuesday’s Hanover Area at Redeemer game, which starts at 4 p.m.
Redeemer, which defeated Hanover Area 8-1 on April 15, would all but clinch the division with a victory. The Royals would go up two games in the loss column and would have to lose at least two of their final three for either Hanover Area or Northwest to have a chance. The Royals have defeated their final three opponents this season by a combined 40-9 score.
Northwest needs to sweep its final three and have Hanover Area win on Tuesday to have any shot.
The Tunkhannock at Lake-Lehman game scheduled for today has been moved to Wednesday. Some Lehman players are unavailable today due to a senior field trip.
I love catchers. I was one and my son catches in Little League. So I can appreciate what Nanticoke’s Kayla Benjamin did last week.
Benjamin took a nasty foul ball off her hand last Monday against Berwick. The direct hit sounded like someone throwing a raw porterhouse steak to the floor. She had to leave the game, but after some ice and a day’s rest she was good to go.
Two days after the injury, Benjamin had two hits against Pittston Area. Then last Friday, she was 3-for-4 with four runs scored against Crestwood.
First-year coach Ryan Stetz has singled out his three seniors – Benjamin, Allie Matulewski and Kayley Schinski – as the three players who have been the glue to an otherwise young team.
As best as we can tell, there have been two grand slams this season. Holy Redeemer’s Audrey Zavada had one in a victory over Northwest on April 24. Northwest’s Olivia McCorkel did the same against Meyers on April 9.
District dates set
Here are the dates for the District 2 softball tournaments. Today is the deadline for teams to decide whether they will participate. All rain dates are the day following the original dates.
Class 4A: Tuesday, May 21; Thursday, May 23; Wednesday, May 29.
Class 3A and 2A: Monday, May 20; Wednesday, May 22; Friday, May 24; Tuesday, May 28.
Class A: Tuesday, May 21; Thursday, May 23; Tuesday, May 28.
Only the tournament champions advance to the state playoffs, which begin June 3.
District games will start at 4:30 p.m at the site of the higher seed for all rounds but the championship. The title games will be at neutral sites.
Week in review
Hanover Area’s Mary Kate Penczkowski picked up her ninth victory in the circle, tying her with Berwick’s Margaret Bridge for the most by a WVC pitcher. … Bridge picked up three wins in the circle, allowing just two earned runs and striking out 21 in 21 innings. … Hazleton Area’s Maria Trivelpiece finished the week with nine hits. … Wyoming Seminary’s Megan Bresnahan threw her first shutout in a 6-0 victory over MMI Prep. … Coughlin’s Marissa Ross had five hits in the Crusaders’ two victories. … Berwick’s Kylene Welsh was 5-for-9 with four RBI and three runs in three wins.