NEPA Sports Nation

Today in NEPA Sports Nation, 6/7

PHOTO: Gianna Russo’s home run provided the run that put West Scranton in the state softball tournament for the first time.

Three doubleheaders and a Hazleton Area double highlight the schedule for District 2 teams today when the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournaments get underway in baseball and softball.

All teams will need four wins to navigate 16-team brackets and emerge as state champions.

District 2 has seven representatives in each – its six district champions plus a runner-up in Class 4A softball and Class 3A baseball.

The action starts with a softball doubleheader at Marywood University.

West Scranton (12-3) makes its state tournament debut against Elizabethtown, a third-place team from District 3 with an 18-6 record, in a 1 p.m. Class 5A game.

Tunkhannock (20-2) follows in Class 4A at approximately 3:30 as the young Lady Tigers begin their state-level attempt to try to translate youth softball success – an appearance in the Little League Softball World Series championship game – to the scholastic level. Tunkhannock faces District 4 champion Danville (19-1).

This is the first high school shot for most of this young group, but Tunkhannock made it to the 2017 state final in just its second PIAA appearance and went back to the quarterfinals in 2018.

The only baseball doubleheader involving District 2 teams also includes a PIAA state tournament debut.

Wyoming Area (11-6) takes its first shot at about 6:30 at historic Bowman Field in Williamsport as the Class 4A game that caps a doubleheader, which opens with one of the state’s top first-round matchups.

Riverside (21-0) faces District 4 champion Sayre (21-1) in Class 2A at 4 p.m.

The Vikings head into the state tournament as unbeaten district champion for the third time – having also done so in 2000 and 2001 as a Class A team in the old three-classification system. They made it to the state semifinals in 1999 and 2000 as part of four appearances in five years, but have not been back since the last one in 2003.

Two Lackawanna League programs with strong state tournament histories are part of a softball doubleheader against District 4 champions at Central Columbia.

In Class A at 4:30, Old Forge (16-6) takes on Montgomery (20-1). In Class 3A at 7, Mid Valley (19-2) meets Loyalsock Township (18-3).

Old Forge made a 2009 state final appearance, a year after advancing to the semifinals. The Lady Devils have made two other trips to the quarterfinals, including in 2019, the last time the PIAA was able to conduct a tournament, prior to the pandemic.

Mid Valley was also in the 2019 state tournament. The Spartanettes are making their 13th appearance, but still looking for their first trip to the championship game after reaching the semifinals in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2017.

Hazleton Area is the only District 2 school with both a baseball and softball state qualifier.

Both Cougars teams are close to home in Class 6A games and ambitious Hazleton Area fans could probably catch at least some of each game.

The softball team (15-7) plays at Freedom Park in Drums at 3 against Haverford (20-4).

The unbeaten baseball team looks for its 23rd straight win against Lansdale North Penn (14-6) at the Mountain Top American Legion Field at 4:30.

Hazleton Area posted its only state baseball win in 2014. The Cougars made the last tournament in 2019, but lost in the first round.

The Lady Cougars played in two of the last three state finals, losing in both 2017 and 2019, and are making their 17th state tournament appearance since 1996.

Both Hazleton Area opponents are third-place teams from District 1.

The Abington Heights baseball, Lake-Lehman baseball and Elk Lake softball teams also play close to home.

Like the Tunkhannock and Mid Valley softball teams and Riverside and Hazleton Area baseball teams, all three are both regular-season division champions and district champions.

Abington Heights (13-6) plays District 3 third-place finisher Cocalico (16-4-1)

The Comets are back in the state playoffs for the first time since playing in the 2015 championship game. They won a state title in 2009.

Abington Heights also made three appearances in between, reaching the semifinals in 2013.

Lake-Lehman (16-2) faces District 4 champion Loyalsock Township (16-6) at the Pittston Area Primary Center at 4:30 with some of the players still back from a run to the 2019 semifinals. That was the longest run in school history after three previous trips to the quarterfinals.

Elk Lake (17-1) plays District 4 champ Line Mountain (19-3) in Class 2A softball at Tunkhannock at 4:30.

Coach Tony Blaisure has more than 500 career wins at Elk Lake where the Warriors are making their 16th state appearance, but searching for just their second win since 1987 and seeking a first trip to the semifinals.

MMI Prep made its only previous state tournament appearance in 2014 and lost in the first round of the state baseball playoffs.

The Preppers won District 2 in 2018, but did not get through a subregional to reach state play. They return to face District 3 champion Greenwood (10-10) at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg at 3.

The two second-place qualifiers from District 2 are also on the road.

Scranton Prep (6-12) plays District 11 champion Palisades (14-7) at Saucon Valley in Class 3A baseball at 3.

The Cavaliers lost in their only three previous appearances in 1986, 1989 and 2008. The 1986 loss came against Hall of Famer Mike Mussina, who was the winning pitcher in a 9-2 Montoursville victory.

Berwick, which already won a play-in game Saturday, faces District 3 champ Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt (21-2) in Class 4A softball at Lebanon Valley College at 4.

The Lady Bulldogs (14-9) posted their only state win in the most recent of their three appearances, in 2014.

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