Lady Chucks prepared for Vikings

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsy Lady Chucks did not start to sweat when they lost an early lead and fell behind 3-2 in the third inning Wednesday in the District IX Class AAA Softball Championship.

"Go up there with confidence at the plate," senior and one of the team's leaders Shawnna Crago said she told her teammates.

The entire team stayed calm and collected, allowing the Lady Chucks to make a comeback and win it 6-4 against the St. Marys Lady Dutch. With the win, Punxsutawney (13-4) earned its fourth consecutive district title.

But from the moment the trophies were awarded, both the coaches and players were ready to focus on the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

"Right now, it's in our past, and we have to focus on the next game," Crago said immediately following Wednesday's game. "Get ready. Back to work, quick."

Lady Chucks manager Alan Pifer also had similar sentiments after Wednesday's game. He had already scouted Punxsy's first round opponent, the Valley Vikings (14-2) from New Kensington.

"They are a good team; they're going to be tough," Pifer said. "We're just going to have to play well – as well as we did today, if not better."

Pifer did not seem concerned with being considered the underdogs in the PIAA tournament.

"If we play our game, I think we can play with them," Pifer said. "But again ... we're going to have to play well to beat any team down there."

Pifer said his players were confident regardless of being called the underdogs.

"They know what they can do it," Pifer said. "They know what their strengths are; they know what their weaknesses are. They work on those weaknesses and if not make them strengths, turn them into something positive."

Pifer said he and his coaching staff have seen several positives come out of practice since Wednesday's game. He noted the Lady Chucks had been working on mostly hitting and defense.

Pifer was hesitant to discuss specific tactics his team has been working on in practice, citing his wish to remain secretive.

Likewise, Pifer said he has not yet made a decision about if he will stick with senior pitcher Crago or if he will make a switch to junior Randa Depp. Crago played the full seven innings in Wednesday's district title game.

"I have equal confidence in both of them," Pifer said. "Again, I would not rule out seeing both of them before the game's end."

Pifer said he will work with the pitching coaches to make that game-day decision.

The Valley Vikings' last game was played Tuesday against Montour in the WPIAL consolation game. The Vikings were victorious, 5-2.