C-M Lady Macs dominate Diamond Dozen
To the victors go the spoils. So true a statement is that for the Canon-McMillan softball team. For, after claiming their second straight WPIAL title and first-ever PIAA championship, the Lady Macs dominate the 2013 Almanac Diamond Dozen list.
Alayna Astuto headlines the roster, sharing Most Valuable Player honors, with fellow pitcher, Kayla Briggs from Chartiers-Houston (see related stories). Additionally, Michele Moeller earned Coach of the Year recognition while freshman Linda Rush nailed down the Rookie of the Year distinction.
Winning a championship is easy, returning a team to that status and then some the next season is a bit more challenging, particularly when injuries interfere. Yet, Moeller managed to make adjustments for those and other obstacles in returning Canon-McMillan to the winner’s circle. Despite losing her starting shortstop (Veronica Rothka) to an ACL tear at the start of the season and being without her starting catcher until virtually the post-season, Moeller found a substitute for success. She plugged in the rookie Rush at short and moved Abby McCartney from right field to behind the plate. After losing their first game of the season, the formula worked as the Lady Macs ran the table, finishing undefeated in Section 4 and rolling up eight straight victories en route to the district and state titles as well as a 25-1 record.
Moeller would take little credit for creating a champion. She shared the glory. First, she and her assistant, Scott Moskal, have worked with many of the players since they were ages 8, 9 and 10 and competing for the Canonsburg Lady Knights. She sought out a former coach from her playing days at Baldwin. Bob Gneuhs, she said, helped take her pitchers to a new level. Plus, Brian Kiger contributed. While he had a daughter who was also a thrower on the club, he promoted the goals over his parental interests. “They were all very professional and a big reason why we were successful. I used to micro-manage everything, but now I know I can depend upon them and I can delegate some duties and focus on other things, particularly when the game is being played.”
When the game was played, McCartney, Olivia Lorusso and Rush excelled.
When Giorgiana Zeremenko was sidelined seven weeks because of an injury, McCartney stepped in as catcher. “We did not miss a beat because Abby has the talent to play any position and excel at it,” Moeller said.
In March, McCartney realized that fact. She approached Moeller and told her that she would play wherever she was needed. “She even looking ahead to next year, offering to work on pitching as a reliever,” remarked Moeller. “What we saw with Abby was a rookie becoming a veteran and leader this season.
“Abby takes pride in the product she puts out on the field. Watch her sprint out to take her position or watch her turn a routine pop-up into a double or triple on offense because she hustled and took advantage of a defensive mistake. She’s fun to watch.”
McCartney led the Lady Macs in batting with a .519 average and a .962 slugging percentage. She drove 32 runs and scored 33 runs, both second-best on the club. She smashed eight doubles, six triples and five home runs.
Meanwhile, Lorusso led C-M with 35 RBI, nine doubles and seven homers. She scored 29 runs and batted .390 with a .857 slugging percentage. The third baseman shone in the state championship game with four putouts and four assists, including on a play to the plate that prevented Neshaminy from scoring the game-winning run.
“Olivia always has been a force to be reckoned with at the plate as she has some of the quickest hands and biggest power that I’ve seen at this level,” said Moeller. “Liv though was even more important for us defensively. She is very vocal and sets the tone. She easily took away three or four hits from Penn-Trafford in the district quarterfinals and dominated in the state finals.
“She practices like she plays. She’s all over, in the dirt, wanting the balls to be hit at her. Because she was playing next to a freshman, we looked to her to take ownership of the infield along with Maddie (Engel) and Ally (Bellaire).”
Rush top rookie
That freshman was Linda Rush. She started at shortstop and batted .467 for the Lady Macs. With seven walks, her on-base average was .505. She scored a team-high 36 runs and drove in 21. She drilled six doubles, one triple and three homers, including the decisive blow in the PIAA win over Neshaminy, 4-3.
“When we found out we would lose Veronica Rothka for the season, you could just feel the air go out of our team,” said Moeller. “But as soon as we put Linda at short, there was a big sigh of relief from everyone knowing that the skill set was definitely there.
“Linda is light-hearted and goofy, which I believe actually helped her this year step into her role. It allowed her to relax and have fun maybe not truly understanding the impact she would have for our team in a position, we consider ‘The Quarterback.’ By the PIAA final, we saw raw emotion from her on both sides of the scale. She can only continue to mature as a player and leader, which is what we will expect from her in future years.”
PT’s pair shines
Under first-year head coach Robert Bowers, Peters Township surprised many during the softball season. The Indians finished runner-up to Canon-McMillan in the Section 4-AAAA race with a 10-4 slate. After beating Pine-Richland, 8-4, and Latrobe, 1-0, in the playoffs to reach the district semifinals, the Indians wrapped up the 2013 campaign losing to North Allegheny, 7-4, and Hempfield, 9-5, and finishing 18-6 overall.
Two reasons for PT’s success were Kellyn Perich and Abby Cunningham.
A senior, Cunningham presented a calming batter mate for a pair of sophomore pitchers, including Perich and Carly Konopka. In addition, the all-conference performer led the Indians in hits, runs, on-base percentage and batting average with a .466 mark.
“Abby was an awesome catcher. One of the biggest batting threats in the WPIAL,” said Bowers. “She also had an exceptional ability to call pitches.”
Meanwhile, Perich had an uncanny ability to throw pitches for outs. The sophomore compiled an 8-2 record on the mound. She was 2-1 during the post-season, including picking up the upset win over Latrobe, 1-0, which vaulted PT into the WPIAL Quad-A semifinals. She maintained a 1.62 ERA.
Additionally, Perich ranked No. 2 on the team in batting with a .416 average. She roamed center field when she did not pitch.
“Kellyn is a well-rounded and diverse player. Very confident in her abilities,” said Bowers. “She had the ability to pick up her team when needed.”
OF rules at BP
Despite playing in a section that produced the two of the top three teams in the district, not to mention the state champion, Bethel Park managed to keep pace, particularly talent-wise. See, the Lady Hawks placed two players, not only on the all-section team, but also on the Almanac Diamond Dozen list.
A sophomore, Molly Welsh excelled in center field. She led the Lady Hawks in hitting with a .509 batting average. She socked four doubles and tagged four triples. In addition, she drove in 15 and scored 18 runs.
“Molly is a consistent hitter, a very good lead-off batter,” said BP manager Heather Scott. “She’s a player that works very hard to get better.”
A junior outfielder, Jen Rimmel followed Welsh with a .468 batting average. She smashed four homers, drilled seven doubles and smacked two triples. She drove in 29 runs, a team-high.
“Jen is a solid, powerful hitter,” Scott said. “You can count on her for the big hit.”
SLS duo star
For the third year in a row, Seton-La Salle captured a section banner in softball. After running the table, 10-0, in Section 1-AA, the Lady Rebels lost to Beaver Area, 10-3, in the playoffs and finished 12-2 overall.
Lauren Zola and Taylor Mercurio keyed SLS’s success. As underclassmen, they also assure a bright future for the Lady Rebels.
A junior, Mercurio anchored the infield at shortstop. Plus, she led the team in batting with a .560 average. She swiped a team-high 15 bases and drove in 14 runs, tied for second-best on the club.
Meanwhile, Zola dominated the action on the mound. Last year’s Almanac Rookie of the Year rolled up a 12-2 record, complete with 150 strikeouts and a 2.0 ERA. The sophomore batted .413 with nine RBI.
“Taylor and Lauren, like all of my girls, played tremendously and were a large part of our success. Since pitching is the dominant position in the sport, obviously Lauren played a particularly important role in our winning a section title,” said SLS manager John Krull. “We just have to improve our game in the playoffs.”
“KK” leads Lebo
For four years, Kaitlin Klinchock has played a vital role in Mt. Lebanon’s success. In fact, as a freshman, she started on the Lebo ladies’ undefeated state championship club. She has been an all-star ever since. This spring, she again earned all-section and all-Almanac acclaim.
Nicknamed KK because of her initials, she seldom struck out, putting the bat on the ball, far and often, to lead Lebo with a .673 slugging average. She owned a .459 on-base percentage and a .435 batting average, No. 2 on the team in each category.
Klinchock led the Blue Devils in RBI with 20 and finished with 11 runs scored. She socked four doubles as well as four round trippers. She was walked nine times. Defensively, she led the team in assists with 39 and ranked third in putouts with 32.
There is no doubt in Mark Kaminski’s mind how good Kiersten Badzgon is at softball. She’s not just the best at Keystone Oaks, says the Golden Eagles’ skipper. “Kiersten is the best player in the WPIAL, as far as I am concerned.”
This spring, Badzgon certainly put up some of the finest numbers. She batted an amazing .723. With five doubles, four triples and eight homers, her slugging percentage soared to 1.800. She drove in 38 runs. Badzgon, who roamed the outfield, played at shortstop and even pitched for the Golden Eagles, gained the attention of other coaches as she garnered all-section honors as well as Almanac Diamond Dozen laurels.
Among the players earning honorable mention status on the Almanac Diamond Dozen list included:
• Sammi Wozniak and Kaitlyn Campbell. Both were seniors on the Bethel Park squad.
An outfielder, Wozniak batted .250 with five RBI. According to her manager Heather Scott, she was a solid player, who had a good attitude on and off the field.
A third baseman, Campbell also was a positive player who was relied upon for her leadership, says Scott.
• Margaret Clarke. This senior infielder earned all-section honors for Bishop Canevin.
• Giorgiana Zeremenko, Maddie Engel, Yaszmin Kotar from Canon-McMillan.
Despite not playing much during the regular season due to an injury, Zeremenko proved pivotal in the Lady Macs’ drive for a district and state title. During the post-season, the junior catcher led the team with a .545 batting average and seven RBI. Her home run turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 victory over North Allegheny in the WPIAL championship game.
The Lady Macs rallied around their first baseman, Engel, on and off the field. She hosted most team get-togethers at her house. “It’s important to have players like her to help develop a team into a family and Maddie was one of our seniors who really set that tone,” said CM manager Michele Moeller.
Defensively, Engel was a rock. “She gave our defense confidence throwing the ball to first base in knowing that she would ‘dig them out,’” said Moeller. Offensively, she batted .317 and only struck out four times.
A senior outfielder, Kotar came on strong in the playoffs. While juggling throwing the javelin on the track team, Kotar struggled at the plate during the regular season. However, her batting average rose from .246 to .391, which was second on the team during the post-season. CM’s lead-off hitter, she set the tone early and often throughout the WPIAL and PIAA championship run. As for her defense, Moeller said, “always a talent in the outfield, Yaszmin had a rocket for an arm and the speed of a gazelle.”
• Piper McLaughlin, Haley Sutton, Megan Kraushaar, Kassie Kesneck, Casey Craig from Chartiers-Houston.
A senior, McLaughlin closed out her career with her best year yet, says CH manager Tricia Alderson. She batted .333 with 18 runs and 10 RBI. With four doubles and two triples, her slugging percentage improved to .467. “Piper was a true leader,” Alderson said. “She was extremely focused and had big hits and bunts when we needed them. We will miss her positive energy and great play,” added Alderson of the West Virginia University enrollee.
A junior, Sutton moved from being a two-year starter to second base this season. “She did so without hesitation because she knew it would be best for the team’s success,” said Alderson. “Haley was truly an unselfish player not to mention a monster, power-hitter. We look for her to continue to be a leader next year.”
Sutton batted .377. With six doubles, two triples and three homers, her slugging percentage tapped out at .689. She scored 15 runs and drove in 25, a team-high.
Kraushaar, Kesneck and Craig all are sophomores with bright futures with the Bucs.
Offensively, Kesneck scored 19 runs and drove in 10 while batting .333. Defensively, she made the move from right to center field. She did a “phenomenal job” in both areas, says Alderson. “Plus, she keeps improving her overall skills and thus, we are looking for big things from her next season.”
Kraushaar also made a defensive move, shifting from second to shortstop to replace a four-year starter. According to Alderson, she was consistent with the bat and played solid in the field. Kraushaar batted .456 with three doubles and three triples. She drove in seven and scored 14 times.
Craig doubled as a catcher and an outfielder for the Bucs. “She worked as hard as she could no matter where we played her,” Alderson said. “Because of her dedication and desire, Casey turned herself into a very good catcher. We look for bigger and better things from her as she gains more confidence and experience.” Craig led C-H with four homers and 25 RBI. She tied for second with six doubles and scored 15 runs. Craig batted .339.
• Jill Dunn, Liddy Chidlow, Katy Gibson from Chartiers Valley, which finished 6-9 overall.
A junior, who doubled as an outfielder and a pitcher for the Colts, Dunn batted .368 with four doubles and a triple. She drove in eight.
A junior shortstop, Chidlow batted .392 with eight RBI. She drilled four doubles, tagged one triple and one homer.
A senior catcher, Gibson batted .311 with two doubles and eight RBI.
• Eryn Caragein, Meghan Staab, Alexis Tripp from Keystone Oaks.
A junior who started in center field for the Golden Eagles, Caragein batted .447. With four doubles, four triples and four homers, her slugging percentage swelled to 1.656. She drove in 18 runs and swiped a team-high 21 bases.
A junior, Staab garnered all-section laurels for her play behind the plate and as shortstop. She batted .390 with three doubles, two triples and two homers. She swiped 18 bases and drove in 12 runs.
A senior, Tripp posted a 9-5 record on the mound. She struck out 75 batters. Offensively, she batted .390 with four doubles, three triples and two round tripppers. She drove in 17.
• Chickie Brandy and Sarah Rogan from Mt. Lebanon.
A center fielder, Brandy batted .455 with four doubles and one homer. She drove in 12, scored a team-high 14 runs and swiped a team-high seven bases. “Chickie is a stellar outfielder,” said Lebo skipper Nikki Jouver. “She has blazing speed and she’s a solid hitter.”
A first baseman, Rogan was an “extremely consistent hitter” as well as a “solid” fielder, says Jouver. She owned a .408 slugging percentage and a .463 on-base average. She scored 12 runs, second-best on the squad.
• Tori Weida and Carly Konopka from Peters Township.
A junior, Weida led the Indians in base hits and slugging percentage while batting .406. The second baseman also maintained the highest fielding percentage on the squad. “Tori was a solid fielder and consistent hitter for us,” said PT manager Robert Bowers.
A sophomore, Konopka compiled an 8-2 record on the mound. She owned a 2.15 ERA. Offensively, she batted .375 and led the team in home runs. “Carly was a leader on and off the field,” said Bowers. “She’s a very competitive and motivated player.”
• RaeLyn Fencik and Jess Weiss from Seton-La Salle.
A senior, Fencik excelled at first base, sporting a .900 fielding percentage. Offensively, she batted .410 for the Rebels. She will play softball at Saint Vincent College next season.
A senior, Weiss will play softball at the University of Pittsburgh in Greensburg. The catcher batted .488 and drove in a team-high 15 RBI.
• Ashley Iagnemma and Alie Reid from South Fayette.
After a fine freshman year where she stuck out 130 batters, Iagnemma followed with a sensational sophomore season. She fanned 140 batters in 17 games. The all-section selection recorded nine wins on the mound. At the plate, Iagnemma batted .321.
A senior shortstop, Reid batted .319 for the Lions. She finished with a .426 slugging percentage.
Players to watch
Among the players to watch are:
• Julia Sherwin and Shelby Reid. Both are sophomores from Bethel Park.
A second baseman, Sherwin batted .377 with nine RBI and three doubles. “Jules is one of the most coachable kids I have ever coached,” said BP skipper Heather Scott. “She’s a very positive athlete.”
A catcher, Reid batted .375 with 15 RBI, three doubles and one homer. “Shelby is one that we could count on for communicating on the field and letting players know what is going on,” said Scott.
• Toni Spossey. This sophomore doubled as a catcher and a pitcher for Chartiers-Houston. On the mound, she was 2-1 with one save and 21 strikeouts in 28 innings of work. Offensively, she batted .475 with five doubles and two triples. She drove in 10 and scored 13 runs. “Toni is able to hit from either side of the plate with power,” said CH manager Tricia Alderson. “She is an outstanding softball player and as a pitcher, she has one of the best drop balls around. We were fortunate to have her step in to pitch with great success during the playoffs.”
• Lexi Pilch. This freshman infielder earned all-section honors for Bishop Canevin.
• Alex Lawrence. This sophomore outfielder batted .417 with one homer and three doubles for Chartiers Valley, which finished 6-9 overall. She drove in seven runs.
• Briana Fischer. This sophomore maintained a .964 fielding percentage while starting at second base for Keystone Oaks, which finished runner-up to Seton-La Salle in Section 1-AA. She batted .415 with six doubles and one triple. She drove in 10 tallies.
• Jess Gordon. This rookie played second and third base and even caught for Mt. Lebanon. She batted .333 with nine runs and eight RBI. She struck out only once and maintained a .420 on-base average and a .457 slugging percentage. “Jess was a good, all-around fielder and a great hitter with an eye for the ball,” said Lebo manager Nicole Jouver.
• Dani Dadig. This sophomore led Seton-La Salle with 15 stolen bases and tied for the second spot for RBI with 14. The center fielder batted .413 with one home run.
• Mikayla Fetchet, Marissa France, Courtney Blocher. As all three are freshmen, the future of softball at South Fayette appears bright.
A catcher, Fetchet batted .346 with 21 RBI. She struck out only twice this spring.
An outfielder, France led the Lions with a .356 batting average as well as a .587 slugging percentage.
A second baseman, Blocher batted .319 and owned a .426 slugging average.
• Karsen Rooney. This junior proved one of the bright spots at Upper St. Clair, which finished 2-14 overall. She earned all-section honors as an outfielder.