Canon-McMillan welcomes opportunity to defend softball titlesPublished Mar 20, 2014 at 4:30 pm (Updated Mar 20, 2014 at 4:30 pm)
Abby McCartney (No. 13) gets a warm welcome at home plate after slugging a home run for Canon-McMillan. The junior outfielder is one of the returning players hoping to help the Lady Macs win another WPIAL title and PIAA championship this spring. Last spring, the Lady Macs posted a 25-1 record and won their first state banner.
Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac
Olivia Lorusso shags a pop up at third base while shortstop Linda Rush backs up the play. A Robert Morris recruit, Lorusso is one of the Lady Macs’ top hitters, having slugged seven homers and driven in 35 runs during last year’s 25-1 campaign.
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After winning back-to-back WPIAL championships and claiming its first PIAA state title, Canon-McMillan knows teams will be gunning for the Lady Macs this softball season. And, the Lady Macs plan to be prepared for the competition intent on knocking them off.
“We expect the bulls eye to be even bigger this year and understand and accept the responsibility that goes along with being a title defender,” said Lady Macs’ skipper Michele Moeller. “We still have the tools in place to contend for championships.”
Though Canon-Mac graduated standout pitcher Alyana Astuto, the team returns seven starters from last year’s 25-1 squad. While the Lady Macs will rely on Tara Fowler and perhaps Ally Bellaire to fill the vacancy on the mound created by Astuto’s matriculation to Waynesburg College, they again will be a high-powered offensive club and strong defensive unit thanks to Olivia Lorusso, Giorgiana Zeremenko, Linda Rush, Abby McCartney and Taylor Bruno.
Fowler, who started in left field last year and batted .346, pitched every junior varsity game last season for the Lady Macs. Bellaire is a returning starter at second base. The pair will be responsible for making up the loss of Astuto, who went 7-0 with 53 strikeouts and a 0.26 ERA during Canon-Mac’s playoff run.
Behind the plate, Zeremenko controls the pitch calls and organizes the defense. The senior also carries a big stick, having batted .500.
Lorusso is another veteran. The senior third baseman batted .390 with a team-high seven homers and 35 RBI. She is a Robert Morris recruit.
While McCartney excelled in right field and as catcher at times, Rush moved into a starting role at shortstop as a freshman last season. Rush batted .467 and scored a team-high 36 runs. McCartney led the team with a .529 batting average. She drove in 32 runs and socked five homers.
“With some of the experience and leaders we have still with us,” said Moeller, “I believe we can still contend this year.”
The first half of the season is critical for the Lady Macs as they battle Peters Township, which reached the semifinals in the WPIAL Quad-A playoffs last year, and Baldwin for the section title.
The Lady Macs look for Brittney Crawford to have an impact on the club. The freshman will either play first base or in the outfield.
Canon-Mac will also rely upon newcomers Julia Ciotti, Ashley Buggey, Kaylee Gohring, Kayla Hopkins and Alexandra Bradley as well as letterwinners Mandi Stranges and Kenzie Jacobs to help reach its objectives for the season.
“We are looking to build new team chemistry and do the things necessary to put ourselves in position for the playoffs,” explained Moeller.
“We need some freshman to step into hitting roles to complete the lineup and we’ll need to put more runs up on the board until our pitcher settles into the season.”
Though the Lady Macs have plenty of experience, Moeller anticipates action will be tight, particularly in the division race.
“We expect our section to be even stronger as Peters and Baldwin had younger teams last year and they will have only gained more confidence going into this season which should make for some tight competition.”