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Jeannette mourns 17-year-old softball player who dies of heart attack

Paul Peirce
| Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, 6:33 p.m.
Scarlett Stein
Scarlett Stein
Scarlett Stein winds up for a pitch.
PHOTOS: John Howard | For Trib Total Media
Scarlett Stein winds up for a pitch.
Scarlett Stein winds up for a pitch.
Photos: John Howard | For Trib Total Media
Scarlett Stein winds up for a pitch.
Kara Johnston pitches to Scarlett Stein to warm up.
PHOTOS: John Howard | For Trib Total Media
Kara Johnston pitches to Scarlett Stein to warm up.
Scarlett Stein swings and hits to center field.
Scarlett Stein swings and hits to center field.

Scarlett Stein could pitch fast.

Just ask Becky White, her longtime friend and former Jeannette High School Jayhawks softball teammate.

“I remember three years ago, we were at practice and I was at bat and she threw a pitch and the ball hit me. She saw it hurt, and she began crying on the mound, saying over and over she was sorry,” said White, 18.

“That's just the kind of person she was ... really caring and thoughtful,” White said, dabbing her eyes with tissue at the memory.

White was among dozens of friends, teammates and family members who filed into John V. Graziano Funeral Home on Friday to pay their respects to Scarlett, 17, of Jeannette, who died Wednesday at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of complications following a Dec. 6 heart attack.

School administrators said her family asked for privacy about the circumstances.

A funeral Mass for Scarlett, who had just signed a letter of intent to play softball at Penn State New Kensington, will be celebrated 1 p.m. Saturday in Ascension Church in Jeannette.

A Facebook page titled “Scarlett's Prayer Warriors” was created by friends Sunday. A post at 6:49 p.m. Wednesday announced her passing.

“I'm very sad to announce that Scarlett passed away this afternoon. Please continue to pray for the family and friends of this amazing girl as they go through this very tough time. We love you Scarlett,” it stated.

The Jeannette and Monessen boys' basketball teams paused for a moment of silence in Scarlett's memory before Thursday's tip-off at the Mike Rettger Memorial tournament at Franklin Regional High School.

Another former classmate, Darrick Brown, said Scarlett excelled in the classroom and on the athletic field.

“You would think that 4.0 was the highest you could get, but I'm telling you her point average was even higher than that. She really was that smart,” said Brown, 19.

“She had just a radiant personality and was just a wonderful person. She also had a really good sense of humor,” Brown said.

Brianna Cochran, a senior at Hempfield Area High School, was classmates with Scarlett in Jeannette for 10 years. She said the world would be a less-exciting place without her friend.

“She had so much charisma and was so well liked. She's going to be missed so much,” Cochran said.

Jeannette's athletic director, Anthony DeNunzio, said Friday it's been “a very sad” time for everyone who knew Scarlett and her family.

“You wonder why these things happen to such good people,” he said. “You have to appreciate every day. ... It just shows how fragile life is.”

Scarlett was a pitcher for the Nitro Fastpitch's Showcase team, a softball traveling squad, said Andrew Popojas, Scarlett's coach.

“She was a beautiful girl with a heart of gold,” Popojas said.

She had been on the team since she was about 11 years old and had the talent to pitch in college, he said.

“She was an all-around good girl,” Popojas said.

Scarlett's high school coach, Zac Karas, declined comment.

In a 2015 story in the Tribune-Review, Scarlett said she hoped to eventually study forensic science.

She earned the sophomore academic excellence award at her high school. She was honored last year in chemistry during the annual Women in Science Day Award at Seton Hill University.

Scarlett was selected to compete for three years in the Queen of Diamonds Showcase North at Kent State University, the largest fast-pitch showcase event of its kind.

In May, she was featured as a “Westmoreland Athlete of the Week” after helping her team get to the postseason, throwing a one-hitter in an 11-0 win over Geibel Catholic of Connellsville.

“It's a great feeling to make it to the playoffs. We haven't made it past the first round,” Scarlett said. “I can tell my pitches are all working. I know if I have a good game it reflects on the team.”

She said it was disappointing losing in the first round, “but it's great that we were in the playoffs. It's what we worked for all year.”

A “Scarlet's Warriors” GoFundMe page that was set up earlier in the week had raised more than $4,200 for Scarlett's family by Friday afternoon.

In addition to her parents, Tubby and Dody Neal Stein, Scarlett is survived by a younger sister, Grace Marie Stein; her maternal grandparents, Marie and Dave Neal, and her paternal grandmother, Diane Fox, all of Jeannette.

Staff writer Joe Napsha contributed. Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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