Puhnaty an ace on the mound and in the classroom
No one can blame California Area High School girls softball coach Earl Doman if he's already dusting off the equipment for his Lady Trojans upcoming season. Bats, gloves, softballs, they are all there, and an ace.
And he isn't talking about hardware or bandages.
Instead, he's looking in the direction of team Most Valuable Player, Christina Puhnaty, back for her senior season and looking for back-to-back playoff appearances.
“Christina is a talented player and we can use her anywhere, on the mound, or in the infield or outfield,” Doman said. “She started every game for us as a pitcher when she was a freshman and sophomore and last year she strengthened our outfield. She has speed and some power. She is a true heads-up player. Christina was our MVP due to her pitching and hitting abilities.”
In leading the Trojans to the postseason berth, their first since the 2009 season, Puhnaty earned all-section honors on the strength of her regular-season .429 batting average, which included 24 hits, among them five triples.
“Christine is a line-drive hitter, and most of her hits are line drives in the gap, but she hits with authority and can go deep,” Doman added. “She was an all-section outfielder, but she also pitched when we needed her on the mound. We would not have made it to the playoffs had it not been for her. Against West Greene she pitched six strong innings in a game we had to win to get to the playoffs. She held down their big hitters. She has an excellent changeup, good curve, and she mixes her pitches well. She will be our No. 1 pitcher this season, our ace. She is dependable, and we know we can count on her.”
But Doman has also seen in Puhnaty a player who has matured as a player in three seasons.
“I've watched Christina become a stronger pitcher, not just physically but in having smarts on the mound,” Doman continued. “She knows what she wants to do and does it. In three seasons she has developed a better overall game and has been much more consistent.”
As a freshman, Puhnaty was a member of the basketball team and, although no longer a member of the team, has remained affiliated with the program as statistician and scorekeeper.
But if Puhnaty is a force on the softball field, her talents there literally pale compared to her talents in the classroom, where she maintains a 4.0 grade average (along with three other students).
With plans on attending the University of Pittsburgh to study biology and chemistry to prepare for a career in the medical field, Puhnaty lists Advanced Chemistry as one of her favorite classes.
“Christina is obviously a talented student,” said California Area chemistry teacher David Lowden, noting that Puhnaty was a 2011 Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science Regional first-place winner. “She is conscientious and picks up things quickly. She is dependable and works well in our labs. Christina has strong math and analytical skills and good insight in what she does.”
A high honors student, Puhnaty, class president for four years, is also vice president of the National Honor Society. In 2012, she was the female recipient of the California Area High School Scholar Athlete Award.
In addition to her classroom talents, Puhnaty is a 2012 Chatham University Rachel Carson Book Award Winner and for four years has been a Model United Nations delegate in a program sponsored by Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh.
However athletically and academically involved, Puhnaty has also found time to devote to community service. She was the recipient of the 2012 California Rotary Youth Leadership Award, a Blood Drive team president as well as a Mon Valley Hospital volunteer.
Les Harvath is a freelance writer.