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Southmoreland softball team blessed with three quality pitchers

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The number of girls capable of playing high school varsity softball is relatively high. The number of girls capable of pitching is relatively low. Most teams in the WPIAL would be considered lucky to have two capable pitchers. The Lady Scotties are blessed with three arms ready to go.

That development is the main story line in Southmoreland and if the Lady Scotties can continue their success from 2012, it could be the story in western Pennsylvania this spring.

Kim Kelley is entering her 13th season as head coach for the Lady Scots and she is well aware how rare having that many pitchers on a high school varsity softball team is. “For the first time in my coaching career I have three girls that are highly capable of pitching at the varsity level,” said Kelley. Kelley has been with the program since 1997 when she started as an assistant. It took 16 seasons for this to transpire again attributing to the rare amenity.

Kelley didn't reveal her rotation or how she was planning on using the three capable arms. With such a rare luxury it is going to make other coaches have to guess which dynamic pitcher they will have to face. Kelley can create a competitive advantage in a number of ways. All should be in her favor.

Mother Nature can force back to back games more often than not and with three pitchers she can carefully plan how to effectively save their arms from fatigue. To parlay that advantage if one pitcher struggles to find the strike zone which is common in the sport, Kelley has the luxury of putting in a replacement without sacrificing chances for a victory. Not to mention she has a luxury that most teams do not because can use pitchers in practices without having to worry about using their arms up. This means her team can practice against real live pitching which is something that should improve their offensive output.

The talent in the pitching staff is undeniable. Last year as a freshman, Kristen Suhan received All-Section honors. Her numbers were quite impressive as she had 66 strikeouts, only 13 walks, and allowed just 62 runs in 109 innings.

AnnaMarie Gatti was a sophomore star pitcher for Greensburg Central Catholic last season. She was in the running for the Gatorade State Softball Player of the year for elite-student athletes. She was mentioned on ESPN's website as a finalist for the award and returns to Southmoreland to try and make a run at winning it.

It's rare enough having three pitchers, but something even more rarely seen is that Kelley has a southpaw in freshman Briana Bunner. Having a left-handed pitcher creates even more strategy for Kelley. “These girls have been working very hard to be ready for this season. I am impressed with each of them.”

The Lady Scots have plenty of talent not just limited to the mound. Patrolling center field will be All-Section 2011 and 2012 recipient senior Rikki Brown. Outfielder Rachelle Allison and infielder Samantha Suhan are the other seniors that join Brown

Returning junior starters from last season's playoff team are infielder Sara Brown, catcher Kelsey Kuhns, and also infielder Vanessa Richards. Other juniors include outfielders such as Sara Rock, Jae Pawlikowsky, and Nikki Nicholson. Sophomores include outfielder Katrina Lauffer, infielder Breanna Bailey, and utility player Rachael May.

Rounding out the team will be outfielders Cindy LeMasters, Ashley Schwartz and catcher/infielder Kylee Wisilosky.

The assistant coaches are both new to the high school coaching level but were instrumental in helping start the junior high program. They are Mike Morrison and Jim Suhan. Kelley believes that the junior high program has been a “tremendous help,” to the high school program. They both have plenty of experience as coaches in travel ball.

“So even though they are beginning a new phase of coaching they each possess a great deal of experience and are very committed to helping the girls be successful,” said Kelley.

Last season, the Lady Scots were 12-6 overall and 9-3 in the Section 4-AA. They eventually lost, 12-2, in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual WPIAL AA champion Deer Lakes. Kelley has felt the biggest reason was the Scotties picked the wrong game not to hit. “To Deer Lakes credit, they had a strong lineup, they hit the ball very solidly and they did not make mistakes defensively,” said Kelley.

The Lady Scots should not only be excited because of their surplus of pitching but they have to feel good about only losing two starters from last season's team, catcher/shortstop Courtney Leighty and third baseman Shannon Tomasello. Leighty continues to play at Liberty College while Shannon is at St. Francis.

“We are young…” Kelley said. With a young team Kelley has had to make sure her players fundamentals are correct offensive and defensively.

“We want to be aggressive at the plate, smart on the bases, and make all the routine plays in the field,” Kelley said.

It won't be a cakewalk for the Lady Scots who have been moved up to Class AAA this season. There will be new teams for them to learn and Kelley says her players know they have to be ready to execute and each girls best effort is expected of them each and every game.

“This team is very supportive of each other and can't wait to start playing,” Kelley said.

Josh King is a freelance writer.

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