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Freeport softball has look of contender

BILL SHIRLEY | FOR THE VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH - BS FreevsKeyOaks051612 2.jpg Keystone Oaks runner, Meghan Staab slides safely into second base, as Freeports, Alexis Roenigk fields the throw during 1st round WPIAL Class AA playoff action at Hampton High School, Tuesday May. 15, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> BILL SHIRLEY  |  FOR THE VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH</em></div>BS FreevsKeyOaks051612 2.jpg Keystone Oaks runner, Meghan Staab slides safely into second base, as Freeports, Alexis Roenigk fields the throw during 1st round WPIAL Class AA playoff action at Hampton High School, Tuesday May. 15, 2012.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch - Freeport's Alyssa Meta reacts to being congratulated for hitting a home run during the game against Highlands at Highlands High School on Monday March 26, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Freeport's Alyssa Meta reacts to being congratulated for hitting a home run during the game against Highlands at Highlands High School on Monday March 26, 2012.

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Freeport's softball team can hit the long ball, but is far from a long shot in a strong Section 3-AA.

The Yellowjackets, who hit 11 home runs last season, finished 15-4 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals.

They finished second in the section to WPIAL-champion Deer Lakes and lost to eventual PIAA champion Neshannock in the WPIAL playoffs.

With experience and several key players back, Freeport believes it could have the championship-caliber talent of those teams. Just two starters are gone from a 15-4 team that averaged 11.5 runs per game.

“With (Deer Lakes) being the WPIAL champs and beating us twice last year, you have to view them as (the section favorite),” Freeport coach Sam Ross said. “But our girls know they were close. They've already been talking about playing Deer Lakes. We only lost four games, and two were to them.”

Key returnees for Freeport include senior pitcher Alyssa Meta, senior third baseman Taylor Massart, senior catcher Emily Lindsay and senior centerfielder Ashley Sample, who will attempt a dual-sport spring with softball and track.

Sample hit .434 with 32 runs, and Lindsay hit four homers. Meta, a left-hander, has started since her sophomore year. She was 5-2 last season.

After an offense-first section last season, coaches in Section 3 expect competition to remain heightened.

“It may be one of the toughest top-to-bottom sections in Class AA,” Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani said. “There's a four-way rivalry, maybe more.”

Deer Lakes is the pace car, though. Only two starters are gone from Deer Lakes. That should make a pair of section games against Freeport interesting.

“We know everybody's targeting us, but we're not expecting anything,” Taliani said. “We have to work twice as hard now. They say the next one is the toughest one.”

Junior second baseman Alyssa Ravotti is another key contributor for Freeport, along with junior shortstop Alexis Roenigk, sophomore first baseman Carly Hill and sophomore Jess Kelly, the No. 2 pitcher.

“We had some freshmen who are now sophomores, and we expect them to play bigger roles,” Ross said.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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