Westmoreland County college softball teams prepare for 2013 season
Pitt Greensburg and St. Vincent, Westmoreland County's two Division III softball programs, figure to continue their roles as contenders in their conference races this season.
In tight voting by conference coaches in preseason polls, UPG was selected to finish fourth in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference and St. Vincent was picked to finish fifth in the Presidents' Athletic Conference.
They are joined by Division II Seton Hill and NJCAA Division III Westmoreland County Community College in opening their 2013 schedules.
UPG caused fits for the leaders of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference in 2012, and coach Bill Monstrola figures a year later that there could be more of the same from the Bobcats.
But the roster is young — no seniors and just one junior.
“We're changing,” Monstrola said. “We're evolving. We're grabbing some of the local (high school) talent, and we're building a program.”
UPG is coming off a season in which it led the AMCC in home runs (37) and stolen bases (70).
Monstrola recalls the team's 10-game winning streak as a signal of the program's recent success.
“That was all in doubleheaders,” he said. “That's difficult to do.”
Monstrola is banking on his pitching staff to lead the way this year. Sophomores Sarah Sopko and Marly Lafferty and freshman Megan Uher are expected to get most of the work.
“Without a doubt, I think we have the best overall pitching staff in the conference,” Monstrola said. “Everybody has a good No. 1 pitcher, but there's usually a drop-off after that. We have what I feel are three No. 1 pitchers.”
UPG, which posted a school-record 18-17 record in 2012, will play eight games to open the season in Myrtle Beach, S.C., beginning on Sunday. The Bobcats' official opener against Waynesburg on Monday was postponed because of poor field conditions.
After winning the PAC regular season, St. Vincent was upset by Geneva in the first round of the conference tournament in 2012. Perhaps it will be a motivational tool for the Bearcats a year later.
“Losing was a shock,” St. Vincent coach Nicole Hinerman said. “I believe it made the girls hungry.”
Falling into a preseason prediction at No. 5 in the conference also is motivating she said.
“It's probably a good thing that we're underdogs,” Hinerman said.
St. Vincent, in Clermont, Fla., for a five-game stretch this week, returns all five of its all-conference selections from last season, including junior right-hander Ally Vrcek, a first-team selection who led the PAC with a 1.30 ERA in 2012.
The other first-team returnee is sophomore first baseman Shannon Baczek, who led St. Vincent with a .365 batting average.
Second-team selections back for another year are senior infielder Maria Adams, senior right-hander Emily Lauterbach and junior infielder Becky Deane.
Among first-year players on the team freshman Shayla Landman, who opens as the starter at third base after playing at No. 2 singles in tennis for St. Vincent, which won the PAC championship earlier this season.
“We have seven new freshmen,” said Hinerman, who notched her 100th victory in 2012, when St. Vincent posted a school-record 24-16 record. “That's a good mix with our veterans. The girls are working hard. They're motivated.”
First-year coach Paul O'Brien hopes to lead Seton Hill to better days.
The NCAA Division II Griffins opened their final season in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference by splitting a pair of games at the Shaw (N.C.) Tournament — a 2-0 victory over Fayetteville State and a 9-1 loss to Mt. Olive — before snow canceled the remainder of the schedule.
Seton Hill, predicted to finish sixth in the WVIAC preseason poll, joins the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in 2014.
“It's tough to set concrete goals,” O'Brien said. “We had a very good fall, so there is reason to be optimistic.”
But O'Brien, a former Shippensburg assistant, is optimistic that the team can improve on a 20-29 overall record and 13-13 conference showing in 2012.
Seton Hill's returning veterans are led by sophomore pitchers Christine Henderson — a Ligonier Valley High School product — and Dani Treaster, and sophomore shortstop Taylor Swatsworth.
Henderson and Swatsworth totaled three hits each during Seton Hill's first two games, while Henderson collected 14 strikeouts in 9 2⁄3 innings.
Henderson and second baseman Stefanie Wiegand, who batted .361 with six doubles and 22 RBI in 2012, return after being named all-conference honorable mentions.
“I'd like to have an aggressive offense,” O'Brien said. “We'll do some running, and we have players who have shown me they can handle the bat.”
Westmoreland County CC
Though only three starters return to Westmoreland County Community College, the Wolfpack are expecting big things.
“I'm looking at a season over .500 and I'm confident we can make it to the (junior college) World Series,” said second-year coach Kari Margliotti, who as a shortstop in 2007 and '08 helped WCCC to consecutive NJCAA Division III World Series appearances. “This team has the potential of being better than the team I played on.”
WCCC, which posted a 16-9 record and finished as runner-up to Anne Arundel Community College in the Region 20 tournament, opens its schedule March 16 against visiting Corning (N.Y.) Community College.
First baseman/outfielder Lauren Gross, catcher Sadie Rylander and outfielder Kylie Polit are WCCC's returning starters. Margliotti is counting on three pitchers — Sara Miller, from Greensburg Salem High School; Melanie Welc, from Hempfield; and Nicole Sparks, a transfer from NCAA Division III Pitt-Greensburg — for most of the mound work.
“I'd like to use a three-player rotation,” Margliotti said. “We'll see how things work out.”
Shortstop Whitney Thompson, a transfer from Division III Chatham, and second baseman Morgan Komarny should be solid in the middle infield for WCCC, Margliotti said.
Catcher Sarah Stiffey, from Greensburg Salem, will replace departed All-American Nicole Stillwagon.
“This team has more talent than the ones I played on that made it to the World Series,” Margliotti said. “I'm confident we can make it there again. It's something every player should experience.”
Staff writer Paul Schofield contributed. Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.