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High school notebook: Yough's Bach commits to Pitt for softball

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, 11:12 a.m.
Yough's Hannah Bach during practice on Tuesday at Yough Senior High School.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Yough's Hannah Bach during practice on Tuesday at Yough Senior High School.

Yough softball player Hannah Bach had interest from a few Ivy League schools and appeared to be close to committing to one of them.

But the incoming senior shortstop shifted gears this week and gave Pitt a verbal commitment.

A three-year starter, Bach helped Yough win a PIAA Class 3A title in 2016 when she grabbed all-state honors.

She hit .403 and scored 31 runs this season as Yough posted a runner-up finish in WPIAL Class 4A and reached the state quarterfinals.

“Hannah has been the hardest-working girl in her class since they came into program,” Yough coach Dutch Harvey said. “She always hustles and never misses a practice. A good kid with a great work ethic and an excellent student.”

Bach said her major affected her decision.

“Deciding to major in engineering made it impossible to attend some schools because the school did not have engineering or it would conflict too much with softball,” Bach said.

“I fell in love with Pitt after a campus tour and a visit with coach Holly Aprile. It is a great academic school and softball program, and I am very excited to attend.”

Reaching the Division I college level has been Bach's goal as she has worked her way through travel and high school ball.

“It has always been my goal and dream, and I am very happy I finally attained it,” she said.

Bach said her Ohio Outlaws travel coaches — Larry Mercurio, Heidi Karcher and Warren Wolff — played a key role in her recruitment.

Right on track

Hempfield plans to name its track after one of its long-time coaches next Friday night before the football season opener against Greensburg Salem at Spartan Stadium.

Ron Colland, who has coached track and field and cross country for 45 years at Hempfield, will be recognized in a ceremony just before kickoff, and the “Ron Colland Track” will be dedicated.

Hired in 1972, Colland has been head coach or an assistant for teams that won 25 section titles, 12 WPIAL championships and two PIAA titles in track and field, and 16 cross country section titles.

Hempfield named its softball field after 27-year veteran coach Bob Kalp, who guided the Spartans to a WPIAL three-peat and back-to-back PIAA titles this past season.

Low numbers

Freshmen football has been declining for several years in the WPIAL, and it has hit all-time lows.

Of the 122 schools that field varsity teams, just 15 of them — or 12.2 percent — have ninth-grade teams. Of those 15, five are from Westmoreland County: Hempfield, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Mt. Pleasant and Latrobe.

Consider this: In 2003, the WPIAL had 89 freshmen programs.

Fear of concussions at younger ages appears to be the main reason for diminished turnout, while some coaches eliminate freshmen teams to get players ready for varsity earlier. That can create freshmen going against seniors in practice, although hitting has decreased in weekly workouts.

Some schools have JV “B” games where they play freshmen. But even that practice is dwindling, and sophomores often have to play to fill out lineups.

Low numbers have made scheduling a nightmare for schools that do have teams, even prompting games against out-of-state teams.

Central Catholic has a game against Wheeling, W.Va. Other WPIAL opponents include Hollidaysburg and Morgantown (W.Va.).

Hempfield had 35 players sign up for freshmen ball. While Hempfield is one of the largest districts in the WPIAL, continuity and attention has kept its ninth-graders interested in football.

“This is my sixth year here, and we've worked hard to establish our program,” Hempfield coach Rich Bowen said. “We have had some success, which helps. But we don't waste time, and we have excitement for what we do.”

Mt. Pleasant had 67 players sign up for its junior high program.

“Football still means something here,” first-year head coach and longtime assistant Jason Fazekas said. “Our community understands that. We have an in-house youth league, and we definitely want to keep it going.”

Other WPIAL programs with freshmen teams are Armstrong, Penn Hills, Pine-Richland, Connellsville, North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, Central Catholic, Bethel Park, McKeesport and Altoona.

Mars dropped its freshman team this year.

He said it

“School golf is a lot different. It's nine holes, and you really don't get a chance to warm up. You come out stone cold and try to start something good. You go right from math class to the first tee.”

— Latrobe golfer Brady Pevarnik on adjusting from summer golf to the high school season

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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