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Kochka happy to join W&J program

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Danielle Kochka's pitching, hitting and fielding at first base at Gateway the past couple of seasons opened the eyes of area collegiate coaches.

Kochka knew she wanted to continue her softball career at the next level, and finding the right fit was only a matter of time.

When she made her decision in early May, Washington & Jefferson was the place for her, both athletically and academically.

A recruiting visit to the Washington, Pa., campus cemented her decision.

“The atmosphere at W&J was just amazing,” Kochka said.

“The day after my visit, I told my parents that's my school. It was and is the right fit for me.”

Pitt-Johnstown was also in the mix for Kochka, who helped Gateway go 6-6, both overall and in Section 2-AAAA play, for the 2014 season.

The Gators finished fourth in the section behind Plum, McKeesport and Woodland Hills.

“I definitely will miss Gateway softball,” Kochka said.

“It really helped me become the player and person I am. I played with some amazing teammates, and I've learned a lot from my coaches. At the same time, I am ready to face some new challenges in college.”

Kochka has a summer workout schedule, which features different running and lifting guidelines for her to follow.

She also has kept her on-field skills sharp as a member of the Pittsburgh Power AAU travel team.

The squad, which also includes Plum's Rachael and Hannah Adamski, played in four tournaments this summer and made the semifinals in two of them and the quarterfinals in one other.

“I am getting faster and stronger and I am hitting the ball harder,” Kochka said.

“It's been a good summer for me.”

When Kochka begins her first season with the W&J softball team, she hopes to be in the mix to help the program defend its 2014 Presidents Athletic Conference championship.

The Presidents won 25 games this past spring (25-12) and tied the 2006 and 2013 squads for the third-best single-season win total in the history of the program.

Three W&J players earned PAC first-team honors, including the graduated Kelsey Cunningham, who also was selected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III All-Great Lakes Regional Third Team.

The PAC championship earned W&J a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and it was the first appearance in the national tournament in the program's history.

The Presidents were 0-2 in a pair of games at a regional tournament in Angola, Ind.

W&J's 2014 roster had a local flair, as 10 of the 13 players on the list were from WPIAL schools, including Franklin Regional grad Courtney Roperti.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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