Daily News Spotlight Athletes: Elizabeth Forward's Justin Bakewell, McKeesport's Vanessa Falce
School: Elizabeth Forward
Claim to fame: Bakewell hit a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth to give the Warriors a 6-2 victory over section rival West Mifflin last week. The win kept Elizabeth Forward (11-5, 5-4) in contention for a playoff spot in Section 4-AAA. The sophomore is hitting .500 with seven doubles, nine runs scored and three stolen bases.
“Justin is one of two sophomores on a team that is dominated by juniors and seniors,” coach Frank Champ said. “He played a bit last year, and we expected him to fight for his spot this year. We gave him the opportunity, and he has taken advantage. He has contributed with some really timely hits and has really helped us this year.”
What was your approach at the plate when you hit the double against West Mifflin?
My goal was mainly to just get on base. As the No. 9 hitter, I try to just get on base and help my team out as much as I can.
What does your team have to do to get into the playoffs?
The main thing our coaches have been harping is to get the routine plays. If we can have no errors in the game and just play clean baseball and hit the way we've been hitting, I'm sure we can pull out these last three games. I'm just trying to play error-free baseball and help my team out as best I can.
What do you enjoy most about baseball?
I guess the atmosphere of the game. Ever since I was little, I just fell in love with the game. I love just going outside and hitting and fielding. It's just something I really enjoy doing and something I've stuck with.
Who is your favorite player or team?
The Pirates by far, and I would have to say Andrew McCutchen. It's a hometown team kind of thing, but I want to see them get over the hump and get to be a .500 team. I'd love to see them turn things around because I know they have the players to do it.
Do you have any pregame rituals or superstitions?
Before each game I like to be in the same stretching line, and I do plyometrics before every game because it always seems that I play well when I do those.
Claim to fame: After a few tough games, Falce broke out against Woodland Hills on April 23. The freshman went 3 for 4 with a double, a two-run homer, a solo homer, five RBI and four runs scored. Then, in an 11-5 win over Plum, another Section 2-AAAA rival, Falce hit an inside-the-park homer and a three-run shot to tie the game late.
“We've been able to count on her in the field and at bat all year,” coach Missy Conrad said. “She leads the team with a .452 average and 31 RBI so far, and she's been our starting shortstop all year, which is impressive. She's also an unbelievable team player. She was given the game ball last week and instead of keeping it she gave it to our pitcher, who had pitched really well. She has been an awesome player for us this year.”
How do explain your success at the plate over the last few games?
I just go up to the plate with confidence thinking that I'm going to hit the ball, and that really helps me a lot.
How would you rate your first high school season?
Probably like 9 out of 10. We've all worked together so well, and we just mesh. We don't argue and no one gets tired of anyone else, and that's why we've been successful.
When did you start playing softball?
I started playing when I was 4 years old. My dad was a coach and he pretty much told me I was playing, but I've always enjoyed it.
How did it feel to win the division in your first season?
It's great. That was our goal for the season and knowing that we've reached it is just amazing.
Which team will give you the toughest test in the playoffs?
Honestly, I am not sure. West Mifflin and Elizabeth were tough, but they were Triple-A so I'm not sure. The team in our section that gave us the most trouble was definitely Gateway. They fought with us the whole time, and that was the first game of our season where we had to fight to win.
— Robert Stinner