Daily News spotlight athletes: Steel Valley's Brandon Donovan, West Mifflin's Kaylyn Andress
School: Steel Valley
Claim to fame: Donovan pitched a complete game with 10 strikeouts and went 2 for 4 with an RBI in the Ironmen's 10-4 win over Shady Side Academy that captured the Section 4-AA title May 6. Donovan, who is 6-0 this season, struck out 43 batters in 33 2⁄3 innings this year and posted an ERA of 0.89. “He was clearly our ace,” coach Tim Vickers said. “Anytime you put him on the field, you expected to win. He was dominant every time he took to the mound.”
How satisfying was it to know that you played a major role in Steel Valley winning a section title?
It's been a great experience. I couldn't ask for a better team and coaching staff than what I have right now.
Is there added pressure on you because you're an underclassman?
It has been kind of noticeable lately. Being one of the younger players on the team, I know I have to step up and play like the older players. I go out sometimes kind of nervous, but I try to stay confident in myself.
Was it hard keeping a balance between your pitching performances and also contributing at the plate?
It's pretty hard, but every time I go up to the plate, I just go up trying to get a hit. When I'm on the mound, I just try to pitch my best and get us a win.
— Brian Graham
School: West Mifflin
Claim to fame: Andress has been a pivotal player for the Titans (15-4, 9-3) this season. The second baseman hit .446 this season with 29 hits and 16 runs scored and will help lead West Mifflin into WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff game Thursday night against Mt. Pleasant at Hempfield. “Kaylyn is a phenomenal athlete,” coach Casey Phillips said. “She is one of the fastest kids in the section whose specialty is getting on base for us. She bunts to get on a lot and is a slapper at the plate. She's really good at reading how the defense is playing and hits the ball where it needs to go. She's great on defense as well and has a really live arm. Kaylyn has improved a great deal over the four years she's been here.”
How are you and your teammates preparing for this game?
Well, we had a couple of scrimmages with Plum and Serra Catholic. We've been doing two-hour practices as well. We split the time equally among fielding and hitting each practice.
What prompted you to switch from hitting from the right to the left?
It was my travel coach my 10th-grade year. He saw how fast I was and said I'd be more of a threat if I made the switch over to the other side and hit from the left. He said I could slap the ball or bunt and get on base that way.
Was that an easy change for you?
It was really challenging and required a lot of extra hours of practice. I did a lot of independent practice just re-learning the fundamentals on the left side. I worked a lot on the tee with the team as well. It wasn't an easy transition, and it took about a year to get it down.
What are your plans for next year?
I'm going to play softball at St. Francis (Pa.), and I will major in occupational therapy. It's kind of like physical therapy, but I'll be helping people that can't get better to adapt and cope with their disabilities in the work place.
What will you remember most about your years playing high school softball?
Probably just developing the relationships I have with my teammates. The bond I have with my high school teammates is great. It's like we are all sisters. It's something you don't forget. They're like my second family.
— Robert Stinner