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Alle-Kiski notebook: Highlands coach Zendarski stepping down

| Sunday, May 19, 2013, 6:48 p.m.

After 18 years, Mike Zendarski is stepping down as Highlands' softball coach.

“It's time,” Zendarski said. “I have a 5-year-old daughter and an 18-month-old son. It's time for me to spend more time with them.

“It's just so tough coaching nowadays; you have to put in so much time.”

With teaching and softball, Zendarski said there are days when he puts in 12-plus hours and doesn't see his family until late in the evening.

Zendarski, 45, is the third-longest tenured softball coach in the A-K Valley behind Leechburg's Jim Oberdorf and Kiski Area's Dianne Haney.

Highlands won three section titles (2002, '03 and '05) under Zendarski. The Golden Rams made the playoffs the past three seasons.

“It's crossed my mind the last four or five years (to resign),” Zendarski said. “I've had coaches around the area and in the section call me Brett Favre because I keep coming back.”

Zendarski's last game will go in the books as a loss, but it almost became the program's biggest win. The No. 16 seed, Highlands (8-7) nearly downed No. 1 Greensburg Salem (18-2) in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals Thursday, falling 6-5.

Highlands took a 3-2 lead into the seventh but surrendered three singles and a grand slam to fall behind, 6-3. The Golden Rams scored two more in the bottom of the seventh.

“That was a great team we almost beat,” Zendarski said. “That's the No. 1 team in the WPIAL. We haven't faced a pitcher like (Jayne Oberdorf) since (Valley's) Caitlin Nealer, and we did pretty well against her.”

Zendarski recalled another 16-vs.-1 situation in which Highlands pulled a stunner. In 2001, the Highlands football team toppled top-seeded Uniontown, 30-20, in a first-round playoff game. Zendarski was the offensive coordinator. He stopped coaching football in 2007.

Zendarski is a health and physical education teacher at Highlands Middle School. He also caddies at Oakmont Country Club.

“It's hard to walk away,” Zendarski said. “I put my heart and soul into it. I was fortunate to have so many good girls to coach. And my wife as been so supportive.”

Local connections

Greensburg Salem's softball team has several connections to the A-K Valley. Standout pitcher Jayne Oberdorf and shortstop Clair Oberdorf are the nieces of long-time Leechburg softball coach Jim Oberdorf.

Freshman outfielder Maggie Kallock, who hit the grand slam against Highlands, is the daughter of former Kiski Area girls basketball coach Chris Kallock.

Family advice

Deer Lakes senior baseball player Ryan Perroz doesn't have to look far for advice on what it takes to win championships.

His aunt is Valley softball coach Carol Perroz, who has won two WPIAL titles and a PIAA championship in her nine seasons. She was inducted into the A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Ryan Perroz is the designated hitter for Deer Lakes (17-3), which is in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals.

“It's always fun talking to her,” he said. “She has been to big games and knows what it takes to get there. She gives me advance on hitting, too.”

Coaching carousel

Highlands has opened its girls varsity basketball coaching position. The board has not begun the interview process to replace Ron Lang, who coached the team for two seasons.

Girls coaching openings remain at Apollo-Ridge, Springdale and Valley. Springdale has its finalists picked and is scheduled to hire a coach Monday night.

The Burrell boys basketball job also has not been filled, but that could happen Tuesday night along with the school naming a new wrestling coach.

Recruiting

Fox Chapel senior placekicker Ben Mroz will continue his football career at Case Western. He'll join another local player, Freeport's Brendan Lynch, who was recruited there as a defensive back.

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