Daily News spotlight athletes: Steel Valley's Bryce Varhola, Thomas Jefferson's Kyla Prickett
School: Steel Valley
Claim to fame: Varhola had a game-tying, two-out, full-count hit to keep the Ironmen alive in the bottom of the seventh inning against Seton-La Salle last week in the WPIAL Class AA championship game. The Ironmen went on to win the game 6-5 and claim the WPIAL title for the first time.
“Bryce has been solid for us all year,” coach Tim Vickers said. “We've come to count on him in all situations. He's been solid at second base as well. He's improved a lot over the years. We knew what we were going to get defensively. We've done a great job as a team. Everyone has played their part.”
How does it feel to have been such a big part of the championship win?
It felt good. When I got up there, I was just telling myself to find a gap somewhere. That was my main goal.
What was going through your mind during your at-bat in the bottom of the seventh?
I felt pretty confident. I just took a few deep breaths and tried to slow everything down to a speed I was comfortable with and wanted to approach the at-bat with. I got it to a 3-2 count and got the hit.
What does this win mean to you?
Wow, it means a great deal. It's the first one in our school's history, which is great. Plus, our team was so close with each other and that just made it more special.
What aspect of your game do you think you've improved the most this year?
I would say my approach to baseball in general. I've gotten mentally stronger, and I've gotten better each game as the season has gone on.
School: Thomas Jefferson
Claim to fame: Prickett homered and drove in three runs to help the Jaguars to a 5-3 victory over Mars in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game last week. The Jaguars, who defeated Bellefonte, 8-3, on Monday, will play Greensburg Salem at Baldwin in the PIAA quarterfinals Thursday.
“Kyla has been a leader and a clutch hitter for us all year,” coach Heidi Karcher said. “She lost her starting pitching job early in the season, but she worked hard and earned it back, and I admire her for that. She continued to work hard and has been stellar for us in the playoffs.”
How does it feel to be a champion?
It's completely unexplainable. You work hard all season and then you get there and look back on it and see how much you've accomplished. It's really incredible.
Did you think this was possible at the beginning of the season?
I feel like it was a pleasant surprise. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to just win three games and we ended up overshooting that by a lot.
How happy are you for your teammates?
I am so happy for everyone on the team. They all deserved this. Every single person has worked for it and has been a major influence on what we've done this year.
Why do you think your team was able to win the championship?
We've always had the ability as a team, but we needed to bond a little bit. We have a team this year that really loves the game where last year we had a few players that didn't have that love. We had that bond this year. When you find something you all have in common, it's easy to work and get along with them.
What do you have to do to keep your season going?
We just need to keep winning and working together as a team. We have to keep being strong offensively, and we have to keep making plays on defense. As long as we keep it together we will be fine.
— Robert Stinner