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Riverview softball to rely on young lineup

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 9:18 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Riverview's Allura Jendrasik scoops up a grounder at first base during practice on Monday, March 20, 2017
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Riverview's Kelsey Phillips fields from the pitcher mound during practice on Monday, March 20, 2017.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Riverview's Kate Davis makes a throw from shortstop during practice on Monday, March 20, 2017.

When Riverview junior Alivia Acierno sees a softball roster that's now half freshmen, she's filled with optimism for a program that's grown much since her own ninth-grade season.

“We struggled to get a team (two years ago),” said Acierno, the team's third baseman and a middle-of-the-order hitter.

“At one practice we had about four girls show up, so we had to keep making announcements to try to find other girls to play. … The last two years were hard, but the program has definitely built up.”

Riverview starts this season with a 16-player roster that includes eight freshmen, three sophomores, four juniors and one senior.

But Acierno's optimism isn't reserved for the team's distant future. If the Raiders are to reach the WPIAL playoffs for the third year in a row, they'll need those underclassmen to contribute now.

“I have a lot of confidence in the upcoming freshmen and sophomores,” said Acierno, noting that the team's two pitchers, Alyssa Cappa and Kelsey Phillips, are freshmen. “They're strong, and I think they'll be a great asset that we didn't have before.”

The freshman class didn't form entirely by chance.

Third-year coach Jim Ashbaugh helped lay the foundation during a decade-long stay on the Riverview Athletic Association. He oversaw the community's fast-pitch softball programs, encouraged young pitchers to seek private instruction and was instrumental in starting a junior high program.

Ashbaugh could see those efforts pay off; Riverview might have five freshmen and sophomores on the field at once.

“I see the athletic ability that these girls bring,” he said. “They've been playing softball for a good number of years now, whether it's in rec leagues or travel ball. They know softball.

“Now it's a matter of being able to play at the varsity level. I really think they can do it.”

Riverview finished 6-9 overall last season, 5-5 in Section 3, and lost in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

The team shares a section with newcomers Bishop Canevin, Ellis, Geibel and Jeannette, and holdovers Leechburg and St. Joseph.

The Raiders lost both pitchers from last season — one to graduation and one to injury — and graduated three senior starters.

Among them was shortstop/catcher Sadie Buchser, now a freshman for Thiel basketball.

But this year's experienced core includes Acierno, sophomore shortstop Kate Davis and sophomore Allura Jendrasik, a first baseman whom Ashbaugh predicted could surprise with her power. Competing for time in the outfield are juniors Christina Fiore and Alaina Mazur and senior Kamron Tibbens. But three freshmen also are in the outfield mix and two could compete to catch, a sign of the team's young depth.

“I can't wait to get outside, get some innings in and see what they girls are going to do when they're under pressure,” Ashbaugh said. “How are they going to respond? I've seen them the past couple of years in seventh and eighth grade, so I think they'll do fine.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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