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Expectations high for Latrobe softball

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 6:15 p.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Latrobe's Meredith Carr delivers a pitch against a Bethel Park batter during a game Monday, May 16, 2016, at Gateway. Latrobe went on to defeat Bethel Park, 10-0.

Call it candor or confidence, but first-year coach Rick Kozusko knows his Latrobe softball team has talent.

He thinks the team's possibilities might be better categorized as probabilities.

Potential exists for a big season as the Wildcats look to pry away trophies from the clutches of perennial power Hempfield.

“Expectations are up there,” said Kozusko, a longtime assistant who took over for Alexa Pinto, who resigned. “We plan to contend for section, WPIAL and PIAA titles — the three brass rings.”

Eight starters return for the Wildcats, including ace pitcher Meredith Carr, who went 14-4 with a 1.95 ERA and 97 strikeouts as a junior.

Senior Ashley Pagliei is another senior pitcher.

She is a Pitt-Johnstown commit.

Junior shortstop Karley Kovatch is headed to IUP after batting .375 with a pair of home runs and 17 RBIs.

Junior Sarah Blair returns at second base after hitting .367, and the Wildcats also bring back senior outfielder Angela DiOrio, senior first baseman Regan McCracken, junior catcher Morgan Schweizer and sophomore third baseman Makayla Munchinski (.360).

“Our defense should be strong,” said Kozusko, who also coached baseball and football at Latrobe.

“We put a lot of effort into defense because it is very important to win games. With hitting there are variables, coming and going, but I expect the girls to step up and hit well.”

Kozusko said two other pitching candidates are junior Rebecca Tatone and sophomore Kiley Myers, who already has committed to Marist.

“We'll see how it plays out,” Kozusko said. “But Carr will pitch the bulk of the innings.”

Juniors Carissa Scekeres and Aimee Siecinski are other contributors.

Latrobe (17-7) made the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals last season and lost to Baldwin, 6-3.

The Wildcats fell to WPIAL and PIAA champion Hempfield, 4-0, in the first round of the state playoffs. If there are two don't-miss games in Section 2-6A, they are Latrobe at Hempfield (April 13) and Hempfield at Latrobe (May 4).

The two county heavyweights return a number of standouts, Hempfield with senior all-everything pitcher Morgan Ryan, a Notre Dame recruit.

“Hempfield set the standard,” Kozusko said. “They'll be tough again. Norwin also should be competitive, and there are new teams we'll have to be ready for in Fox Chapel, Penn Hills and Allderdice.”

Kozusko said the team's new turf diamond, Graham-Sobota Field, has been beneficial.

“It's helped us,” he said. “To be able to get on the field in conditions when other teams can't play ... we're lucky to have that.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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