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Pitching still strength for top-ranked Char-Houston

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Chartiers-Houston freshman Megan Kraushaar scores against Avella on Saturday April 28, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Chartiers-Houston freshman Megan Kraushaar scores against Avella on Saturday April 28, 2012.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Chartiers-Houston junior Kayla Briggs pitches against Avella on Saturday April 28, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Chartiers-Houston junior Kayla Briggs pitches against Avella on Saturday April 28, 2012.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Chartiers-Houston's Colby Miller follows through on a base hit against Avella, as her teammates look on Saturday April 28, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Chartiers-Houston's Colby Miller follows through on a base hit against Avella, as her teammates look on Saturday April 28, 2012.

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The supporting cast

Limited early with a lingering shoulder injury, senior shortstop Rachel Tucker has been on a roll lately and leads Chartiers-Houston in hitting with a .613 average.

Other seniors making contributions include first baseman/designated player Ashley Hall (.395) and center fielder Kelli Dufresne (14 RBI, 20 runs).

Freshman Kassie Kesneck (four homers, 20 RBI) and sophomore Haley Sutton (.468, 23 RBI) have been pleasant surprises, too.

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, May 3, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
 

Kayla Briggs earned all-state honors as a freshman first baseman in 2010 and as a right fielder last spring before becoming the top-ranked Chartiers-Houston softball team's primary pitcher this season.

Don't count on her playing a fourth position next year. Not with these stats. Not with this success.

After taking over for Kiersten Conwell, Briggs has been nearly unhittable while leading the Bucs to an 18-1 record, 10-0 in Section 1-A. She has 149 strikeouts in 97 innings, with an earned run average of 0.94 and an opponents' batting average of .125.

“I've been looking forward to this,” the soft-spoken Briggs said. “I love pitching.”

It's not hard to see why.

Briggs mixes a screwball, a drop curve and a knuckleball with her above-average fastball. She also benefits from her accuracy — just 28 of 368 batters have walked — and from her composure, which she has developed through pitching with her travel team: the Canonsburg Lady Knights.

“Even though she didn't pitch a lot the past two years, it's not like pitching is new to her,” Chartiers-Houston coach Tricia Alderson said. “She knows what she's doing out there.”

The Bucs sure hope so.

Two years ago, Chartiers-Houston won its first PIAA Class A state title. The Bucs captured their eighth WPIAL Class A title last spring, knocking off Fort Cherry, 9-3, but bowed out in the state semis with a 3-2 loss to Clarion.

That loss, which snapped a 26-game winning streak dating back to 2010, has served as a big-time motivator this season, catcher Colby Miller said.

“It hit us hard last year,” Miller said. “It especially hit me hard after knowing what it's like to win states, to go that far and work that hard.

“We came so close, and now we want to get back to the big day. I think we all understand how important this is.”

Jason Mackey is a freelance writer.

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