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Southmoreland softball team eyes return trip to postseason

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 12:36 a.m.
Lori Padilla | for the Daily Courier
Kristen Suhan delivers a pitch during a scrimmage Friday, March 15, 2013, at Southmoreland. Suhan is one of several quality pitchers on the Southmoreland roster this season.

The Southmoreland softball team made big strides during the 2012 season.

The Scotties finished with a 12-6 record and advanced to the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. A first-round playoff loss to Deer Lakes did little to diminish the fact Southmoreland achieved its first winning record since 2005 and made an appearance in the WPIAL postseason for the first time since 2001.

This season, many of the players return, and the Scotties certainly have high hopes.

“I like our experience and I like the fact that they are hungry,” said Southmoreland coach Kim Kelley, who is entering her 14th season. “They made the postseason, and they're anxious to get back there. They won't be satisfied if they don't get back to the playoffs. We had that taste of the postseason, and I know the girls weren't satisfied with getting beat in the first round.”

The Scotties lost two regular starters — Courtney Leighty and Shannon Tomasello — to graduation, but Southmoreland appears to be strong in most positions.

Perhaps the Scotties' biggest strength will be in the circle. After a solid freshman season, sophomore Kristen Suhan is expected to be one of the top pitchers for Southmoreland. She will be joined by junior Anna Marie Gatti, who transferred to Southmoreland after helping Greensburg Central Catholic reach the WPIAL Class AA championship game in each of the past two seasons. Freshman Briana Bunner also will add to the mix.

“I have three potential starting pitchers, and this is a first for me in my career that I've had the luxury of three people that can pitch at the varsity level,” Kelley said.

Junior Kelsey Kuhns will do the catching. Junior Sarah Brown and Bunner will see time at first base. Senior Samantha Suhan and Sarah Brown will hold down second base, and junior Vanessa Richards is penciled in at third. Kristen Suhan and sophomore Rachael May likely will see time at shortstop.

Juniors Jae Pawlikowsky and Sara Rock are candidates to play left field and senior Rachelle Allison will be in right. Senior Rikki Brown will hold down center field. The two-time all-section player has big goals in mind for the upcoming season.

“Our first goal is to win the section, and I want to go back to the playoffs,” Rikki Brown said. “Our ultimate goal is to make it to states. We have to have dedication and work hard in practice.”

The Scotties, who open the season Friday with a home exhibition game against Frazier on Friday, are making a jump from Class AA to Class AAA.

They will compete in Section 3 with Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, South Park, Thomas Jefferson, West Mifflin and Yough. Despite the jump in class, there is plenty of optimism surrounding the Scotties.

“It's exciting,” Kelley said. “I'm excited about their work in the offseason and the girls are dedicated. I think our offense and defense will complement each other. We have a good balance of both. We just have to minimize errors, and we can't give outs away. If we do that, we should be in good shape.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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