Ford City softball counting on seniors

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

After missing the WPIAL Class AA softball playoffs last year by just one game, four seniors will try to help Ford City take the next step into the playoffs this season.

Pitcher Andrea Markilinski, shortstop Jenna Wolsonovich, third baseman Paige Clingensmith and first baseman Brooke Stitt will be counted on to improve the Sabers from last year's mark of 9-8 (7-5 in Section 3).

“This year we don't have many seniors like we did last year,” Wolsonovich said. “We all realize that we need to step up our game this year.”

The Sabers lost three of their top hitters in last year's six-player senior class but have high hopes for this year's group of upperclassmen.

Wolsonovich will bat leadoff for Ford City after hitting .294 last season with 18 runs scored and 12 RBI. She will also make the switch to shortstop after playing third base last year.

“It's a big change,” she said. “But you realize you need to step up your game and be the leader.”

After only playing eight games last year due to an MCL injury, Clingensmith returns to play third base. She hit .304 with six RBI in just 23 at-bats during the 2012 campaign.

“We're really looking for big things out of her this year,” coach Bill Richard said.

Stitt will start at first base after driving in nine runs last season.

But to reach their goal of a playoff berth this season, Wolsonovich believes the Sabers simply need to improve their hitting as a group in 2013.

“We really need to start swinging the bats,” she said. “We didn't do that much last year, but I think with the girls this year we will get that going.”

Markilinski will serve as the unquestioned ace of the pitching staff this year. She went 5-3 with a 3.41 ERA in 41 innings last season despite suffering a wrist injury.

Freshman Jess Jubec will slide into the No. 2 pitching spot, and Richard said the team gradually will progress her into that role as she continues to show more improvement.

“I see a lot of talent in Jess,” Wolsonovich said. “She's a really good pitcher.”

Yet, despite only throwing for a combined 2 13 innings last year, Wolsonovich and Stitt also are preparing to pitch when called upon if the team is in a bind.

“They (Wolsonovich and Stitt) have past pitching experience, so we've been working with them in case. You never know, if we get in a jam, we might need them,” Richard said.

With a limited roster this season, Richard is hoping his team can avoid the injury bug. If it can do that, he is hoping his team can continue playing into the postseason.

“(The goal is) definitely make the playoffs this year and try to stay healthy,” he said. “Last year we were down to 12 players for a JV and varsity team. There were too many injuries last year, that hurt us bad.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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