Several underclassmen will fuel Gators' squad
Section 2-AAAA went through some big changes in the offseason, as section champion Franklin Regional moved over to Section 1, and Fox Chapel, the fourth-place team in the section last year, was bumped over to Section 3.
Oakland Catholic and Allderdice join the section this year.
At the same time, Plum, the section runner-up last year, is back in the section, as well as 2012 WPIAL playoff qualifier McKeesport.
Gateway varsity head coach Chuck Myers knows that the section again will be a challenge.
“With a young team — we only have three seniors and a lot of freshmen — it probably will take a few games to see if they can challenge for the section title and a spot in the playoffs,” Myers said.
Seven key players graduated from last year's team.
One of this year's seniors is four-year starter Laura Hudec, who will be at third base.
Lauren Henderson missed most of last season because of injury, but she is healthy now and could play a number of positions this season, including center field, second base and catcher.
Tara McCarl, a JV player last year, is the third senior, and she is starting in right field.
“I am excited to have these three seniors,” Myers said. “They are good team leaders.”
Myers said several freshmen will fill starting roles this season.
Madison Lewis will be the starting pitcher.
“I have all the faith that she can be an effective pitcher for us,” Myers said. “Madison is a workhorse. She throws five days a week. She has a great work ethic. She has good speed and movement on the ball. She hits her locations.”
Freshman Ufuoma Ogagan has ascended to the starting catcher position.
“Ufuoma is probably the fastest player I've ever coached,” Myers said.
Freshman Gianna Basilone, who Myers said has a lot of travel softball experience, can hit for power and will be at shortstop.
Junior Danielle Kochka is at first base, with a couple of players — sophomores Cali DiLucente and Bianca Basilione and freshman Brooke Bache — in the mix at second base.
Henderson is expected to be an anchor in center field, while DiLucente and juniors Kelly Kapp and Kim Mignogna will challenge for time in left field.
Kapp is expected to move over to center if Henderson moves into second or catcher.
“Kapp is a very versatile player, and she has some nice speed,” Myers said. “I think there is more speed this year in the outfield overall.”
Myers said Kochka, DiLucente and Gianna Basilone could provide pitching depth in the circle.
Junior Brianna McCarthy and freshman Jasmine Copeland are two players, Myers said, who could challenge for varsity playing time.
A mix of rain and snow pelted the area early Monday morning, and teams continue to deal with early-season frustrations and more inside practices.
Gateway has been able to get out for a couple of workouts on the football field at Antimarino Stadium.
Weather permitting, the Gators are slated to open their season Friday at 4 p.m. against West Mifflin at the Gateway High School sports complex.
The Gators open section play on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at Oakland Catholic.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412- 388-5825 or at email@example.com.