New coach leads Chartiers Valley softball into Class AAAA
When the Chartiers Valley softball coaching position opened during the offseason, Jeff Reicoff felt it was time to make a return.
Reicoff has deep roots with the program dating to the 1980s, when he coached the Colts team for 15 seasons before resigning to spend time with his children.
He made a return several years later but resigned again as his children became older. Reicoff most recently served as an assistant to Jeff Macek the past four seasons while his daughter, Lindsay, played for the Colts.
But when Macek resigned during the offseason, Reicoff was ready to come back.
“I enjoy teaching the game,” Reicoff said. “People laugh when I say it, but I enjoy practices. I know everyone enjoys the games, but I just really enjoy teaching softball and proper mechanics. It was a good opportunity and good timing.”
In his 19 years coaching Chartiers Valley, Reicoff won 203 games with four section titles. His assistant coaching duties will be handled by Jessica Shandrick and Reicoff's wife, Mary Lou, who was also an assistant last season.
Reicoff was adamant that his familiarity with the team will help the transition period.
“It will be an advantage,” Reicoff said. “I know how to work with them and have an idea what skills they have.”
The Chartiers Valley pitching duties will be shared by junior Jill Dunn and sophomore Maddie Zimmer. Dunn found success at the junior varsity level last season while Zimmer pitched some innings with the varsity squad.
“Both bring some good qualities to the mound,” Reicoff said. “(Dunn) is a little faster. (Zimmer) has a good changeup and good rise ball. They each have a different style . There will be some competition at the position, and they will be able to push each other.”
Whoever will be pitching will be helped by catcher Libby Chidlow. The junior was the team's shortstop last season but was moved to behind the plate this season.
To fill the void at shortstop, Reicoff moved junior Brittany Kane from third base to shortstop. The team's lone senior, Katy Gibson, will return to first base.
“(Gibson) is very good defensively,” Reicoff said. “She has a lot of power and understands batting. She will bat fourth or fifth.”
Dunn will be the Colts' leadoff hitter, a spot Reicoff says she excels in due to her understanding of the strike zone. Zimmer and Chidlow are expected to have nice seasons at the plate for Chartiers Valley.
The new coach will lead the Colts into their first Class AAAA season. The team will be in brutal Section 4, which will include Baldwin, Bethel Park, Brashear, Canon McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair.
“Canon-McMillan was the Class AAAA champ last year and return everybody,” Reicoff said. “Bethel Park has a very good team. The top three teams make the playoffs, and there is a logjam of teams after the top two. The third playoff team will be whoever gets on a little bit of a hot streak, has no errors and gets timely hits.”
The first year in Class AAA will be a learning experience for the team. With one senior and four juniors, the Colts will rely on underclassmen. The team has eight sophomores and freshmen who will be thrown into action and will need to sink or swim.
“They are going to get thrown into the fire,” Reicoff said. “They are going to be getting experience at the varsity level, which bodes well for the future of Chartiers Valley softball.”
Reicoff said it will be tough to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, but it is an attainable goal for the Colts. If Chartiers Valley is able to avoid errors and see growth throughout the season, the new coach expects the team will extend its season.
“Our goals as coaches should be to improve each week as we go through each game and each practice,” Reicoff said. “I think playing fundamentally sound softball should be our strength this season.”
The Colts return to the field Tuesday as they travel to Upper St. Clair. First pitch is scheduled for 3:45 p.m.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.