Massive graduation loss hasn't slowed Shaler softball
TribLIVE Sports Videos
This past autumn, for the first time since he's been coach of the highly successful Shaler softball program, Skip Palmer split up the high school-level Titans into two fall league teams.
“Usually the older kids are on one and the younger on the other,” Palmer said. “But this year we were so young I split them up, young with old.
“I think it's really paid off.”
It has. Despite losing 10 players to graduation after last season, Shaler is off to another strong start. The No. 4-ranked Titans remain undefeated in Section 3-AAAA games.
“I couldn't be any happier with how things are going,” Palmer said. “We're very young and very inexperienced, but they have bought into the system, and their work ethic is just unbelievable — and you're seeing the results.”
The Titans (5-1, 5-0) typically start four sophomores and a freshman, who join four seniors most games. And while -that might have created a tiered dynamic because the players would be coming up playing on different junior high and junior varsity teams, this season the adjustment Palmer made in fall ball has changed that.
“They act like one team now,” Palmer said. “There's no varsity and JV — they all are one team. That's what you want.”
In no area has Shaler's transition from last season's veteran crew to what is a very young team more telling than the replacements for pitcher Sydney Smyers and catcher Lauren Hackett. That pair moved on to Division I college softball — and they've been replaced by a freshman and a sophomore.
Freshman Brianna Dobson has taken over as Shaler's top pitcher, and AJ Nichols has gone from being a freshman outfielder to starting behind the plate.
“No doubt, we had some huge holes to fix,” Palmer said.
“Brianna is doing exactly what we want her to do. Later on in the next couple years she could become a strikeout pitcher, but right now when she's young she's keeping the ball down with great location.
“AJ, in fall ball I put her behind the dish and worked with her all winter, and she's been extremely good. She does the same things Hackett was doing. I keep telling her, ‘Keep this up — be another Hackett.' Even the umpire the other day told me, ‘You've got yourself another Hackett.' I've been very impressed with her behind the dish.”
The Titans' most experienced player is four-year starter Maddie Mulig, at shortstop. Outfielder Haley Stedeford is another tested senior, although this is her first season as a full-time starter.
Second baseman Julia Strackhouse and first baseman Taylor Brown are other seniors in the regular lineup. Brown did not play last season because she was injured, and Strackhouse moved from playing third base last year.
Sophomore outfielders Haley Dengler and Mia Sipple and sophomore third baseman Rachel Nyman are Shaler's other usual starters. Dengler serves as the Titans' leadoff hitter.
“Three weeks ago, we just had a goal to take it a game at a time,” Mulig said. “Now that's kind of changed. Whether it being getting a sign for winning the section or WPIALs or states — we're known for that, signs up the hill (to the field) — and we're out to get a sign any way we could.
“We'll still like being the underdogs, though. It's crazy how we started out as underdogs, but now we've got so much confidence in ourselves.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nonprofits replace humdrum charity 5Ks with rappelling
- Number of jobs in high-tech industry outpace workers in Pittsburgh, nation
- Steelers defense a long way from ‘greatest of all time’
- Leader Times roundup: Freeport’s Clawson returns to WPIAL golf final
- Starkey: Two amazing Pirates fans
- Pirates hit 3 HRs in rout of Red Sox
- Video posted online captures Wilkinsburg child’s injuries
- Detectives looking into pair of shootings in Duquesne
- Steelers remain confident in ground game
- Police chase ends with shooting in Bell Township
- Fed not budging on rate increase