Plum grad Cliber happy to remain part of softball program as assistant coach
Kaitlin Cliber graduated in 2012 after a multiyear career as a member of the Plum varsity softball team.
She finished her career as a starter and knocked in eight runs last year to help the Mustangs reach the WPIAL playoffs.
Cliber still is with the program this spring, but she is seeing things from a different perspective as an assistant coach for the junior varsity and varsity squads.
She said it's a great opportunity to keep helping the program she loves succeed.
“These girls my friends and former teammates, I've seen them evolve and do so much more,” Cliber said.
“The new girls are doing a great job. It's amazing to see how far they've come and how much they've improved. It's a great bond and relationship. It's great to work with them and see them grow.”
The Plum varsity team has clinched a WPIAL Quad-A playoff spot, and the Mustangs were 11-4 after Monday's 4-2 win over Valley at Plum High School.
The Mustangs also were 9-2 heading into Tuesday's Section 2 finale at Gateway.
The game with the Gators was to be played past the deadline for this week's edition.
Plum has four nonsection games remaining in the regular season — starting with Friday's home contest with Shaler — before the playoffs begin on May 13.
The Mustangs suffered an 11-5 loss to McKeesport on Saturday, as the Tigers wrapped up the section title.
“There is a lot still to play for,” Cliber said.
Cliber said it has been a little weird at times being on the other side as a coach. But she sees this as an extension of her time as a player by encouraging the players during a game and helping them in games and practices.
“As a player, I never fully realized what a coach goes through, from putting a lineup together to keeping the players' spirits up if something does go their way,” she said. “It makes me know I want to continue to coach.
“I still understand the tension that can be created with rival teams. I know how much they wanted (Saturday's McKeesport) game.”
Cliber said the first game on the new high school field was a little emotional.
“I wanted so badly to be on the field with them,” she said.
“When I talked to the coaches after the alumni game (in August), they gave me the opportunity to come back and coach. I immediately wanted to do this. The new field was great motivation for the players this season.”
The Mustangs were looking to avenge a 5-1 loss to McKeesport at Plum High School, as a grand slam turned out to be the difference in the April 13 contest.
On Saturday, Plum jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second inning, but McKeesport collected 14 hits, including six for extra bases, and rallied for an 11-5 win.
“The girls played hard the whole way through, and that's all you can ask for,” Plum head coach Jim McGrath said.
“McKeesport is a good hitting team, but we hit (pitcher) Jess (Beitler) pretty good, too.”
Plum finished with 11 hits. Senior Amy Flynn and junior Melissa LeClair each had three hits.
LeClair doubled in a run in the sixth, while junior Ashley Oravetz knocked in two runs with a single in the second.
McKeesport freshman Vanessa Falce hit two home runs and finished with four RBI. She hit a three-run shot as part of the Tigers' sixth-run third inning.
“In the first game against McKeesport, we kind of shut down after the grand slam,” McGrath said.
“This game, we kept playing. I told the girls we have to keep fighting in games, no matter the situation. You see in college games all the time, a team will get behind, but it will keep fighting, and good things will happen.
“We have a lot of fight left in us. The playoffs are in front of us, and it's exciting to think how we can do.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.