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Sto-Rox looking for a little edge as postseason approaches

| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 11:21 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Sto-Rox's Josie Buckley hits a three-run home run against North Catholic during a game on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, in Kennedy.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Sto-Rox pitcher Aimee Miller delivers against North Catholic during a game on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, in Kennedy.

Longtime Sto-Rox softball coach Bill Palermo likes the 2013 edition of his team.

“Just truly a great, great group of kids,” Palermo said.

Perhaps, the Vikings are beginning to think, just a tad bit too great.

With a 12-0 victory overSection 1-A rival Sewickley Academy on Tuesday, Sto-Rox cinched a playoff spot for the 29th consecutive season.

The Vikings improved to 11-3 overall and 10-2 in Section 1-A with an 8-3 win over Bishop Canevin on Wednesday.

But for a team that went undefeated until losing in the WPIAL semifinals last season, it's the Vikings' two defeats in their past 13 games — both to section rival Burgettstown — that irk Palermo more than all the winning pleases him.

And the 35th-year coach has a theory as to why.

“Sometimes I need a couple bad kids in there who aren't afraid of anything and who will say, ‘You're going to do it or I'm going to punch you,' ” Palermo said.

“But now, these kids are all good kids. We don't have anybody who would do that.”

The quality of the character of Sto-Rox's players partially is displayed by the fact that three of the top five students in the senior class, as judged by grade-point average, are on the team.

Palermo is proud of the fact that, according to him, 85 percent of girls who go through the softball program go to college.

While being “too nice” might sound like a hackneyed theory to some, none other than the Sto-Rox projected valedictorian is buying in.

“We need more of that Sto-Rox grit,” Vikings center fielder Haylee Weisser said. “We have the talent, but sometimes the inconsistency comes out. I don't know what it is, but one of us needs to step up and become the leader and make sure we play (all out).”

Second baseman Josie Buckley (third) and left fielder Rachel Gerster (fifth) are other regulars who rank high in the senior graduating class. Buckley, who hit three home runs during a doubleheader last week, has a batting average of better than .500.

Weisser, who bats No. 2, and juniors Mary Cersosimo and Aimee Miller also were at .500 or better entering the week.

Cersosimo, a catcher, led the WPIAL in average at an astounding .844 (38 for 45) heading into the week.

In addition to being Sto-Rox's cleanup hitter, Miller is one of the top pitchers in WPIAL Class A despite being relatively new to the position.

“She hasn't thrown a lot of pitches in her life,” Palermo said, “but there is nobody throwing better in the WPIAL for the amount of pitches she's had in games and the amount of experience she has.”

Senior Anja Weisser — Haylee's cousin and another honor roll student — plays first base and bats seventh in the Vikings' typical lineup.

Another experienced senior, third baseman Sam Schmidt, is a middle-of-the-order presence who has an average of better than .400.

Among underclassmen standouts, sophomore shortstop Lexi Giles fulfills her role as leadoff hitter by displaying on-base prowess.

“Our batting lineup is pretty tough,” Palermo said. “You're not going to go into Class A and see a lineup any better.”

“Definitely,” Haylee Weisser said, “we have a lot of power hitters and a lot of speed from top to bottom.”

Good students and quality people, too. The Vikings only hope there's enough edge this year to win their 11th WPIAL championship under Palermo.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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