Ace's graduation hasn't slowed defending champion Montour
Kaitlyn Kutchman isn't at Montour anymore. When it comes to the elite of WPIAL Class AAA softball, though, the Spartans still are there.
Montour rode the pitching (and hitting) of Kutchman, the 2012 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Softball Player of the Year, to a WPIAL championship last season. But Kutchman is plying her trade at Seton Hill.
Without her, the Spartans completed their regular season as the second-place team in Section 2-AAA at 9-3. The WPIAL playoff brackets will be released Thursday, and Montour is expecting a top-seven seed.
“Everybody counted us out at the beginning of the season because we lost Kaitlyn,” coach Mike Conlon said. “For us, we had to get over the Kaitlyn's-not-here thing. Our hitting and our fielding is what I stressed this year: ‘We know if we bring our A-game hitting and fielding that our pitching will come along.'
“We've pretty much just kept beating that into the kids' heads, and they started believing in it, and things started working out.”
Montour's errors are down and fielding percentage up from last season's WPIAL championship and PIAA semifinal team. The Spartans are averaging 9.8 runs, including almost 12 runs over a six-game stretch until a regular-season finale loss to one of Class AAAA's top teams, North Allegheny, on Monday.
If those outside the program believed Montour couldn't succeed without Kutchman, those within it weren't buying it.
“I did still believe we could be just as good,” senior shortstop Stacey Capp said. “We obviously have to have a stronger defense because we don't have as dominant a pitcher this year. We have to approach the game a little bit differently, but we definitely are happy with the way the season's gone.”
Capp, a Robert Morris recruit, has been one of the best hitters in the WPIAL this season, batting .571 with four home runs and 26 RBI with no strikeouts in 63 at bats.
Center fielder Alyssa McMurtrie, who will play at Point Park next season, has seven home runs.
“She's a very, very hard-nosed ballplayer,” said Conlon, who is in his first season as Montour's coach after serving as an assistant. “You kind of need one on your team all the time. She always puts the ball in play, she's fast and she's got a very good attitude. She leads by example, along with Stacey, who is cool as a cucumber. Nothing ever shakes her.”
A third Montour player who has a college softball career ahead of her is catcher Malory Gerst, who has a .411 average. Fellow junior Stephanie Seibert, the Spartans' second baseman, has four home runs.
Senior Demi Lewin also is hitting better than .500, and senior outfielder Ashley Fratto and senior first baseman Katie Gales are significant parts of the Montour offense.
Junior Olivia Dixon was, too — as well as being the Spartans' primary pitcher — until she was injured two weeks ago. That has left sophomore Rachel Donovan as the team's postseason pitcher.
“Things go wrong all the time. That's just how it is. But your ability to bounce back makes a good team,” Capp said. “And we do that all the time.
“Like always, our goals are we want to win the WPIAL and then hopefully win a state championship for our school.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.