Pine-Richland softball duo makes senior year count
Everybody wants to win. Every athlete who steps onto the field has aspirations of playoffs and championships.
For the Pine-Richland softball team, it had been seven seasons since a postseason berth was earned.
However this season was different, and the success started with a pair of players at the heart of the lineup.
Catcher Alyssa Clark and second baseman Stephanie Zentz have trudged through difficult seasons, so when the Lady Rams clinched a spot in the WPIAL playoffs this season, the seniors were glad to break through.
True to this Pine-Richland's form this season, the opening-round playoff game was tied in the bottom of the seventh inning. It took a bases-loaded grand slam to eliminate Pine-Richland from the playoffs. Nonetheless, the season was a successful one for the Lady Rams.
“It was good,” Clark said. “All the girls wanted to win, and we came together to make the playoffs.
“Coming together was the key. We knew we had to beat teams like Shaler and Seneca Valley, and we did.”
Clark stepped up as a leader on and off the field. She garnered the respect of her teammates as they followed her. She also gained the recognition of the opposition: Only two runners tried to steal on her all season. A successful steal came from Fox Chapel, and the other, against Seneca Valley, got caught.
“I was surprised — I actually expected more opportunities.”
For her efforts, Clark earned a place on the Virginia Tech softball team.
“I visited Virginia Tech because my parents went there, so I was there a lot,” Clark said. “I went to some camps there, and I met the coach and the team is just amazing and so much fun. I loved her personality, and I am so excited. They just have the perfect team.”
Clark said majoring in biology and eventually going to veterinarian school are her plans, but she will miss her time at Pine-Richland.
“Nothing got by her,” Pine-Richland coach Patty White said. “She worked on that. She has a strong arm and could hit a double or a home run every time.”
Like Clark, Zentz was a big reason the Lady Rams were so good this season. She will play at Marietta College and said the coach there reminded her of White.
“Academics are important to me, and they put softball and academics on the same level as I do,” Zentz said. “I will study petroleum engineering, because my dad is a big influence. I will go into the family business.”
Zentz said the success of the season boiled down to the team's selflessness.
“I have always been mentally strong, so I go 110 percent,” Zentz said. “We worked a lot after practice and sometimes did things early in the morning before school.”
Zentz said the success is special, because she and the team had so much fun doing it.
“We are all friends,” she said. “I really thought we could pull that playoff game out. We had two strikes and two outs, and she just hit it over the fence. But if we had to go out, that was the perfect way; it was nobody's fault.”
White said Zentz is an intense player and a hard worker but kind when it comes to motivating the other players.
“She is a sweetheart and just pumps the kids up and keeps them focused,” White said. “She is so unselfish. She will give up her body, get dirty and will lay down a bunt if it helps the team.”
Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.