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Several ninth-graders earn spots on Daily News' Elite 18 all-area team

| Monday, June 17, 2013, 1:06 a.m.
West Mifflin softball player Marla Small
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
West Mifflin base runner Marla Small slides safely past the tag attempt by Trinity catcher Delaney Elling to score a run in the sixth inning of their WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal-round playoff softball game Monday, May 20, 2013, at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field in California. West Mifflin defeated Trinity, 9-5.
McKeesport softball player Kasey Dansak
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Steel Valley shortstop Skyler Vinay tags out Greensburg Central Catholic baserunner Sierra Mathos at second base during their April 25, 2013 contest in Greensburg.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Clairton's Tyler Boyd celebrates after returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown for Pennsylvania against Maryland during the Big 33 Football Classic on Saturday, June 15, 2013 at Hersheypark Stadium.

It's not often that a freshman steps onto the field and immediately contributes. It's even rarer when a newbie is, perhaps, the team's best player.

There wasn't just one freshman that could make that claim this season but several who not only contributed but also led their teams into the WPIAL playoffs. Several of those rare frosh are among the players chosen for the 2013 Daily News Elite 18 All-Area Softball Team.

Samantha Andrekanic, Fr., P, Serra Catholic

Had a solid first year for the Eagles and pitched the team into the WPIAL Class A playoffs. Finished the year with seven wins as she split time in the circle but racked up 60 strikeouts against Serra Catholic's top competition. Still getting used to having the pitches called for her by the coaches, but that will come in time.

Kaylynn Andress, Sr., 2B, West Mifflin

One of the best slap-hitters in the area, the St. Francis recruit hit .418 from the No. 2 slot in the Titans' lineup. Led West Mifflin with 33 hits and eight stolen bases. Defensively helped lock up the middle of the infield. Was also an excellent bunter and helped set the table for the big hitters in the lineup.

Caitlyn Arico, So., SS, Elizabeth Forward

Was a solid infielder as well as an important cog in the Warriors lineup. Finished the season third on the team with a .371 average and a .657 slugging percentage with three homers and a team-leading 25 RBI. Of her 26 hits, 11 went for extra bases.

Jess Beitler, Jr., P, McKeesport

Improved immensely from her sophomore year, both on the rubber and at the plate, to lead the Tigers to their first Class AAAA playoff victory. Pitched all 132 innings for the team and finished 17-5 with a 1.48 ERA, 130 strikeouts and seven shutouts, including a perfect game against Penn Hills. Also hit .447 with four homers and 29 RBI, including a two-run shot in the eighth inning of the team's postseason win against Baldwin.

Maddie Cotter, Fr., P, Steel Valley

Pitched every game for the Ironmen and helped them to their first postseason victory in seven years. Won 12 games and struck out 132, averaging 8.0. Covered the plate on a botched squeeze attempt for the final out in the seventh inning of a 2-1 playoff victory against Burrell.

Kasey Dansak, Sr., C, McKeesport

Only senior starter on a team that went undefeated in section play for the first time in school history. Homered and later scored the game-tying run in the top of the seventh in the team's playoff victory against Baldwin. Hit .329 and drove in 19 runs. Allowed only one runner to steal a base.

Vanessa Falce, Fr., SS, McKeesport

Had one of the best debut seasons by a non-pitcher in the WPIAL in the last decade. Finished the year with a .513 average, 10 homers, nine doubles, five triples, 40 runs scored and 40 RBI. Twice hit two homers in a game. Struck out only twice all season. Caught in eighth grade until she had shoulder surgery and moved to short.

Paige Flore, Jr., P, West Mifflin

Was supposed to be in an alternating pitching situation but wrested the starting job away by midseason. Won 12 of the team's 17 games, including the school's first postseason victory since 1998, and struck out 82. Also came on as a hitter with a .323 average, three doubles, a triple and six RBI from the bottom of the order. Is getting Division I looks.

Haley Havrilla, Sr., C, Serra Catholic

A four-year starter for the Eagles, she helped settle a couple of young pitchers wither her veteran leadership. Ended her final season with a .475 average, five doubles and 15 RBI and helped Serra Catholic qualify for the WPIAL Class A playoffs for the second consecutive season. Will play collegiately at Carlow.

Nikki Ingel, Sr., CF, Norwin

Was a tough out at the top of the Knights' lineup. Ended the year with a team-leading .557 batting average and was able to set the table for the team's run-producers. Drove in only 10 runs, but that wasn't her strong suit. Had seven extra-base hits and played a solid center field.

Portia McBride, Sr., P, Elizabeth Forward

Pitched the Warriors to a share of the Section 4 title and a sweep of WPIAL Class AAA semifinalist West Mifflin. The 2012 Daily News Player of the Year finished 15-4 with a 1.43 ERA and struck out 147 in 137 innings. Allowed only 100 hits, and opposing batters hit just .188 against her. She will play at Mercyhurst next year.

Macy Mularsky, Fr., P, Yough

Came into a tough situation with high expectations because of the recent history of top-flight Cougars pitchers but did extremely well her first year in a difficult section. Won six games and struck out 108 for a team that was struck with several key injuries.

Virginia Roche, Sr., C, Elizabeth Forward

Was an outstanding defensive player and worked very well with senior pitcher Portia McBride. Has a solid and accurate arm. Hit only .291, but came up with key hits as she was second on the Warriors with 16 RBI.

Chelsea Rohan, Fr., C, Steel Valley

Another in an outstanding group of area freshmen, she led the Ironmen with a .521 average and drove in 17 runs to help the team qualify for the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. Played very well defensively and kept opposing baserunners at bay.

Marla Small, Sr., SS, West Mifflin

Was the most dangerous hitter in the Titans lineup. Finished with a team-leading .427 average and hit .545 with runners in scoring position. Also led the team with three homers and 29 RBI. Was an outstanding defensive presence as well. Will play collegiately at Wheeling Jesuit.

Skyler Vinay, Sr., SS, Steel Valley

Had a stellar final season for the Ironmen as she closed out her career with a .464 batting average, a homer, 16 RBI and 14 extra-base hits. Provided a stabilizing force in the middle of the infield. Drove in the only two runs in a 2-1 victory over Burrell in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs.

Maddy Wensel, So., C, Norwin

Has quickly become one of the best all-around catchers in the WPIAL. Followed an impressive freshman year by hitting .525 with four homers and 14 RBI. Of her 31 hits, 12 went for extra bases. Had a lot to juggle with a difficult Knights pitching situation.

Sydnei Zalice, Sr., 3B, West Mifflin

Was the cleanup hitter in the Titans lineup and finished with a .351 average. Ended up second on the team with two homers and 25 RBI. One of just two West Mifflin players to drive in more than 20 runs. Went 3 for 4 with a grand slam and three runs scored in a playoff victory against Mount Pleasant. Will play collegiately at Grove City.

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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