West Mifflin's Flore thrives on softball field, basketball court
Paige Flore doesn't go out of her way to be the center of attention, but there's no doubt that, whether she's on the basketball court or the softball diamond, all eyes are on her.
It would be difficult to follow either sport at West Mifflin without paying attention to her since the ball is in her hands most of the time.
Flore, a junior and the 2013 Daily News Girls Athlete of the Year, was the point guard for the Titans' basketball team and averaged double figures in scoring for a team that qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs and won a preliminary-round game against Kittanning. She was also West Mifflin's top starting pitcher and was a key figure in helping the team end a 15-year postseason drought, win its first playoff game since 1998 and cut a swath into the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals.
She has already made a choice between the two and will pursue softball collegiately. She is already being recruited by several Division II schools, but could garner interest in Division I depending on her improvement heading into her senior season.
“I like softball better because I think that, when I play, since I'm a pitcher, I'm more in control and the game is in my hand,” Flore said. “If the game is lost, it's on me, but if I pitch well and everything works well, then I have control of the game and everyone has my back.”
West Mifflin did not have an ideal situation when softball season began. The Titans certainly had the talent to do what they did in winning a share of the Section 3 title and wins against perennial postseason participants Mt. Pleasant and Trinity, but they were fighting history in one of the toughest sections in the WPIAL to make it happen, which is what made Flore's 12 wins, including a 2-2 mark in the postseason and 82 strikeouts, all the more impressive.
“In terms of her transformation from a sophomore to a junior, she's physically stronger, but just her understanding of the game improved and she was a much better situational pitcher,” West Mifflin softball coach Casey Phillips said. “She's a student of the game, she's a technician of the game and, whenever she's not pitching, she's having bullpen sessions and really just honed her technique.”
As a far as basketball, the situation was a little more complex. West Mifflin was expected to be a playoff team and even have an outside chance of contending for a WPIAL title, but Division I prospect Ciara Patterson missed most of the season after having a baby, which forced Flore into a more prominent role.
“I think she really embraced that and really enjoyed that opportunity,” former West Mifflin girls basketball coach Rob Yeschenko said. “She got the opportunity to be successful and to lead the team this year, and she took advantage of it. It was surprising how quickly she did it because, in the early part of the season, she was averaging something like 20 points a game, but in the same way it wasn't surprising because of all the work she does in the offseason.”
Flore still has another year remaining to improve and, with so many players returning for both the softball and basketball teams, it will be interesting to see how far she can help take the teams in 2014.
“I need to get a little stronger and to stay focused and not let other little things impact my game,” Flore said. “I just have to make sure that I help put the team before everyone else and show that by being a leader.”