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Sophomore catcher to anchor Baldwin's offense, defense

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
randy jarosz | for the south hills record
Among the many key returning players on the Baldwin softball team in 2014 are, from left, Mallory O'Brien, a sophomore outfielder; and Ashley Brady, a sophomore infielder.
randy jarosz | for the south hills record
Baldwin shortstop Ashley Brady

Kayla Eberst led the Baldwin softball team in several offensive categories last season — as a freshman catcher.

Eberst led the squad in batting average (.471), slugging percentage (.971), at-bats (70), hits (33), runs scored (22), home runs (5), triples (7) and RBI (18). She tied for the team lead with six doubles, and struck out only five times all season.

As the Lady Highlanders' starting catcher, Eberst, who is considered a Division I prospect, also contributed signficantly defensively.

She helped spur the Lady Highlanders to a WPIAL Class AAAA playoff berth in 2013. Baldwin dropped an 11-10 decision to McKeesport in the first round to end up with an 11-9 overall record.

Head coach Samantha “Sam” Kuharic is optimistic that with all the young talent back from last year, Baldwin will be a strong WPIAL playoff contender in 2014.

“Our team will compete every game and put ourselves in contention for a playoff spot,” Kuharic said.

Eberst is one of eight returning starters for this year's club, including the sophomore pitching tandem of Jaimie Schleicher and Ana Hale, who also played outfield positions a year ago.

The Lady Highlanders' five other returning starters are seniors Melissa Paterni (first base) and Breanna Meyer (right field), and sophomores Ashley Brady (shortstop), Charlotte Nieman (third base) and Mallory O'Brien (center field).

O'Brien finished with a .448 batting average, scored 18 runs, and led the team in stolen bases (8) and sacrifices (5) in 2013.

Schleicher hit .397 with a .662 slugging percentage last season. She clouted four home runs, scored 19 runs and had 16 RBIs.

Hale batted .333 and had a .404 slugging percentage, while Nieman finished with a .317 batting average and .383 slugging percentage.

Brady, who played second base as a freshman, hit .254, scored 14 runs, and was not caught once in seven base-stealing attempts last year.

There are nine sophomores on Baldwin's varsity roster; many of them played together on youth and travel teams before starting their high school careers.

Others to watch include juniors Alexa Vona (IF), Katie Higgins (OF) and Jordan Bogaski (OF); as well as sophomores Barb Spegar (IN), Maddie Becker (IF) and Emma Ranft (C).

Leading freshmen prospects this year include infielders Alexis Palermo and Samantha Whampler, and outfielders Katie Knezevich and Mariah Pacella.

The Lady Highlanders won three of their final four regular-season games to clinch third place in Section 4-AAAA last season.

The top four teams in the section were Canon-McMillan, Peters Township, Baldwin and Bethel Park.

Trib Total Media contributed to this story. Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or rfisher@tribweb.com.

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