Quality hurlers lead Southmoreland softball team
A key to the success of any softball team is quality pitching.
Taking a quick glance at the roster of the Southmoreland softball team seems to indicate it is there in abundance.
Start off with Senior AnnaMarie Gatti — a Syracuse University recruit — who struck out 66 batters as a junior.
There's also junior Kristen Suhan, who had success on the mound last season.
Add talented freshmen Adeline Nicholson and Katie Trosi-Clark to the mix and first-year coach Todd Bunner has some vital ingredients in place for quality squad.
But there is more to this squad than pitching. It's a well-balanced roster that includes nine returning letter winners, 10 girls who have played travel ball and three who have already signed to play college softball.
Joining Gatti are Kelsey Kuhns, who has signed to play at Seton Hill, and Sara Rock, who is planning to play at Penn State-New Kensington.
“It's a huge advantage for a high school coach to have 10 girls that play travel ball,” Bunner said. “Those girls are already doing extra training. Having those girls and having that kind of training it's like having a solid team. We have a solid nine, 10 hitters on the varsity.”
Bunner takes over as head varsity coach after two years of guiding the middle school team. Wes Nicholson, who was his assistant at that level, will have the same position at the varsity this year
“We really tried to put in the girls' roots,” Bunner said. “That's what's going to be our future. We really tried to work with those girls who are freshmen and sophomores now. I'm enthusiastic about what we have now, but also what we have in years to come.”
Gatti said she's noticed a different atmosphere with the transition to a new coach.
“They told us at the beginning of the season we all have to work for our positions,” Gatti said. “No one was guaranteed a position. That drives people to get better.”
The Scotties amassed an 8-8 record in 2013, but are looking to bigger and better things this season.
“We're working hard and making progress,” Kuhns said. “I think it's going to be a promising season. We all have the capabilities. We all have the ability to have a great season and go far.”
A key to making that happen just may be the six seniors on the 23-girl roster.
“We have good seniors,” Gatti said. “I don't think we have one senior we couldn't put on the field.”
Kuhns, one of those seniors, brings a veteran presence behind the plate.
“Having a catcher like Kelsey is like having a third coach on the field,” Bunner said. “Kelsey commands the game in a way that not very many girls I've met can do. She controls the pitcher. We actually let her call the pitches. With her defense, her presence there, it's absolutely huge to have someone like that behind the plate.”
Others pegged for possible time in the starting lineup include: senior Vanessa Richards at third base, Suhan and freshman Olivia Porter at shortstop, sophomore Kylie Wisoloski and possibly Sarah Brown are in the mix at second base and Nicholson and Briana Bunner (the coach's daughter) are expected to see time at first base.
Among those who will hold down outfield spots include Bunner, Suhan, Rock and junior Tricia Bungard. Gatti, who hit .356 with nine RBIs last year will have a spot in the field somewhere when she doesn't pitch.
“Wes and I really feel we can almost take anybody on the varsity and have a replacement at (that) position,” the coach said. “That's really nice to have.”
Section 3-AAA shapes up as a tough one in the 2014 season with West Mifflin expected to lead the way, as well as teams like South Park and Elizabeth Forward.
“This isn't a section where we're not going to be able to step on the field and not be competitive,” Bunner said. “If we're not, we're going to struggle....If we achieve five runs a game with the pitching we have, we're going to win a lot of games.”
The season begins March 24 against at home against Laurel Highlands.
“I think this team will be very, very competitive,” Bunner said. “With the pitching we have, with a rotation like that we're going to be competitive playing our section games, but also every game.”
“If everybody just focuses on one pitch at a time, I think we'll have a really good season,” Kuhns added.
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.