Postseason experience key for Deer Lakes softball
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Its three-year run of success not quite ready to be over and a number of graduation losses notwithstanding, Deer Lakes still is the A-K Valley's softball team to beat.
The Lancers, who start the season ranked No. 1 in the Trib Total Media Class AA rankings, are 51-8 the past three seasons and have made reaching the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals a habit. They won the WPIAL championship in 2012.
The thing is, the team won with several underclassmen in the lineup, and many of them are back, including power-hitting first baseman Sierra Sarver, now a senior, and rising junior pitcher Tiffany Edwards, who has just two losses in her career.
“We're a work in progress,” said Lancers coach Craig Taliani, whose team is scheduled to open the season Friday at Fox Chapel. “We have to fill in some blanks, but I don't see a lot of intimidation. Postseason experience is a good thing; I think the freshmen have picked up on that.”
Gone are standouts Becca Babincak (Point Park) and two-time Valley News Dispatch Player of the Year Hannah Blinn (Allegheny), and dependable starters Leanne Crawford and Courtney Lubick.
But a quietly strong nucleus returns, led by Sarver and Edwards.
Sarver, who has committed to Division II Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., hit .421 as a sophomore, delivering the game-winning hit in the WPIAL final. Last year, she drove in 25.
She is the team's only senior but does not feel added pressure to be a vocal leader.
“I like pressure,” she said. “I've kind of taken traits from (the past seniors) and am applying them this year.”
Edwards went 19-2 last season with 133 strikeouts — she is 27-2 in her career — but also should be one of the area's top hitters.
“I feel obligated to be a leader, too,” Edwards said. “We lost some players but our attitude hasn't changed. I think we can be better than last year.”
Also back are junior second baseman Katie Gozzard, who will move to short, sophomore Sarah Blinn, who will move to catcher, and sophomore outfielders Rachel Tanilli and Maureen Hutchinson, among others.
Other storylines to watch this spring:
• Burrell could put pressure on Deer Lakes in Section 3-AA. Leading hitter and pitcher Claire Fisher is gone (Penn State New Kensington), but the Bucs return catcher Jaila Manga and will turn to junior Krista York to pitch.
• Freeport hit 22 home runs last season and will continue to swing for the fences with the return of junior Karlie Hill (.426, 6 HR, 23 RBIs) and senior Alexis Roenigk (20 runs, 4 HR). But pitching will be a question mark with the loss of Alyssa Meta. Junior Jessica Kelley will replace Meta. She was 3-2 last year in six appearances.
• Can Leechburg reload, like it does seemingly every year, with the graduation loss of standout pitcher Kenzie Young? Young was a dual-threat as a hurler and a hitter. She struck out 136 batters and had a 1.67 ERA, but also sported a .500 average. Rising junior shortstop Miranda Reesman is one to watch for the Class A Blue Devils, who will be playing for their 28th straight WPIAL playoff appearance.
• Plum's Jordan Seneca is one of the top shortstops in the state, but will the senior be able to fully recover from a broken right wrist she suffered during basketball season?
A St. Francis (Pa.) recruit, Seneca hit .564 with five home runs, 10 doubles, four triples and 24 RBIs last season. She also scored 35 runs.
Plum could push for the Section 2-AAAA title after finishing second last year.
• Highlands begins a new coaching era after the departure of longtime coach Mike Zendarski, who resigned after 18 years.
Former Springdale coach Jen Koprivnikar replaces Zendarski, who led Highlands to three straight playoff appearances and a near-upset of No. 1 seed and eventual WPIAL champion Greensburg Salem in the first round last season. No. 16 Highlands rallied but lost 6-5.
Highlands has to replace a talented multi-threat player in Gabby Miller, a pitcher who batted .581 with six home runs and 29 RBIs.
• Springdale will look to build off the momentum of breaking a 35-game losing streak. The Dynamos hadn't won since 2010 when they pounded Ellis School, 20-4. Springdale only won three games last year, but scored 20 or more runs in each of them.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- BVA honors seniors in rout
- Surging Burrell softball locks up playoff spot
- As weather warms, Burrell softball team thrives
- Jeannette girls in 4th place this week
- Plum softball getting coach McGrath back after heart attack scare
- Leechburg softball wins, ties WPIAL record with 29th straight playoff berth
- Monessen makes softball playoffs for first time