Greensburg Salem returns 7 starters from championship team

| Thursday, March 27, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Last season, the Greensburg Salem softball team toppled opponent after opponent on its way to a 22-3 record and a WPIAL Class AAA championship.

This season, with a roster boasting seven returning starters, the Golden Lions have their sights set on defending that title.

However, repeating last year's success may prove to be a tough mission, considering the contributions that were lost with last year's graduating seniors.

They will have to do without solid-hitting catcher Taylor Mehan, as well as staff ace Jayne Oberdorf. Oberdorf, now a freshman at Marist College, threw 15 shutouts and was named Tribune-Review softball player of the year for the second consecutive season.

In order to climb their way to back to the top of Class AAA this season, coach Jody Morgan knows her team will have to execute in different facets to compensate for the graduation of their shutdown pitcher.

“When you lose a Division I pitcher and a great catcher, well, I think that it could be a lot more difficult this time around,” Morgan said. “Our hitting and defense will be key this season; we have to excel in those areas.”

Greensburg Salem looks to be loaded with offensive talent. The Lions offensive attack will be led by junior shortstop Claire Oberdorf, Jayne's younger sister.

“Claire Oberdorf, to me, is the best player in the WPIAL. She has an uncanny ability to hit any kind of pitch that is thrown at her,” Morgan said.

Morgan's confidence in her all-section shortstop is certainly not unfounded. Last season, the younger Oberdorf batted .463 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs. After posting such statistics as a sophomore, Oberdorf prefers to keep her expectations simple for her junior season.

“My goals this year are just to do what's best for the team,” Oberdorf said. “I just want to play and do what needs to be done to win.”

Also returning from last year's squad are seniors Karly Mellinger and Kellie Hutchinson. Mellinger, an all-section performer last season, led the team with a .513 batting average. She will bat second and roam the outfield for the Lions. Hutchinson, a four-year starter, will follow Mellinger in the order. On defense, Hutchinson will play a key role as the team's second basemen, restoring last season's double-play combination with Oberdorf.

Despite the graduation of major contributors from last year's team, Morgan is confident this season's team is experienced and skilled enough to be a force in Class AAA once again.

“The girls that we lost last season can't be replaced,” Morgan said. “But we have a great group of girls this season, and I think that we can be just as successful.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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