Underclassmen leading the way for Penn-Trafford softball
Softball teams across the WPIAL are relying on their seniors to provide leadership, but Penn-Trafford is taking almost the opposite approach.
While the Warriors return several key pieces from the team that finished third in Section 1-AAAA and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals last season, their title hopes in 2014 rest heavily on the shoulders of a bevy of underclassmen — including four freshmen in the starting lineup.
“My freshmen are coming through, and they're shining,” first-year coach Monica Cox said. “That's huge.”
The freshmen played a pivotal role in a 3-2 nonsection win over Belle Vernon on Saturday. Cox bunched Bre Ginther, Sarah Koscho, Miranda Frye and Meghan Marasti together at the top of the lineup, and it paid off for the Warriors in the last inning.
With Penn-Trafford trailing, 2-1, heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, Koscho drove in senior Ashleigh Yanniruberto with a single to tie the score with one out. After Frye bunted Koscho to second, Marasti came through with a single that knocked in the winning run.
“You're really nervous,” Marasti said. “You're (wondering), ‘Are we going to do this?' Then you just get that confidence that we're going to win, we're going to do it.”
Cox said the underclassmen are a confident group, thanks to many years of travel softball. Frye and Marasti played together on the under-14 team from the Renegades Softball Association, which won the Triple Crown Sports Summer Nationals last summer.
“(Travel ball) just prepares you for the same type of situation,” Frye said.
Now the freshmen are trying to lead Penn-Trafford to its first section title since 1992.
“We definitely want to win the section,” Marasti said.
Penn-Trafford is trying to push to the top in a section that includes perennial contenders Latrobe and Hempfield, who won four of the past seven WPIAL Class AAAA championships. Cox, a former player and assistant coach at Hempfield, knows it will take some doing for the Warriors to reach Latrobe and Hempfield's level, but she's already seeing progress on that end.
“Those teams have had the same structure for a long time, where we're just starting that now,” she said. “The ninth-graders here (and) the 10th-graders here have really bought in, and they're ready to roll. The older girls ... they're not used to someone being so structured. But they're starting to come along. Little by little, we're starting to trust each other.”
The Warriors (3-1, 1-1) got their first taste of what it takes to compete against the top teams in the section last week, as they lost to Latrobe, 5-2. Early miscues cost Penn-Trafford, leading to three Latrobe runs in the first inning.
“They saw some stuff from the other team,” Cox said. “A girl from Latrobe, when they were up 5-0, jumps to stop a ball from going out of play that would have (otherwise) scored two runs for us. They said, ‘Look at how she jumped!' and she's up 5-0. That's guts.”
Although the underclassmen are playing a big role, the Warriors will also get contributions from returning starters like seniors Yanniruberto, Tori Lago, Cassie Szmyd and Jess Zavolta, as well as star pitcher Nicole Smith.
“(The upperclassmen) take you in as a team,” Frye said. “You really don't notice a grade-level difference. You just do your best to help everyone out.”