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Butler softball coach wants to restore winning attitude

| Saturday, April 12, 2014, 6:18 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Butler pitcher Emily McDonald celebrates an out with Kaitlin Barnett during their game against Seneca Valley Thursday, April10, 2014, in Jackson.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Butler outfielder Madi Graham makes a running catch at the outfield fence during a game against Seneca Valley Thursday, April10, 2014, in Jackson.

Butler's girls softball team has a new head coach and a new attitude.

Shauna Troup took over the program this season. She served as an assistant coach the past two years.

“My girls are very respectful of me. I think they were really pulling for me to get the job,” Troup said. “They already know me, and they are comfortable with me. I was running open gyms prior to the position being filled. No matter who is coaching, the focus is always on them because they are the ones on the field.

“We really just focused them. It's nice not having to change much of the game plan. We've been able to focus on details. If there was an entirely new coach, they'd be starting from scratch.”

Troup, who graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2011 as one of the softball program's top pitchers, is pleased with Butler's team-first attitude.

“This is a very selfless group. They are very we-centered. The last couple of games, I have seen a lot of heart. They really want to have each other's backs,” she said. “They work well together. There is not a lot of bickering or drama. These girls want to play and want to get better. I think that's a huge strength. That's our No. 1 strength.”

The Golden Tornado's approach includes a willingness to learn and adjust.

“The girls are receptive; they listen and try to make changes and adapt to pitchers,” Troup said. “That's a huge thing when you have girls who are willing to change and learn from the help of coaches and who just want to learn all the time.”

Junior Emily McDonald returns as the team's primary pitcher. She has plenty of experience through her three years.

“She has been who we have relied on the last two seasons as well,” Troup said. “She is our main starter.”

Alexis Schmeider, a sophomore, could see some time in the pitching circle as well. Sophomore Jen Miller, who led the team in batting average last year, returns at catcher. The team has a young infield with Rachel Rebmann (junior) at first, Kaitlin Barnett (junior) at second, Noel Pfabe (sophomore) at shortstop and Anna Heade (sophomore) at third.

Senior Madi Graham is in left field, senior Hope Wonderling is in center and junior Amanda Webb is in right. Junior Rhiannon Kosar, who can play all over the field, hopes to return from a concussion.

“We have a good group of girls. A lot of them put time in playing summer ball and in the fall and winter,” Troup said. “The more ball you play, the better you get at it. I think just getting more games in has increased their ability.”

Poor weather limited the team's ability to get outside at the start of the season. Butler practiced outside on its field just once before playing its first game.

“Right now, our biggest weakness is hitting. Some nights, we can't string hits together,” Troup said. “We just need to find consistency at the plate. Some girls are just a little off.”

The Golden Tornado finished 9-11 overall and 4-8 in WPIAL Section 3-AAA play last year. The team opened this season with a 9-2 loss to North Allegheny, but followed it with an 11-5 win over Pine-Richland.

Butler dropped its next two games (1-0 at Shaler and 6-4 at North Hills), but defeated Fox Chapel (10-1). Each game is key in the formidable section. Only the section's top three teams qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.

“It's a very hard section. At any moment, if you let up, teams could turn around so quickly. The hitting is phenomenal. The competition is fierce. It makes a huge difference; if you make an error, if you blink first, sometimes, that costs a whole game,” Troup said. “You have to play hard every single game because you don't know how it's going to play out.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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