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Franklin Regional softball continuing to learn

| Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Doug Gulasy | Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional's Alexa Fike bats in a game against Norwin on March 28, 2014, at Norwin High School.

The growing pains associated with counting on young players are continuing for the Franklin Regional softball team, but coach Jim Armstrong is seeing some progress.

Franklin Regional dropped its fifth straight game of the season Monday, falling to Penn-Trafford, 5-4, in the conclusion of a rain-delayed game that began last week. The Panthers (0-5, 0-4 Section 1-AAAA) led, 3-1, when the game was suspended in the top of the second inning, but Penn-Trafford rallied to tie the score in the seventh inning and won the game in the ninth.

“We're starting to hit the ball better,” Armstrong said. “We're squaring it up better, hitting the ball harder.”

This spring, Franklin Regional is dealing with a familiar foe in the weather as the team attempts to improve. In addition to causing the suspension of the game against Penn-Trafford, rain and cold temperatures are keeping the Panthers from practicing outdoors on off days.

The lack of outdoor work is making it difficult for Franklin Regional, whose starting lineup relies heavily on underclassmen and inexperienced players, Armstrong said.

“We're working as hard as we can, just as everybody else is doing,” Armstrong said. “Hopefully, we can put something together. The Connellsville game (a 4-2 loss last week), we had a couple little mistakes that maybe if we had played more games we would have been able to work through those and maybe we wouldn't lose that game. It's just kind of tough.”

The Panthers are getting strong leadership from their two most experienced players, senior third baseman Alexa Fike and junior shortstop Angela Buccilli. Both players have started since they were freshmen.

Buccilli is the team's leadoff hitter and is getting on base at a high percentage of the time while playing strong defense at shortstop, Armstrong said.

Despite suffering an arm injury after being hit by a pitch in the seventh inning of a 6-1 loss to Norwin, Fike is producing in the No. 2 spot in the batting order and playing strong defense, Armstrong said.

““I would say she's probably the best shortstop in this section, by far,” Armstrong said of Buccilli. “She's singlehandedly saved us a lot of hits over there and made a lot of plays. Her and Fike have both had a lot of playing time, so that side of the field is pretty solid.

“They're always on base,” he added. “They're doing very well, and once we start clicking behind them, I think we'll get a little better.”

Junior Shannon Patberg and sophomore Jenna Bailey are manning the No. 3 and cleanup spots in the Franklin Regional lineup. Armstrong said both players were showing progress offensively, and he expects the same to be true for junior Taylor Nonnenburg as she sees more pitching.

Sophomore pitcher Cara Moskowitz is also improving with experience, Armstrong said.

Franklin Regional hosted Latrobe on Tuesday, in a game that ended past the deadline for this week's edition, and will travel to play Kiski Area on Thursday afternoon.

“They're all key weeks,” Armstrong said. “We're just trying to get better every game. That's what we have to do. We don't have the numbers, and our goal is just to get better, play as hard as we can and see what the game brings us every day.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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