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Chartiers Valley softball team hopes strong start leads to different results

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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Jill Dunn and the Chartiers Valley softball team are off to a 5-2 start.

The luck of the Chartiers Valley softball team is taking a turn for the better.

After two seasons in which the team struggled, in part due to off-the-field setbacks, the Colts are in a battle for their first playoff berth since 2011.

“(Chartiers Valley) is known for having bad luck,” senior catcher Libby Chidlow said. “Everyone either gets hurt or sick. So far we haven't had anything too bad this year, knock on wood. The curse is gone. We are finally breaking through.”

The Colts finished last week with a 5-2 record in Section 4-AAAA — placing them a half-game behind Canon-McMillan (5-1) and one game ahead of 4-2 Baldwin, Bethel Park and Peters Township.

Chartiers Valley picked up three section wins in three days last week as it defeated Mt. Lebanon (11-2), Peters Township (4-1) and Brashear (10-4).

“We have made real strides in being better mentally prepared for games,” Chartiers Valley coach Jeff Reicoff said. “We are better at knowing what is going on. We trust ourselves at the plate to understand the strike zone.”

The Colts were locked in a 1-1 tie with Brashear before a five-run fourth inning put them ahead for good. Amanda Gross, Libby Schneider, Lauren Jennings and Chidlow recorded RBIs in the fame.

Chartiers Valley added four runs in the bottom of the sixth — including a two-run homer from freshman Miranda Griffith — and kept the Bulls at bay.

The Colts have been strong at the plate, averaging seven runs per game and hitting double digits three times.

“We are better hitters than we are fielders,” senior shortstop Brittany Kane said. “We are able to score a lot of runs. The weather has been bad with the rain and snow, so we have been in the gym a lot practicing our batting.”

The team also has relied on the arm of Madison Zimmer. The junior is in her second season as a starter and has shown maturity.

“(Zimmer) has done a whale of a job pitching,” Reicoff said. “She has made big strides from a sophomore to a junior. She has been helped with (Chidlow) calling the pitches.”

But what has made the strong start for Chartiers Valley even more impressive is the fact a majority of the team is underclassmen. With only three seniors and three juniors on the roster, the Colts are relying on three sophomores — who got experience last season when several starters missed time — and eight freshmen to play key roles.

“Our foundation is the freshmen and sophomores,” Chidlow said. “They are honestly what is putting us together. Without them, we don't have a team.”

“They look up to us for guidance, which is nice,” Kane added. “They apply what we tell them on the field. They are not the typical freshmen who goof off.”

It is this camaraderie that has the Colts feeling this year is different than the past.

“Their attitudes are better this season,” Reicoff said. “As a coach, it is exciting to see everyone huddle together and bond. Our section hinges on playing mistake-free softball. If you limit bad innings, you can be in games. Our closeness should help.”

And if the team can continue its solid play, the seniors will reach their first WPIAL postseason since their freshmen season.

“We are trying to get to the playoffs this year,” Chidlow said. “The past few years, we either didn't make the playoffs or had just one game. This year we want two or more games in the playoffs. This is the year.”

Chartiers Valley returns to the field Tuesday with a trip to Upper St. Clair. The first pitch is scheduled for 4:15 p.m.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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