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Penn-Trafford softball rounding into form

| Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Penn-Trafford's Ashleigh Yanniruberto throws to first during a section softball game against Latrobe on Friday, March 28, 2014 in Harrison City. Latrobe won 5-2.

After suffering a 7-6 loss to Hempfield a week ago, the Penn-Trafford softball team sat at 3-2, good for fourth place in Section 1-AAAA, and feared the worst.

“They were all saying, ‘I don't know if we can make playoffs. I don't know if we can be in the section,'” Penn-Trafford coach Monica Cox said. “I said, ‘Do you understand how tight the section is? It's like boom, boom, boom.'”

A 12-2 win over then first-place Norwin on Thursday changed that attitude as fast as senior captain Ashleigh Yanniruberto's third-inning grand slam cleared the outfield fence.

“The clock got turned. It's a big 180 now,” fellow captain Cassie Szmyd said. “We wanted to focus on the win. We knew we had to hit the ball, and if you hit the ball, you win games.”

It's been a year filled with growing pains, but the Warriors (6-2, 4-2) are right in the thick of the section race, now trailing Latrobe (6-1, 4-1) and Norwin (5-1, 4-1) by just half a game.

In her first year as coach, Cox has already seen a lot of change in her players.

“They were not this sharp at the beginning of the year, and they have worked so hard,” she said. “It's not easy having me coming in and building a structure and making changes, and they have bought in and worked.”

The biggest improvement in the team has been the leadership of the captains and the rest of the seniors, Cox said. As the upperclassmen have taken the freshmen and sophomores under their wing, communication and trust among the players has been solidified.

“At the beginning of the year it wasn't the best, and I could have had something to do with that, coming in and not understanding how they operate,” Cox said. “Then you start listening to the seniors and what they're saying to you, and it just starts going.”

As the team community has progressed, so has the hitting. Penn-Trafford has scored 34 runs over its last four games, as opposed to 15 in its first four.

Szmyd doesn't think it's a coincidence.

“We've been up on the bench and banging on the fence cheering, and I think that helps,” she said. “It helps the batter and distracts the pitcher even.”

The seniors' leadership has extended to the field as well, specifically the batter's box. Senior catcher Jessica Zavolta also homered against Norwin, and Szmyd went 4-for-5 with three runs batted in.

“They've done everything I've asked them to do, and I can't ask for anything better,” Cox said. “They've bought in. They're on board and we're sailing.”

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at

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