South Fayette softball in the hunt for section title
The South Fayette softball team's top goal this season is to make history.
The Lions came into the year on the prowl for their first section title. Despite youth and lack of playoff experience, coach Vic Iagnemma said his team's bond has put the it in contention to do so.
“The strength of this group is how they play as a team,” the second-year coach said. “They are hitting from the top of the order to the bottom. They are fielding well. They win and lose together as a team. They have really come together.”
Entering this week, the team had an 8-1 mark in Section 2-AAA and was10-1 overall.
South Fayette's turnaround on the diamond predates this season. The Lions needed to rely on freshmen in 2013 and it showed at the start of the season started as they opened 4-6.
But over the final seven games of the season, South Fayette showed progress and finished on a 5-2 run with wins over playoff-bound Seton-La Salle and Burgettstown, as well as Section 2-AAA champion Trinity.
“We saw what we can do and now know we are good enough to beat any team out there,” junior Ashley Iagnemma said. “We can with that mindset this season. It doesn't matter what team is out there, as long as we do what we need to do, we can be successful.”
The team's success comes despite a large amount of youth. Senior outfielder Taylor Coyne and pitcher Ashley Iagnemma are the only upperclassmen on the 20-player roster.
With many of the Lions being year-round players – along with the experience the sophomores received last season – the appearance of youth is a bit deceiving.
“A lot of these girls have been playing together since they were 10 years old,” Vic Iagnemma said. “Many of the ninth graders we had last year have done a nice job of maturing into sophomores this year.”
Despite the youth, the team returned starters across the field, including first baseman Bailey Kormick, second baseman Courntey Blocher, third baseman Emily Bryan and outfielder Marissa France.
Sophomore Mikayla Fetchet-Hurt was penciled in to be the team's starting catcher but was injured a week into the season. The team turned to freshman Sara Jubas to fill the role.
“I never really caught before outside of rec ball,” Jubas said. “So there was a little pressure. It is a big challenge but a fun one to try a new position.”
Jubas has been one of the team's top batters as she has seven doubles, three triples and a home run this season to go with nine RBIs. Freshman shortstop Gwen Iagnemma has been another threat at the plate as she is batting well above .500.
The batting has been one of the strengths of this season's team. The Lions have scored in double digits runs six times this season. Last week they downed Carrick, 13-7, as Ashley Iagnemma connected on five home runs to record six RBIs and Marissa France had three hits.
South Fayette followed it up with a 19-0 shellacking of Carrick as Ashley Iagnemma and Courtney Blocher connected on home runs and Sara Jubas scored three runs.
“This year we have more consistent base hits,” France said. “We are more focused on doing what we need to do to score runs. We are doing whatever we need to do to get RBIs.”
The batting combined with Ashley Iagnemma's dominant pitching have been a lethal combination. A three-year starter, she already struck out more than 85 batters with five games left in the season.
The junior recorded more than 200 strikeouts in her first two seasons,
“She has been working hard,” Vic Iagnemma said. “She focuses on each pitch and each batter. She has dominated in some very key games.”
South Fayette will need the strong presence on the mound when it jumps into the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs. The Lions have qualified for only four postseasons over the last decade – the most recent in 2012 – with each trip ending in a first-round loss.
South Fayette will end its section slate with a trip to Trinity today, Thursday, and a home game against West Allegheny on Monday. The three teams have already clinched WPIAL playoff berths for Section 2-AAA. A win over the Hillers will at least clinch a share of the section title for South Fayette. The late-season section games should give the Lions a taste of the playoff atmosphere before the postseason gets underway.
“It makes it very exciting,” Vic Iagnemma said. “It makes it exciting for them and it makes it exciting for us. West Allegheny and Trinity are excellent teams. I like going into the playoffs coming off of big games like that opposed to maybe against a weaker team.”
The first pitch between South Fayette and Trinity is scheduled for 4 p.m. at South Strabane Field.