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Youth takes South Fayette softball to another level

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 10:28 p.m.
South Fayette pitcher Ashley Iagnemma delivers against Montour on April 22, 2014, at South Fayette.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
South Fayette pitcher Ashley Iagnemma delivers against Montour on April 22, 2014, at South Fayette.

Ashley Iagnemma doesn't notice the group of six freshmen and sophomores making a major impact on the South Fayette softball team, but it's not that the junior pitcher doesn't care.

They simply blend in so well that sometimes it's tough to tell them apart.

“Even though we have a lot of young kids, they're really mature for their age because they have a lot of talent,” Iagnemma said. “Whenever we're on the field, everyone acts the same age. It doesn't seem like they're younger than us.”

That infusion of youth has South Fayette thinking about the program's first section title, which the Lions (10-1, 8-1 Section 3-AAA) can take a gigantic step toward obtaining with a win Thursday at Trinity (13-1, 8-1).

Iagnemma and senior left fielder Taylor Coyne are the Lions' only veteran players. Everybody else is either a freshman or sophomore.

Leading that younger group is freshman Sara Jubas, who became South Fayette's starting catcher after a season-ending knee injury to incumbent Mikayla Fetchet.

Jubas, who barely had any catching experience prior to this season, is hitting .714 and leads the team with seven doubles, three triples and 24 runs. She has a .975 fielding percentage and has thrown out two of eight runners.

Fellow freshman Gwen Iagnemma is starting at shortstop and hitting .441, while sophomore third baseman Emily Bryan leads the team with three home runs.

South Fayette was very young a season ago, too. The Lions finished 9-8, 5-7. Experienced gained from last year has helped this group, coach Vic Iagnemma said.

“We had four starting freshmen last year, and those girls all kept their starting positions at 10th graders,” Vic Iagnemma said. “It helped those girls got that experience last year as freshmen. They're obviously bigger and stronger and hitting much better.”

One reason for the increased offensive production — the Lions have scored 120 runs in 11 games, an average of 10.9 per contest — has been an aggressive approach.

According to Jubas, Iagnemma and assistants Richele Hall, Joe Silhanek and Jim Rigos urge players to swing at the first pitch in an effort to not let perfectly good strikes go by.

“I wasn't here last year, so I'm not real sure what it was like,” Jubas said. “But I know that this year we're trying to be more aggressive at the plate and not watch as many strikes go by.

“They always tell us if it's your pitch, the first pitch, make sure you're ready. We don't want any of those first pitches to go by.”

Iagnemma has had another dominant year in the pitching circle. Entering Thursday's game, she's 10-1 with a 1.92 earned-run average in 62 innings. She has 104 strikeouts against only 20 walks.

“She has tremendous velocity, and she's been working on a lot of other pitches,” Vic Iagnemma said. “Along with that velocity, she keeps the batters off-balance.”

Sophomore Bailey Kormick starts at first base and is hitting .324. Courtney Blocher is hitting .469 with two triples and 13 RBI at second.

In the outfield, sophomore Marissa France (.333) plays center field, while freshmen Eden Bower, Gianna Brady, Tea Leone and Lexi Wolfe rotate in right.

The infusion of youth clearly hasn't been a problem, and there's one fairly obvious reason for that, Jubas said.

“I guess we just don't think of each other as different grade levels,” Jubas said. “I think we just think of each other as teammates.”

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