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Penn-Trafford softball team relying on strong heart

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Penn-Trafford's infielders gather at the pitcher's mound before an inning against Latrobe during a section softball game on Friday, March 28, 2014 in Harrison City. Latrobe won 5-2.

Penn-Trafford softball coach Monica Cox wishes she could take credit for her team's heart, but she isn't going to.

The Warriors' resilience, a trait Cox said is common to all of her players, is showing up with great frequency this season. Penn-Trafford (12-2, 7-2) posted five comeback victories in its first 14 games, with three of the rallies coming in the fifth inning or later.

“I am a negative Nellie at times, and there are times that I panic inside,” Cox said. “But they don't. You can look in their eyes and think, ‘Are they going to do something here?' They just don't give up, the whole team. There's 14 of them that you can look at at any given time to come off the bench and give you something, and they will do it.

“You can't teach heart; it's either there or it isn't. And the greatest thing about this team is it's written all over them. It's not just one or two kids that have heart, it's the whole team.”

The Warriors' ability to avoid being fazed in late-game situations could prove pivotal in a section race that is coming down to the wire.

Penn-Trafford began the week tied with Norwin (9-2, 7-2) for first place in Section 1-AAAA. Hempfield and Latrobe are one game behind with 6-3 section records. The top three teams advance to the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

“(The section) has never been as competitive as it is this year,” Cox said. “I graduated from Hempfield in 1997, and we were the only team in our section ever. Then it was Hempfield and Latrobe and nobody else, and now it's the whole dang section. But I believe with these kids, if they play to their potential, they are by far the best team in this section. It's a matter of if they play that day — who shows up. But by far, these kids deserve the section title.”

Lately, Penn-Trafford is playing its best softball of the season. Through Monday, the Warriors had won seven straight games since a 7-6 loss to Hempfield on April 8.

Last week, Penn-Trafford knocked off Latrobe, 6-2, on Tuesday, as a four-run third inning erased an early 1-0 deficit. The Warriors rebounded from a slow start the next day against Connellsville to post a 12-2 victory, defeated Kiski Area, 13-1, and rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat Mt. Pleasant, 9-5.

Cox said the entire team has connected after a slow start in her first season as coach.

“It was more or less like a line drawn in the sand (between the players and me) … and now, it's just not like that,” she said. “I adore those kids. They're good kids. They want to win, and they're going to do whatever it takes to do that. It just took a minute, but we are having fun. It's not only fun to be a part of, but it's fun to watch.”

In fact, the Hempfield graduate and former Spartans assistant coach said she had thrown all of her blue-and-silver possessions away in favor of green and gold.

“That's huge for me,” she said. “I know it probably doesn't sound huge for anyone else, but if you lived in my home, you would know how huge it is. And that's all from the girls. It's because I adore them.”

The Warriors were scheduled to play Franklin Regional on Tuesday, past the deadline for this week's edition, and will close section play with pivotal games against Hempfield on Thursday and Norwin on Monday.

While she said the team thrives in its biggest games, she wasn't overlooking the game against last-place Franklin Regional, either.

“We went to extra innings with them in the first go-round in order to beat them, and it's just a matter of who shows up,” she said. “The Hempfield and Norwin games, of course those ones are huge. But I just don't want to look past Franklin Regional like they're not there because they will jump up and bite you.”

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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