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Baby steps for Butler softball program

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 6:54 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Butler pitcher Emily McDonald celebrates an out with Kaitlin Barnett during their game against Seneca Valley Thursday, April10, 2014, in Jackson.

Even though Butler's softball team did not achieve its goal of reaching the playoffs, first-year head coach Shauna Troup was encouraged by the squad's progress.

The Golden Tornado finished 7-8 overall and 5-7 in a rugged WPIAL Section 3-AAAA. The team was fourth behind powers Seneca Valley, Shaler and North Allegheny. Only the top three teams advanced to the postseason.

“Finishing 7-8 isn't a terrible thing. We're on the verge of turning that over. It just takes a little bit of time to get the girls comfortable and teach them how to win,” Troup said. “It's a process, but we've kept the same routines as the last two years and I think that helps. I am very proud of how far they've come.”

Butler has not reached the softball playoffs since 2009.

“I really want that experience for the girls. It's a little more challenging to get there when they haven't been there before,” Troup said. “It takes a lot of hard work. I think we're close. It's just turning that page. There was not a lot of stability here before and the team got lost in that. Finding our way out of that hole is challenging. I think we'll do very well next year, though.”

Returning all but two starters helps fuel the optimism. Center fielder Hope Wonderling, a first-team all-section pick, and left fielder Madi Graham graduate.

“Hope made some fantastic plays for us. She stole quite a few balls from NA in that game. She played some games at third for us, too, and did a great job. She has a good arm,” Troup said. “Madi really improved, too. She hit fifth for us. Last year, she was at the bottom of the order. I felt she stepped it up. She was lot more focused. I was happy with how she hit this year.”

Rachel Rebmann, a junior first baseman, returns. She closed the season with five home runs in her last four games.

“She had 26 RBIs and hit over .400. The five home runs were the most in her career. Those are good numbers,” Troup said. “A lot of the teams in our section have a good handful of girls hitting over .400. We just need a couple more of those.”

Freshman right fielder Hanna Hayes returned from an injury to provide a spark in the team's final eight games.

“She has been a pleasant surprise for us,” Troup said. “She is really quick. Hitting-wise, she really stepped up and hit second for us. She did very well at the plate.”

Sophomore Noel Pfabe made a positive transition to shortstop this season.

“There were numerous times she had multiple hits in games. She was putting the bat on the ball for us,” Troup said. “She has stepped it up at shortstop.”

Junior pitcher Emily McDonald is back next year, too.

“We're in a good section with good hitters. They are going to hit our pitchers. Emily will throw strikes and they will hit the ball and that's what I've asked her to do. She is a junkball pitcher and she will throw balls with movement,” Troup said. “We have to play solid defense and hit the ball. We have to outhit teams we're playing. I know she has expressed wanting to do work this summer. Most of them are playing summer ball. We are looking to get in a fall league, too. The more games they get together the more comfortable they'll be.”

Overall, Troup is happy with the steps her team took.

“I really have seen a lot of positives. We had games against North Allegheny and Shaler decided by a run. We played Shaler and had no errors and played a perfect game. We did everything right, except we lost by one,” she said. “A couple years ago, if we got in close situations with two outs, we'd fall apart and give teams a bad inning and you didn't know how many runs they would score. I saw very little of that type of bad reaction this year. They tended to pick up each other up.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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