Thomas Jefferson's Karcher named Daily News Softball Coach of the Year
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Since her childhood days, Heidi Karcher has known the demands of success.
Her dad, a semipro football player for the old Scranton Eagles, wouldn't let her miss a day of practice, advising her to always respect “The Big C” for commitment. Her uncle was a longtime high school football and basketball coach at Old Forge, where he'd had a field and gymnasium named after him.
Karcher herself, as a young girl, was interested in swimming and also began to play softball, eventually landing at Penn State, where she was part of a team heading into its first season in the Big Ten Conference.
“My love of the game came because I started at the age of 6,” Karcher said. “I realized how hard you had to work to be successful.
“If you want a successful team, you have to demand a little extra.”
That she became known at Thomas Jefferson for her demanding style of coaching quickly got the attention of Class AAA opponents who wound up as no matches for the Jaguars during their surprising turnaround that led to their first WPIAL championship and earned Karcher the Daily News' Coach of the Year honors.
TJ improved from three victories in 2013 to 16 in 2014, winning a PIAA first-round game before its season ended with a 2-1 loss to Greensburg Salem in the quarterfinals.
“It really all came together this year for Heidi and the girls,” said Thomas Jefferson athletic director Bill Cherpak, who knows a little himself about winning, having coached the school's highly successful football team to numerous WPIAL playoff appearances.
In 2013, TJ was 11-1 and reached the semifinals.
“I talked to Heidi 2-3 times a day,” Cherpak said. “We exchanged thoughts and talked about a lot of things. She works so hard, even through the summer. It's amazing.”
When Thomas Jefferson was given a 13th seed for the WPIAL playoffs, Cherpak said that Karcher wasn't happy.
“I told her, ‘Heidi, that's why we play the games,' ” Cherpak said. “ ‘Forget the seed. It's who's playing well at that point.' ”
Karcher was walk-on at Penn State, starting her freshman year as a backup catcher and eventually playing the team's final 40-plus games as its starting first baseman.
Because she had taken a dual major in chemistry and physics, Karcher couldn't devote enough time to the athletics and reluctantly dropped off the team.
“I wish I hadn't stopped playing, but I had to. I just wouldn't have been able to spend enough time with my studying if I had kept playing,” she said.
Only a about week removed from her final high school softball game of the season and Karcher already has begun her duties as coach of the Pittsburgh Stealers summer travel team.
Before taking over as coach at Thomas Jefferson, Karcher spent a year at Class AAAA Peters Township, where she led the Indians to a 15-5 record and a trip to the WPIAL semifinals.
But as a chemistry teacher at TJ, it made sense to pursue the Jaguars softball position when it became open following the retirement of longtime coach John “Hoppy” Mitruski.
“I am so thankful for the support I've gotten from Cherp,” Karcher said. “He told me the community is starting to see the softball program as a competitive sport and not something just for participation. Now the community knows these girls are legitimate and put the time in.
“Now everyone knows they can be successful.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 10 of Jon Stewart’s highlights from ‘The Daily Show’
- U.S. asks Supreme Court to reinstate convictions of portfolio managers who won on appeal
- Man wounded in Marshall-Shadeland shooting
- Facebook ready to test giant drone
- Warrant issued for man accused of killing Brookline woman
- Mon Valley school districts wait out budget impasse
- Roundup: Shell to cut jobs to cope with prolonged period of cheap oil; U.S. Corrugated building $43.5M plant in California; more
- Economy’s 2Q best since last year
- Oakmont businessman valued golf, community
- Police: Escaped Armstrong County inmate armed, dangerous homicide suspect
- Equestrian coach inspired with skill, dedication