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West Mifflin ace Flore named Daily News player of year

| Friday, June 13, 2014, 1:31 a.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
West Mifflin's Paige Flore (left, with teammate Crystal Cook after a victory over Southmoreland last month) led the WPIAL in victories (16) and strikeouts (167) this season.

It was a season to cherish for Paige Flore, the hard-throwing softball pitcher at West Mifflin.

She led the WPIAL in victories with a 16-3 record and strikeouts (167) to go with a miniscule 0.81 ERA, earning her the Daily News Player of the Year.

“I started throwing a softball when I was 8 with the same pitching coach I'm with now,” Flore said, referring to former Baldwin assistant Bob Gneus. “I got sick of it and took a year off. But when I was 10, I found out that's what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted the ball in my hand because I could control the game.”

She did just that almost every time out.

Last weekend, Flore pitched six hitless innings for the Westmoreland County-based travel team Cyclones in a tournament game before being relieved. She struck out the final 12 batters she faced and finished with a total of 15.

“I never pitched a no-hitter before,” she said.

In the WPIAL quarterfinals, despite trailing 1-0, Flore held Mars hitless until the seventh before giving up her only hit in a season-ending loss.

Though the high school season is complete, the right-hander who will attend Division II Slippery Rock continues to work at her craft.

In addition to playing travel ball on weekends, she lifts weights and runs three times a week and throws an hour a day for two days, most often either to Gneus or her dad.

While there is no WPIAL championship to relish, no shot at a state title, two of Flore's 16 victories were against surprise WPIAL champion Thomas Jefferson, which eventually was eliminated in the PIAA quarterfinals.

Flore and West Mifflin, which won the Section 3-AAA regular-season championship, enjoyed no such luck.

“She took the loss to Mars hard, like everybody did,” sixth-year coach Casey Phillips said.

Flore was victimized by a lack of run-support. The Titans managed just three hits against Mars' Niki Schlegl and were shut out for the first time in 44 games.

But West Mifflin has improved on its past three seasons, going 17-3 in 2014, 17-6 in 2013 and 8-11 in 2012 after a 3-11 mark in Flore's freshman year in 2011.

“Paige really established an identity for our program,” Phillips said. “Her record the last two years is 30-8. She's kind of become synonymous with what we're all about. I'm really proud of her. As good as she is, I believe her best days are ahead of her.”

Flore, who chose to continue playing softball at Slippery Rock over another offer from Division II West Liberty, uses a variety of pitches.

Her five offerings are a fastball, curveball, changeup, riser and screwball.

Flore also was a starter on West Mifflin's basketball team, which advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and qualified for the PIAA playoffs.

But her first love in sports is softball.

“Even during basketball season, she was pitching several days a week and working on her (softball) game,” Phillips said. “She's always had aspirations of playing softball in college. We knew from the time she was a freshman that she was going to be something special.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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