Share This Page

WPIAL's winningest softball coach taking tough approach this season at Sto-Rox

| Thursday, April 5, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Sto-Rox coach Bill Palermo talks with Natalaya Smarra during the Lady Vikings' practice Tuesday April 3. 2012. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Something was wrong with one of the WPIAL's proudest softball programs.

In the wake of his team losing its final four games last season — punctuated meekly by an upset loss as the No. 2 seed in the opening round of the playoffs — Sto-Rox coach Bill Palermo called a meeting with his players and their parents. He knew where the problem lay.

“It was me,” said Palermo, the winningest coach in WPIAL history.

So the highlight of the meeting became an ultimatum. Palermo, who turns 64 next month and carries the energy of a man half his age, was going back to his old ways.

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

“I wasn't as tough on them as I was in past years. With my Sto-Rox kids, I have to be a little tougher,” said Palermo, who has a 560-130 career record.

“I told the parents and kids, ‘I want your full support. I don't want excuses. I'm winding up my career. So if I'm coming back next year, you're going to be in my corner.' ”

There was no argument.

And now, the Palermo who relies on negative reinforcement as much as pats on the back, the one who demands to see slides on the base paths and diving grabs in the field, who seethes to watch a player strike out looking, that guy is back.

“He's made me cry before with some things he's said,” junior outfielder Hayley Weisser said. “But nothing prepared us for this year. He came back 10 times harder.”

It's not all fire and brimstone, of course. Palermo has lifted his ban on in-game chanting from the dugout, and the players have adopted a nickname for the coach — “Pappy.”

“As long as you're saying it with the right tone,” Palermo said.

Still, a more intense edge remains the backdrop to the Class A No. 2 Vikings' 5-0 start this season — a record that, in truth, means little in perspective to a program that defines itself by championships.

Sto-Rox has a record 10 WPIAL titles, though the last came in 2006. There's a growing feeling, however, that this year's group might be ready to return to that level.

“(Palermo) is putting the pressure on in practice, so we're prepared when we hit the WPIAL and state playoffs,” Weisser said. “Last year, there was pressure, and we just couldn't take it.”

The talent, if anything, is certainly in place for a championship run. Weisser is batting near .500, and sophomore catcher Mary Cersosimo emerged as a potent bat last season by hitting .390 with 19 RBI.

But it's senior No. 1 pitcher Natalya Smarra, a .585 hitter a year ago, who's the unquestioned leader. And as much as her coach, she helps set the tone for the refocused Vikings.

“I'm one that refuses to lose, can't stand losing, just like (Palermo),” Smarra said. “It's going to be great, but if we play like we did the past three years, we're going come out the losing team like we have.”

Dan Stefano is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dstefano@tribweb.com or 412-380-5697.

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.