TribLIVE

| Sports


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Ambridge softball again has title-contending potential after two runner-up finishes

TribLIVE Sports Videos

Top high school sports
Thursday, April 12, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
 

Losing the past two WPIAL Class AAA championship games doesn't change the prevailing opinion that the Ambridge softball team is one of the area's standard bearers, and it doesn't do much to alter the perception that the Bridgers yearly are a threat to win it all.

It does, on the other hand, stoke the program's already competitive fires.

“It's good to be able to say you were in those games, but it stinks that you lost,” senior shortstop Nikee George said. “This year, I feel like it's our year, and I feel like we're going to be there again.”

The vast majority of their section slate remains, along with plenty more hurdles, but the No. 1-ranked Bridgers are thriving with a young lineup and are tied for the most wins in their class (8-1, 2-0 in Section 1). That mark includes a season-opening triumph over tough Chartiers Valley and a commanding 7-2 victory over preseason contender and nonsection rival Montour.

It's not with disbelief that the Bridgers are viewing their fast start. The pleasant surprise, instead, is that they've been able to so quickly move past the graduation of six starters — including all-state honorable mention pitcher Kayla Haslett.

“A lot of us didn't play that much last year, so this year we've stepped it up a lot,” junior infielder Hannah Krokonko said. “We've shocked a lot of people, including ourselves. We had confidence, but I think we're surprised at how good we've actually gotten.”

George, joined by Allison Slinger as Ambridge's only seniors, provides a big chunk of leadership — and offense. A year after driving in 25 runs and scoring 20, she's batting .385 and showing a flair for the dramatic, blasting a two-run walk-off home run April 5 against New Castle.

“Nikee puts a lot of pressure on herself,” Bridgers coach Jim Huwar said. “She knew there were some expectations on her because of being a senior.”

Among the biggest questions coming into the season, though, was how well junior Hannah Smith would handle being the Bridgers' new No. 1 pitcher — a job she's fully embraced, posting eight wins and a 1.40 earned-run average.

“(Haslett) had big shoes to fill, and I definitely looked up to her a lot,” Smith said. “She definitely gave me some words of wisdom before she left.”

Behind Smith, the Bridgers' pitching staff features a pair of freshmen: Kelly Haslett, the younger sister of Kayla Haslett, and Heather Mueller, who also plays in the outfield and bats a team-high .500.

“A lot of people didn't expect a lot from us, having a lot of young kids,” Huwar said. “These kids have come out practicing hard, coming to practice all the time, not complaining and doing a great job.”

And even if a large segment of Ambridge's roster either wasn't on the team or didn't see much playing time for the squad's back-to-back title game losses, the mission is clear after the near misses with gold.

“We want to prove we can win it,” Smith said. “We want another chance. Two in a row, that's hard.”

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

 

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Suspect in Va. disappearance charged in rape
  2. Discipline Pitt’s only option against Georgia Tech
  3. State Supreme Court Justice McCaffery suspended in email porn scandal
  4. Pitt notebook: Chryst didn’t lobby to keep Watt at tight end
  5. Mars Area schools superintendent resigns after short tenure
  6. Harrison woman dead in 3-car crash in Natrona Heights
  7. Steelers’ Shazier sits, Justin Brown inactive vs. Texans
  8. Congress examines NSA official’s part-time job
  9. Ferrante defense says arrest of prosecutor’s boyfriend could affect case
  10. ‘Halloween Nights’ planned at Connellsville tech center
  11. Penguins notebook: Johnston blends music, practice for local students
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.