New coach Sortino inherits wealth of softball talent at Baldwin
Athletic director Vince Sortino has taken over as head coach of the Baldwin softball team. Former field boss Samantha “Sam” Kuharic resigned for personal reasons following the 2015 season.
Sortino has inherited an experienced and talented club, including four first-team all-section selections.
Baldwin advanced to the Final Four in the WPIAL Class AAAA division last year. The Lady Highlanders tied for first place in Section 4; received a No. 3 seed and first-round bye for the WPIAL playoffs; socked Gateway, 11-1, in their first playoff game; and ended up 13-5 overall.
Sortino may be a new face on the bench this season, but he has previous coaching experience at Baldwin. His previous stint ended in 2006 when he guided the Lady Highlanders to a section championship.
“We are very excited about the season,” Sortino said. “We have a great group of girls who have experience who (are) back this season. They have worked hard.”
Baldwin's' starting lineup in 2015 returned virtually intact this spring with seniors Jaimie Schleicher (1B), Ashley Brady (2B) and Barb Spegar (OF); juniors Samantha Wampler (3B) and Katie Knezevich (OF); plus sophomores Taylor Dadig (SS) and Carly Santillo (C)
Schleicher, a Pitt-Greensburg recruit, began last year playing third base but moved over to pitcher when Ana Hale suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“My personal goal this season is to play every game like it's my last,” said Schleicher, who verbally committed to UPG prior to her junior season and signed a letter of intent in February. “It is my senior year and I want to make it my best year ever. A WPIAL championship is my main goal, but we as a team just have to take it one game at a time.”
Hale is a right-handed senior hurler who posted a 2-0 record and 1.40 ERA in two games last season.
“Ana only pitched in the first few games last year,” Sortino said.
Hale was dominant in the early going in 2015, fanning 17 batters in 15 innings.
“My expectations this year include every team member working hard toward (winning) a WPIAL championship, and being able to push through any adversities we may face,” she said. “I think overall we have a very strong team that is motivated and prepared to do great things.”
While Hale has recovered from her knee surgery that took place in June, Schleicher also has recovered from neck surgery performed in January.
“Both of us have worked hard to get back to where we need to be to be ready for this season,” Schleicher said. “The team has been working hard these past few months, and I think we are going to be very strong, just like we were last season.”
Hale is hoping to make significant contributions both on the mound and at the plate for the Lady Highlanders.
“My personal goals are to work my way back from my injury, and to play better than I ever have before,” she said. “I hope to help the team with my pitching and batting on our way to the playoffs.”
Baldwin finished 10-2 in section play last season, winning its final three games to clinch a share of first place with Canon-McMillan and Bethel Park. The Lady Highlanders hit a robust .394 as a team in 2015 and were sparked by five .400 hitters.
Dadig and Knezevich hit .485 and .483, respectively, followed by Wampler (.479), Brady (.423) and Schleicher (.414).
Schleicher, Brady, Knezevich and Santillo were first-team all-section selections.
“Our experience should play a major role for us (in 2016),” Sortino said. “We will continue to work on the fundamentals, both on offense and defense, constantly working to challenge ourselves to put us in the best position to win each and every game.
“I do not have a projected starting lineup at this time as we are still evaluating a few players to see where they will fill the void from the players that left from last season.”
Schleicher paced Baldwin in several offensive categories last sping, including triples (2), home runs (5) and RBIs (24). She also compiled an 11-5 record and 1.96 ERA on the mound, striking out 104 batters in 92 innings.
She said the team's focus is on “working hard each practice and playing every game with determination.”
Hale believes the team's chemistry will help propel the Lady Highlanders to success in 2016.
“One major strength we have is our team chemistry on and off the field,” she said. “We are excited and ready to play.”
Following the 2015 season, Dadig was invited to participate in the National Fast-Pitch Coaches Association Northeast academic softball recruiting camp in New Jersey.
Dadig attained highest honors four times with a 4.39 grade-point average last year, and also had the winning entry in Baldwin High School's 75th anniversary logo design contest.
Ray Fisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.