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Trib Cup: Chartiers-Houston softball motivated by title game loss

| Thursday, April 21, 2016, 8:36 p.m.

As the Chartiers-Houston softball team got off the bus for its game at Jefferson-Morgan last Friday, it got all the motivation it needed with a look out to left field.

That's where Jefferson-Morgan's 2015 WPIAL championship banner hangs, a title it earned with a win over the Buccaneers in last year's Class A final.

While Chartiers-Houston's 9-3 win this time around was a satisfying victory against a section rival — albeit a matchup of two teams with much different rosters from a year ago — the Buccaneers might be most pleased with the fact the win placed them in good position in the Section 1-A standings halfway through their section schedule.

“Our two teams have a lot of respect for each other, and both of our teams are very different this year than they were last year when we played each other in the finals, we both know that,” Chartiers-Houston coach Tricia Alderson said. “But it still is a section game, so any section win is an important win. … Our goal was, first time through the section, let's go 4-1, which puts us in a good position to make the playoffs and see what happens at that point.”

“I think that we played one of our best games against them,” added junior third baseman Macie Kesneck. “We really showed out, and I think the WPIAL final, losing to them, I think it motivated us to do better and we just really wanted to win.”

With a 7-3 overall record to go along with a 4-1 mark in section play (good enough for a second place tie with Jefferson-Morgan), the Buccaneers are highlighted as this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature team, and are a big reason why Chartiers-Houston is in seventh place in the Class A standings.

A much different team from the one that went 19-4 last year, the Buccaneers were tasked with replacing seven seniors and six starters from a year ago. While only fielding a team of 11 players — seven of whom are freshmen or sophomores — with no seniors, it has been a gradual progression for the team this year, one that Alderson said is really starting to lead to wins.

“We were just very young and inexperienced, and we've just been getting better over the last several weeks,” she said. “We've been playing better, working harder and seeing some better results.”

Winners of six consecutive games, Chartiers-Houston has been led by Kesneck (a returning all-section player), along with junior Kayla Alderson and freshmen in shortstop Kasey Scears and first baseman/right fielder Jaylese Lombardi.

“All of the kids are doing a great job hitting,” Alderson said. “We're really pleased with our freshmen and how they're progressing and with our kids that are back from last year. Even though a lot of them may not have started the last year or two, we're real happy with their contributions as well.”

Ranking second in the WPIAL as a freshman with 17 wins in 2015, pitcher Kaitlyn Dittrich is again posting a strong season at the plate and in the circle. With each of the seven team's wins this year, Alderson noted the sophomore is still growing alongside her underclassmen teammates.

“She's getting better and she's using some other pitches that she has developed over the last year, and she's doing very well with that,” Alderson said. “It was good for her last year to have a veteran group behind her, because she didn't have to have all that pressure on her. She just needed to throw strikes and let us play defense. And now this year she's elevating her game a bit more.”

Challenging themselves with what Alderson described as one of Chartiers-Houston's toughest schedules in five or six years, the Buccaneers have already had difficult nonsection games against the likes of Class AA Burgettstown and strong Class A teams Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Monessen. Games against Class AAA programs such as South Fayette and Southmoreland, along with other top competition, remain.

Alderson said it's important to strike a balance with such a tough nonsection schedule, but that it has benefitted her young team this year and hopefully heading into next season as well.

“We know that it's only going to help us, however when you have a young group, you don't want it to kill their confidence,” Alderson said. “So there's a fine line there, but right now we're playing with some confidence.”

Despite their youth and inexperience, the Buccaneers have seemed to pick up right where they left off last year as the second half of the season gets underway. While a lot of the names on the roster might be new for Chartiers-Houston, Alderson said the team's goals and expectations won't change a bit from last year.

“We always have the same expectations for our team,” she said. “… We're certainly not going to lower our expectations just because we're young, and we're definitely not going to use that as an excuse.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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