West Point Little League softball team readies to defend crown
They are the reigning 11U state champions, and they are eager to defend their crown.
The girls on the West Point Little League softball team will kick off their quest for back-to-back titles soon.
Beginning Friday, West Point Little League of Pennsylvania Section 2, District 26, is hosting the 11U state softball championship tournament.
“We are looking for a repeat title,” said Jen Bova, the tournament director and coach of the U11 all-star team. “West Point Fastpitch Softball has a long tradition of winning these titles that continues today. West Point has always been on the map when it comes to big victories.”
The double-elimination event runs through Aug. 1 and will take place at the West Point Little League Complex at 100 Volunteer Drive in Greensburg.
“We volunteered to host the state tournament,” Bova said. “Every year, it rotates to a different section in 11U, and I offered to put in the time to have our league host. It is good publicity not only for West Point but Little League (softball) in the area.”
Section champions from across the state will compete in the weeklong tournament. The following Little League affiliates will participate:
• District 9: Yough (Section 2)
• District 12: Loyalsock Township (Section 3)
• District 31: Greater Wyoming Area (Section 5)
• District 14: Greencastle (Section 7)
• District 25: West Point (host team)
Friday’s schedule includes the managers’ check-in at 8:30 a.m., and a mandatory managers’ meeting.
Opening ceremonies will be at 9:30 a.m., with all players present and in uniform. First-round games follow, starting at 2 p.m. with Yough versus Loyalsock Township. The host squad plays at 4 p.m. against Greater Wyoming Area.
The tournament banquet is slated for 6 p.m. at West Point Volunteer Fire Department. All players will be recognized and presented their state tournament pins.
More games will take place Saturday and Sunday. The final three rounds are slated July 29-31.
The winner of the tournament will be crowned state champion.
With nine of 11 players back from last season, West Point could be considered the favorite to win it all again this year.
Ella Berkebile, Maddelyn Bova, Amelia Droste, Morgan Griffin, Preslee Horchak, Lauren Howard, Riley Miller, Claire Mitchell, Lina Reese, Audrey Semow and Ava Shipman make up this year’s squad. Many of the girls can play multiple positions.
“We have rotated the girls (on defense) in the past,” said Bova, WPLL’s energetic field boss.
Coach Bova serves as vice president of softball and 12U director for West Point Little League. She is a retired U.S. Marine; her primary roles were plane captain, helicopter mechanic and marksmanship instructor.
More recently, Bova competed as a rookie defensive back for the Pittsburgh Passion in the Women’s Football Alliance this season. The Passion were an Eastern Conference finalist and finished with a 7-3 record.
“My daughter (Maddelyn) actually is playing tackle football now,” Bova said.
A Hempfield graduate, Bova returned recently from a vacation in Florida and hasn’t stopped running since arriving home, multitasking and wrapping up last-minute details for the tournament.
“I have had assistance from Jim Horchak with the overall project, and Keith Fulton has helped with concessions,” Bova said. “(WPLL) president Steve Rehak has given guidance and been involved in the planning, and Heather Droste is helping and will be contributing to this tournament as it progresses.
“Pat Conway of the local restaurant Marino’s has also helped with concessions ideas and is catering our banquet.”
West Point’s 11U squad defeated Lower Perkiomen, 7-4, in the 2018 state finals held at the Yough Complex in Turkeytown. It was the program’s 35th state championship.
West Point was led offensively by Griffin, who drove in three runs on two hits; Howard, with four hits and two RBIs; Mitchell, who punched out three hits; and Maddelyn Bova, with two hits including a double.
Miller was the winning pitcher.
“Riley pitched her heart out,” coach Bova said following the victory. “And the girls really hit. They were on point.”
Bova said winning the state title provided an uptick for the WPLL softball program. She said girls are starting to return to West Point.
“Girls sports often take a back seat to boys sports,” she said, “and with Steelers training camp in town, it’s definitely nice to get press.”
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.