Local softball team ready to play in PONY Nationals
The success of Mark Kaminski's Pittsburgh Power softball team wasn't guaranteed, though it might seem that way today.
Kaminski, the second-year coach, has presided over the rise of the team made up 16 year olds that he admits wasn't perfect in the beginning.
"We were young and rough and we didn't have a lot of success, but there was some talent there," Kaminski said. "We kept a handful of the girls, and we added a few last year, and we added a few more this year. This is the strongest team we've had."
Now, the team is enjoying its greatest success yet.
It will travel to Vienna, Ohio, for the PONY Nationals on July 30-Aug. 4. This comes a year after it placed 29th out of 100 teams at the Eastern National NSA World Series in Columbus, Ohio.
Armed with another year of experience, the coaches anticipate an even better showing.
"We go into every tournament hoping to win," hitting coach Joe Killgallon said. "Realistically, there are a lot of (good) travel teams in the area and in Eastern Ohio.
"We went (to the NSAs) last year looking to finish in the top half. We definitely are looking to finish in the top 10 to 15 percent."
Kaminski insists the team gained invaluable experience last year at the NSA Nationals. After a lopsided loss to a team from Akron, the Power rebounded, winning four of their next six, and came within one inning of reaching the round of 16.
"They never give up," Kaminski said.
He said that experience has given them added confidence.
"I think they know what they can do in a national tournament (after) that run we made last year," he said.
This Power finished in the top five in four of their first five tournaments this year. Kaminski credited a strong top-to-bottom lineup.
"We've always had hitters, but they're getting better every year," he said.
Kaminski said his team has knocked out seven opposing starting pitchers in the first inning this season. Jamie Mittlemeier of Baldwin leads the team with a .526 batting average, and Kristin Kaminski of Keystone Oaks has a team-high five home runs.
The greatest improvement has been on the pitching staff, though, according to Kaminski. Sarah Angeletti of Bethel Park anchors a staff that includes Kori Freyermuth of Perry Traditional Academy and Abby Nichter of Shaler.
"In fast-pitch softball, the name of the game is good pitching," Killgallon said.
Though the team has maintained a consistent nucleus of players for the past three seasons, each girl plays on their school's softball team during the WPIAL season, producing a unique dynamic when they come together as the Power.
"They play against each other, and there's a little trash-talking going on," Kaminski said. "But it never gets out of hand. It pushes them to get better, so they can beat the other girl the next time out.
"I think it's great they see each other as many times as they do."
Beyond minor individual rivalries, the team finds purpose in its common motivation, according to Kaminski.
"What drives them is to get better," he said. "They know how good they can be."