2024 Trib HSSN Head of the Class: Softball Player and Coach of the Year for each classification

Saturday, June 22, 2024 | 10:04 PM

This spring, those sitting at head of the softball class had a clear view of so many individual and team standout performances.

The season included an unexpected run to the district finals and state gold in 5A, five new district champions and two state winners, along with perfection from a three-peat WPIAL champion.

Armstrong in 5A and Elizabeth Forward in 4A won WPIAL titles as top seeds, Seneca Valley in 6A won as a No. 2, Chartiers-Houston in A as a No. 3 and Mohawk in 3A as a No. 4.

For the second time in three years, Neshannock swept gold in the district and states with a perfect record. The Lancers captured a third straight WPIAL title and the team’s second crown in three years and third overall PIAA championship.

Trib HSSN salutes all the players and coaches for their great work on the softball diamond in 2024. However, these players and coaches receive a special gold star on the forehead, a tip of the cap and a seat up front as they are at the head of the class.

Class 6A

Player of the year: Lexie Hames, Seneca Valley

Despite dealing with some muscle knots in her shoulder at times this spring, the junior pitcher continued to dominate in the circle and contribute to another championship run with the bat as well as a second straight HSSN 6A Softball Player of the Year. Hames finished the season with a record of 16-1 with 265 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings pitched. At the plate, she batted .380 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs. In the WPIAL Class 6A championship game, Hames pitched all eight innings, allowing two earned runs, four hits, four walks and 19 strikeouts while she herself was walked four times in the victory over Norwin, 4-3 in eight innings. Hames was named Gatorade Pennsylvania Softball Player of the Year and has already accepted a scholarship offer to play at Clemson starting in the fall of 2025.

Coach of the year: Brian Mesich, Norwin

For most of the 2024 softball season, it looked like the chase for gold in WPIAL Class 6A would be like it was in 2023, a two-team chase between defending champion Hempfield and 2022 winner Seneca Valley. It turns out there was another team in the hunt that nearly stole the crown. Norwin was 3-6 at one point this spring, and dropped four of its last five regular season games, so there wasn’t a lot of talk about Brian Mesich’s Knights as they received the No. 5 seed in a six-team tournament. However, upset wins over Pine-Richland and rival Hempfield put Norwin in the 6A title game, where it nearly stunned Seneca Valley, falling to the Raiders in eight innings, 4-3. With only the district champ earning a PIAA berth, the Knights’ season ended with a record of 10-11.

Class 5A

Player of the year: Emma Paul, Armstrong

After leading the Armstrong girls basketball team to its first WPIAL title game appearance and first PIAA playoff victory, it was time for the senior shortstop to turn hardcourt silver into diamond gold this softball season. Emma Paul batted .478 (33 for 69) this spring with 14 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, 38 runs scored and 26 RBIs. She had a .609 on-base percentage, .899 slugging percentage and 1.507 OPS. She was terrific in the field as well with a .985 fielding percentage. She was 1 for 3 with a run scored in the WPIAL Class 5A title game win over Thomas Jefferson, the River Hawks’ second district crown in three years. She will be playing college softball at Fairmont State.

Coach of the year: Heidi Karcher, Thomas Jefferson

The 2024 Thomas Jefferson softball team has now become the poster child for all future underdogs who despite some struggles in the regular season can now say, “why not us?” Heidi Karcher’s Jaguars celebrated the 10th anniversary of their lone WPIAL softball crown with a stunning run to district silver and state gold in Class 5A. After finishing in third place in Section 4-5A, the Jaguars surprised No. 7 South Fayette, stunned No. 2 North Hills and beat fellow longshot Latrobe in the semifinals before falling to top-seeded Armstrong in the WPIAL finals. However, the amazing postseason run continued in the state playoffs with wins over Solanco, West Chester East, Central Mountain and finally Pittston Area to secure the program’s first PIAA championship.

Class 4A

Player of the year: Shelby Telegdy, Elizabeth Forward

The senior pitcher concluded a standout career by leading Elizabeth Forward to a WPIAL championship with both her arm and her bat. Shelby Telegdy had a microscopic 0.54 ERA this spring in 130 1/3 innings pitched. She allowed only 23 walks while striking out 199 opposing batters. In the WPIAL 4A finals against Hampton, she allowed no runs in a complete game performance with one walk and six strikeouts. Telegdy was just as impressive offensively as she led the Warriors with a .568 batting average (42 for 74) with seven home runs and 36 RBIs. Three of those homers came in the postseason. She will play college softball at Seton Hill.

Coach of the year: Harry Rutherford, Elizabeth Forward

Following so much heartbreak and so many close calls in recent years, veteran coach Harry Rutherford got Elizabeth Forward back in the winner’s circle, five years after winning its first district crown. The Warriors dominated most of the season, winning Section 2-4A by four games and earning the WPIAL Class 4A crown by outscoring West Mifflin, Chartiers Valley and Hampton, 27-4. They continued to stack wins in the state playoffs, beating Big Spring, Chartiers Valley and Archbishop Wood by a combined 20-1, before falling in the state finals to defending champ Blue Mountain to finish 23-2.

Class 3A

Player of the year: Sydney Sekely, South Park

The sophomore pitcher enjoyed a breakout season in helping South Park reach the district championship game. Sydney Sekely started 20 games and finished 16-3. In 127 innings pitched, she allowed 14 earned runs and 23 walks while striking out 242 and finishing with an ERA of 0.72. At the plate, she batted .433 (29 for 67) with one homer and 13 RBIs with a .465 on-base percentage, .552 slugging percentage and 1.017 OPS. In the WPIAL semifinals, Sekely threw a perfect game with nine strikeouts as the Eagles punched their ticket to the 3A title game with a win over Ligonier Valley, 3-0.

Coach of the year: Hank Pezzuolo, Mohawk

Tired of watching Lawrence County rivals Laurel, Neshannock and Union raising gold in recent years, Mohawk decided to join the fun this spring. As Section 2-3A champs, the Warriors were the No. 4 seed in the district 3A playoffs. After taking care of business in the first two rounds, Hank Pezzuolo’s squad stunned two-time defending champion Avonworth in the semifinals, 5-3, then finished the job with a victory over South Park in the finals, 9-2. The season ended with a record of 18-6 following a first-round state playoff loss to eventual champion Harbor Creek.

Class 2A

Player of the year: Addy Frye, Neshannock

You will have to excuse Addy Frye and her fellow juniors on the Neshannock softball team for not knowing how to act when they lose. That is because in their three-year high school softball careers, it has only happened once. Frye has been a major part of the team’s success, which includes a three-year record of 74-1 with a combined five district and state titles. Frye led the team in hitting with a .492 batting average with six home runs and 33 RBIs. She continued to dominate in the circle as well with a record of 19-0, an ERA of 0.59 with 13 walks and 212 strikeouts in 107 innings pitched. She also had five shutouts in seven postseason games.

Coach of the year: Jackie Lash, Neshannock

The third time is as charming as the first two as Jackie Lash is becoming the Meryl Streep of Trib HSSN Coach of the Year awards with her third straight. As it should be when you guide your team to three straight WPIAL championships, two PIAA crowns, two undefeated seasons and a record 48-game winning streak. The Lancers outscored their three WPIAL playoff opponents, 19-1, and beat four teams in the PIAA postseason by a combined score of 29-2. The state playoff championship win over South Williamsport was also win No. 100 for Lash in her five years as head coach at Neshannock.

Class A

Player of the year: Ella Richey, Chartiers-Houston

The junior catcher worked in tandem with pitcher Meadow Ferri to form a strong one-two punch on the field and atop the Chartiers-Houston batting order. Ella Richey batted .558 overall, but an incredible .610 during a postseason in which she helped the Buccaneers win the program’s ninth district crown (second most in WPIAL) and their first since 2012. In the title game win over Union, Richey had two hits, scored twice and drove home two in the golden victory. She had four hits, including two doubles and a home run in a state quarterfinals win over West Branch and semifinals loss to Carmichaels.

Coach of the year: Dave Briggs, Carmichaels

For the second straight year, Dave Briggs led Carmichaels to success and earns the nod for the HSSN Coach of the Year in a deep Class A. Carmichaels split its two regular season game with rival Chartiers-Houston to share the Section 2-A title. The two teams met again in the WPIAL semifinals, with the Buccaneers beating the Mighty Mikes on their way to a district championship. When the Bucs and Mikes met for a fourth time this season in the PIAA semifinals, Carmichaels won in walk-off fashion to earn a split of their fantastic four games this year. Carmichaels lost in the state finals to DuBois Central Catholic, 2-0, to finish 19-4.

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