A-K Valley notebook: Pitchers finding early-season success

Thursday, April 11, 2019 | 6:45 PM

There’s been a call to arms in the Alle-Kiski Valley. Whether it’s from a mound or a circle, local pitchers are dealing.

Highlands senior Noah Gillette became the second A-K Valley baseball pitcher in a four-day span to throw a no-hitter Monday, blanking Deer Lakes, 2-0, in a nonsection game. Burrell’s Tanner Spohn accomplished the same feat in a Section 1-3A win over South Allegheny on April 5.

“I was just hitting the spots, staying in the zone,” said Gillette, who walked four and struck out four. “In my second and third inning, I ended up throwing a lot of pitches. After that I tried to keep my pitch count down, just throwing strikes and getting them across the plate, let them hit them and let my defense play behind me.”

Spohn walked five and struck out four in Burrell’s 4-0 win over South Allegheny for the no-hitter. The same day, Kiski Area’s Ryan Rametta tossed a two-hitter in a nonsection win at Indiana. Knoch’s Jack Bartek threw a three-hitter Monday against Indiana, and Freeport’s Jarrett Heilman racked up 11 strikeouts in a five-hit shutout of Valley. Fox Chapel’s Mitch Miles threw a three-hitter in a shutout Wednesday over Penn Hills.

Meanwhile, big strikeout numbers are becoming the norm for A-K Valley softball pitchers.

Riverview’s Alyssa Cappa and Springdale’s Alexis Hrivnak set the standard earlier this season with 17-strikeout performances, but they’re far from the only ones. Apollo-Ridge’s Mollie Charlton whiffed 16 batters in a win last week over Northgate. Knoch’s Amanda Fischer struck out 15 Quaker Valley hitters Monday, limiting the Quakers to one hit in a 7-0 win. Freeport’s Tori Radvan struck out 11 Derry hitters in a win Wednesday. Highlands’ Jaycee Haidze registered 10 punch-outs in a win last week over Uniontown.

Hrivnak leads the A-K Valley in strikeouts, with 94 in seven games. Cappa has 73 in six.

Bucs bomb away

After assessing its hitting performance in a Section 1-3A loss to Freeport last week, Burrell determined it needed to make some adjustments.

The Bucs’ performance Monday against Derry and Wednesday against Deer Lakes suggested the changes are working.

Burrell took out some of its frustration from the Freeport loss against Derry, blasting seven home runs in a 20-7 victory. Then the long ball helped the Bucs rally from a 6-0 deficit against Deer Lakes for a 13-12 victory that ended on a Sara Clark walk-off homer, her second big fly of the game.

“After the whole Freeport game, we’ve been hitting a lot,” said senior Lea Coffman, who hit a pair of three-run homers and finished with a career-high seven RBIs against Deer Lakes. “We’ve really been working on picking our pitches and waiting on them and being aggressive at the plate. Our coaches just told us (we’ve) got to stay calm but also be aggressive at the plate. I guess we all found that pitch that was the right one to take over.”

Senior Kayla Santucci homered for Burrell in both games. Elizabeth Clark, Cara Fiore, Mia Horwatt and Rikki Wyble also homered for the Bucs against Derry.

Toy still serving

The We Serve First Foundation sponsored three WPIAL players’ attendance at last summer’s Give It Back Foundation national girls volleyball camp in Anaheim, Calif. With the camp coming to Western Pennsylvania this summer, that number will quadruple.

We Serve First is providing 12 WPIAL girls volleyball players with the $300 admission fee for the Give It Back camp, which runs Aug. 9 and 10 at Moon High School and features instruction from current and former members of the U.S women’s volleyball team.

“The most important goal is to get these girls this amount of quality experience with clinicians that are going to be at this camp,” We Serve First co-founder Tim Toy said. “Like the three girls did last year, (they) can bring that back to their gym, the attitude and the mindset that these guys teach them and make volleyball even better here in Western Pennsylvania.”

Toy and wife Ellen founded We Serve First in late 2015 to provide volleyball opportunities to youth players. Ellen, the former coach at Kiski Area, Leechburg and Plum, died in February 2016 after a long battle with stomach cancer.

Last summer, We Serve First provided the money for Plum’s Makayla Jackson, Leechburg’s McKenna Pierce, Kiski Area’s Cassie Shoupe and Plum coach Kelsey Bonk to attend the Give It Back camp.

This year’s list of sponsored entrants includes Hopewell’s Alexis Thompson, Kiski Area’s Lilliana Harding and Violeta Kenzevich, Knoch’s Hannah Rowe, Leechburg’s Falyn Verner, New Castle’s Aliya Blackshear, Northgate’s Mariah Benny, Norwin’s Abby Lichtenfels and Tori Nicholes, Obama Academy’s Samaree Perkins and Plum’s Julia Vargo. Toy is working to select a 12th player.

Toy said eight admissions already are paid for, and he set up a GoFundMe for the rest. Proceeds for the Give It Back camp will go toward building a school in Gulu, Uganda.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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