Alle-Kiski Valley notebook: Crazy early-season comebacks plentiful

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Thursday, April 4, 2019 | 5:20 PM


John Kinnamon gathered the Apollo-Ridge softball team for a pep talk after the fourth inning of its Section 2-2A game Tuesday at Shady Side Academy.

At the time, the Vikings’ cause looked hopeless: a 9-1 deficit caused by early miscues, and only three innings remaining to make up eight runs. What followed was one of their most memorable games in recent seasons, as they responded with four runs in the fifth inning and 10 more in the sixth to storm back for a 15-11 victory.

Kylee Wynn hit the first two homers of her varsity career, including a grand slam. Morgan Shupe also hit her first homer, and Mollie Charlton went deep.

“It’s one of those wins that hopefully just changes things for the better,” Kinnamon said. “Not just for a team, but for an entire organization. I told the girls afterward, that in all honesty, and I looked them in the eye, ‘I did not know you could do that.’ And there’s not a better feeling in the world.”

The never-say-die approach gained some ample evidence over the past week-plus in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

On the same day as Apollo-Ridge’s big comeback, Knoch softball pulled another stunner, scoring seven runs in its final two innings to beat Ambridge, 10-9. Six of those runs came in the bottom of the seventh, with Bailey Rickenbrode’s two-out, two-run triple giving the Knights a walk-off win.

“The girls just don’t get rattled,” Knoch coach Gary Coe said.

Neither did the Plum baseball team Monday, even after Franklin Regional scored three runs in the fifth inning and six more in the sixth to turn a four-run deficit into a five-run lead. Plum responded by scoring six runs in the bottom of the seventh, getting a walk-off 10-9 win on Evan Sante’s two-out, two-run double.

Kiski Area had a similar comeback last week against Plum, storming back from a 5-0 deficit to beat the Mustangs, 6-5.

“I don’t know how you can argue. I don’t care where you’re at or what team you’re playing, if you’re down 9-1 and you come back and win 15-11, it’s never over,” Kinnamon said.

Spring in their step

Looking for the best early-season turnaround in the Alle-Kiski Valley? It’s hard to argue with the Springdale softball team.

The Dynamos’ 11-1 victory over St. Joseph in their Section 3-A opener Tuesday gave them three consecutive wins to begin the season — quite an achievement considering the program’s recent history.

Before this season the last time Springdale won its first game of the season was 2003, and that came by forfeit over Elderton. The last 3-0 start goes beyond that, and the last three-game winning streak of any kind came in 2010.

It has been a difficult decade-plus for Springdale, mired in a streak of 16 straight losing seasons. The Dynamos won one game in 2017 and ‘18, and their last winning season and WPIAL playoff appearance came in 2000.

But armed with a freshman standout pitcher (Alexis Hrivnak) and some key hitting, Springdale outscored its first three opponents by a 26-4 margin. Hrivnak struck out 39 batters in her first 19 innings, and contributions up and down the lineup spurred the Dynamos against St. Joseph.

“The girls are having a blast,” Springdale coach Anthony Pototo said. “They are coming to practice every day and are working hard. Everyone comes to the field ready to play, and it shows on the field.”

Double-A vision

Former Plum star Alex Kirilloff, one of the top prospects in minor league baseball, will begin the 2019 season another step up the ladder as he continues his climb to the majors.

Kirilloff, the Minnesota Twins’ 2016 first-round pick, was assigned Monday to the Twins’ Double-A affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

While he will begin the season on the injured list with a wrist injury, Kirilloff hopes to resume his fast rise upon his return.

The Twins announced he would play some first base this season, adding positional versatility to the outfielder.

Kirilloff, who missed the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, is coming off an impressive 2018. He earned a spot in the low Single-A Midwest League’s All-Star Game and home run derby after a strong first half with the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels. In the second half, he played for the high Single-A Fort Myers (Fla.) Miracle. He hit a combined .348 with 20 homers and 101 RBIs.

Coming into this season, MLB.com ranked Kirilloff as the No. 9 prospect in baseball, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 11th and Baseball America ranked him 15th.

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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