Anticipation high for Deer Lakes softball team’s return to field

Sunday, March 21, 2021 | 6:49 PM

Rick Cerra has been waiting for quite a while to coach his first game as the Deer Lakes softball coach.

After coaching the junior high team for four seasons, Cerra was given the job ahead of last season after former coach Craig Tialani retired. Tialani had directed the program since 2005 and wrapped up his coaching career with 204 wins, eight section titles, two WPIAL championships and a PIAA runner-up finish. Now, Cerra is ready to take the reins and the anticipation has been building ever since last season was taken away by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We got started last year, and things were looking really good and we had a really strong team and everything, for it to get taken away from us, like every other team, quite frankly, it was a heartbreaker,” Cerra said. “Then you are just jonesing to get back on the field. We were able to get a few practices in the fall, but I think it just ramped up the anticipation for the spring.”

The Lancers were supposed to have three seniors last year, and they’ll be young again this season. Third baseman/shortstop Hannah Mass is the lone senior, and she’s accompanied by six juniors, six sophomores and three freshmen, all of who could see time this year.

The Lancers lost a pair of middle infielders in Makayla Blair and Maura Cerra, who was one of two daughters Cerra was set to coach last year.

Cerra’s younger daughter, Shayne, who is a sophomore, is set to play shortstop but could pitch, too.

“We have pretty solid replacements for those middle infielders and we lost a pitcher, but we also gained a pitcher,” Cerra said. “Everything that we lost we were able to bring up from our middle school program.”

The Lancers will rely on their athleticism in the field with plenty of players who can play multiple positions and also perform well at the plate. Cerra says they have girls from top to bottom who can hit and put the ball in play, and Mass agrees.

“I definitely think we have good bats and overall, I think we are going to be hard to beat,” Mass said. “We just need to work together and do our best.”

Behind a strong lineup and strong defense, Cerra is looking to lean on many pitchers this season. Some softball teams in the area might use on one or two pitchers, but Cerra said Deer Lakes has five pitchers who could be utilized at any point.

With one righty and four lefties, Cerra will have some youth, but he still has faith in whoever takes the ball on any given day.

“I have the utmost confidence that balls will be kept in play and that our fielders will be solid defending,” Cerra said. “It will be by committee, and I prefer that rather than using one pitcher because teams get used to that, so it’s nice to change it up.”

The Lancers also will have familiarity on their side. Cerra has coached most of his players since they were young.

“He coached me when I was a little kid, and I’m glad he’s back,” Mass said. “He knows the girls, and he knows the strengths and weaknesses of each of us.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .


More High School Softball

Trib 10: Baseball power rankings shaken up despite poor week of weather
Leechburg softball team proud to uphold playoff streak
Westmoreland County softball notebook: Southmoreland captures elusive section title
Close games sharpen Greensburg Central Catholic softball for battles ahead
Trib HSSN softball player of the week for May 1, 2023