Apollo-Ridge seniors relish chance to continue postseason streak

Friday, March 19, 2021 | 5:40 PM

John Kinnamon is cautiously optimistic his Apollo-Ridge softball team can add to recent successes which include three straight WPIAL playoff appearances.

While he likes the talent he has assembled, he sees a lot of work still to be done with only a week before the start of the season.

“With covid and being in a small school, it was tough to do our preseason conditioning,” Kinnamon said. “We couldn’t go outside, and the gym we would normally use was converted into a cafeteria. We’re a little behind where we need to be at this point. We’ve kind of hit the ground running and are trying to make up for lost time. But there is an excitement level there among the girls. The talent level is there to have a good season.”

Kinnamon said he saw some good things Wednesday in a 10-8 scrimmage win over Greensburg Central Catholic.

Apollo-Ridge last March was a little over a week into preparing for a shot at a fourth consecutive trip to the WPIAL postseason when growing covid concerns caused the PIAA to suspend and ultimately cancel the season.

“The first day we walked into our equipment room a couple of weeks ago, there was a bat bag laying there that belonged to a girl who lost her entire senior season,” Kinnamon said. “As quickly as everything was shut down, she couldn’t get her personal bag out of there until last week. It was a stark reminder of how quickly this thing happened and how finite it was.”

Five seniors were not able to play last spring, and that fate was not lost on this year’s seniors, including pitcher/first baseman Morgan Shupe, a co-captain along with fellow seniors Amber Earnest (second base) and Addy Baustert (first base).

“We are savoring every opportunity to be together and are not taking anything for granted,” Shupe said.

“You never know when it could all be taken away, like last year was for those seniors.”

Shupe and sophomore April Earnest were in the running last year to replace four-year all-section selection Mollie Charlton in the pitching circle. They are the leading candidates again this spring.

“Both will see time early in the season,” Kinnamon said.

Both also should see time in the outfield.

Shupe also is expected to be at first base in the place of Baustert as the latter recovers from an upper-arm injury suffered during a defensive drill in practice last week.

Kinnamon said Baustert is only expected to miss a couple of weeks, a better-than-expected prognosis.

“I know we have a good chance to get back to the playoffs and go far. I want to be a part of that,” a hopeful Baustert said at practice Monday, her arm in a sling as she watched her teammates take batting practice.

Junior Bailey Zidek is expected to anchor the infield at shortstop, while freshman Cam Kowalczyk will be behind the plate.

Senior Casey Weightman, junior Sydney Osan and sophomore Baleigh Sherwood will be counted on as well.

Kinnamon said everyone available on the 13-player roster will be utilized to some degree, whether it’s in a starting or reserve role.

“We’re going to need contributions from everybody,” he said.

Four other freshmen — Makenna Syster, Jaden Mull, Malea Veneziani and Marly Koleno — hope to make an impact in the lineup this year.

“There’s a lot of talent there, and they’re working hard to be as ready as possible for the season,” Kinnamon said.

The season opener is scheduled for March 26 at Highlands. The Vikings will play in Section 2-2A against Brentwood, Jeannette, WPIAL newcomer Ligonier Valley, Serra Catholic, Seton LaSalle and Steel Valley.

“Our first couple of games could be like scrimmages, even though they will count,” Kinnamon said. “We will need additional time to evaluate where everything fits. But the girls are working hard in an atmosphere where we expect to be in the playoffs every year. Just because we missed a season doesn’t mean we can’t continue that.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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