Baldwin finding balance as unusual softball season kicks into gear
Sunday, April 4, 2021 | 11:01 AM
Baldwin softball coach Gina Fuchs is counting on junior shortstop Maleah Pacella to be the team’s linchpin this season, both offensively and defensively.
Pacella hit .483 as a freshman in 2019 and can play either middle infield position.
“I expect Maleah to anchor our defense at shortstop,” Fuchs said. “She is a vocal player who I expect to lead our young team. Offensively, Maleah will need to drive in runs for us. She is our best returning hitter, and we expect her to have consistent, quality at-bats.”
An all-section pick as a freshman, Pacella is one of four returning starters at Baldwin. She is joined by junior pitcher Brookelle Holby, senior second baseman Lindsay Bonetti and senior outfielder Beatrice Cook.
“We’ve lost a good amount of starters,” Pacella said, “so having new players filling in new positions is an adjustment. Although our team is still working toward finding a balance, I expect us to have another winning season.
“My personal goals this season include winning a WPIAL championship and having fun playing. I’m just thankful to be healthy and able to continue playing the sport I love.”
Fuchs is expecting Holby, a right-handed hurler, to grow into her starting role.
“Although Brookelle has not had much varsity experience, she is ready to step up as our go-to pitcher,” Fuchs said. “She has decent speed and she throws to all quadrants with good spin. We are expecting her to mix up both speed and location to keep hitters guessing and off balance.”
Holby, Bonetti and Cook, a switch hitter, also are being counted on to provide offensive punch.
“We are a very young team with only four girls with varsity experience,” Fuchs said. “I expect us to compete. We are young, but we have a good core group of girls who I expect to step up to lead this young team.
“My expectation is always that we compete and have fun while striving for our goal of a section title.”
There are eight juniors, four seniors, one sophomore and seven freshmen in the Baldwin softball program this season.
Holby is one of the eight juniors. She is a National Honor Society member and a percussionist in the school’s marching band.
“I know for a fact we are all itching to get out there to play some games,” Holby said. “I expect to have a wonderful season. I am striving toward having a good season.
“After last season of being hit with the rough reality of this covid-19 pandemic, it was really hard not being able to play ball. Since we have gotten back into it, we do know things are definitely not the same, but we are making the best of it. Normally, we would be able to huddle before games, sit by each other on the bus and even eat together after games. But with the pandemic, it is hard to do all of those things as we once did.”
Pacella agreed with her teammate’s assessment.
“This year’s program has changed because the way we interact has changed,” Pacella said. “Not being able to gather outside of softball and unify as a team is different from years past. I don’t think it will set us back; it’s just another obstacle for us to move past.
“I have been staying active in my community by helping younger girls reach their playing potential and goals by helping coach at softball clinics.”
Holby, meanwhile, has an unusual hobby outside of softball.
“I do work at a local horse farm,” she said. “I ride and work with the horses all year round.”
Baldwin, Bethel Park and Canon-McMillan tied for first place in Section 1-6A in 2019 in Fuchs’ first season as coach. The Highlanders lost to WPIAL champion Hempfield, 2-1, in the WPIAL quarterfinals to finish 12-4 overall.
Prior to 2020, Baldwin won or shared five consecutive section titles and advanced to the playoffs 10 years in a row.
“Losing last year had a huge effect on our team,” Fuchs said. “We not only lost four starters, but we lost the opportunity for our younger kids to gain valuable experience. It’s hard to make up for that loss so quickly.”
Fuchs has been experimenting with different players in the lineup to complement Holby, Pacella, Cook and Bonetti.
“Because we are so young, we are still having competition for spots,” Fuchs said. “That being said, the other starting positions are not set in stone. We have a lot of kids who can play different positions, so that is always a plus. We do have some freshmen who I expect will get a decent amount of varsity playing time.”
Baldwin is in Section 1 along with South Hills rivals Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon and Peters Township.
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