Baldwin softball ‘bigger and stronger than ever’

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Saturday, March 23, 2019 | 9:14 AM


Baldwin has won four consecutive section titles in softball.

The Highlanders, with new coach Gina Fuchs, expect more of the same in 2019.

“Our expectation is to come out and compete every game, and to compete for a section title,” said Fuchs, who has stepped up from her assistant’s role from last year. “I feel we have some good experience mixed with some very talented underclassmen. We have a good returning core group that knows what it takes to win.”

After sharing a section crown for three years, Baldwin clinched sole possession of first place in Section 1-6A last year with a 10-2 record. The Highlanders have won 23 section softball championships in school history.

But Baldwin suffered heavy graduation losses as senior leadership in 2018 was provided by shortstop Taylor Dadig, catcher Carly Santillo and outfielders Bella Rossa, Emma Berta and Christina Madden.

Returning starters this year consist of Addie Tagg, a senior and one of the WPIAL’s top pitchers; Cassie Carlson, a junior catcher; Salena Jaquay, a junior infielder; and Chyenne Shandor, a senior outfielder.

Carlson played second base in 2018; Jaquay was a designated hitter. Baldwin finished as a WPIAL semifinalist and PIAA quarterfinalist a year ago.

“I believe this is going to be our best season yet,” said Tagg, a fourth-year starter in the circle. ”We are definitely working toward a WPIAL championship. We have all the tools to be a championship team.

“Baldwin softball is bigger and stronger than ever. We are working to achieve our goals and will not accept anything less. I’m honored to be part of this team.”

Other players aiming to make an impact include senior Molly Knezevich (OF), juniors Lexi Elk (OF) and Shelby Kozarian (1B) and sophomores Jada Bachner (OF), Beatrice Cook (OF), Natalie Eperthener (OF) and Lindsey Bonetti (2B).

“We have been working on the fundamentals,” Fuchs said, “and just a lot of communication, getting used to each other on the field since we did lose five starters from last year’s team.”

Top freshman prospects for the Highlanders include Kayleigh McDermott (C/IF), Lenina Ebert (2B/OF), Ciera Castelluccio (IF/C), Jaylyn Nash (3B), Alexa Flavell (IF), Bella Pollice (OF), Emily Wilds (1B/OF), Brokelle Holby (P/1B) and Maleah Pacella (IF).

“We have a few underclassman who I am expecting to be starters and make an impact on this year’s team,” Fuchs said.

Five players — Tagg, Carlson, Jaquay, Shandor and Knezevich — have been designated co-captains.

“I think the main goal is to be a good role model for the freshman players that have come up this year,” Tagg said, “just like the seniors were when I was a freshman.

“My personal goals for this season would probably be that I wish to improve my batting average. It was decent my sophomore year, and I would love to get that back.”

Baldwin has advanced to the WPIAL playoffs for nine consecutive seasons. The Highlanders are members of Section 1-6A again this year. Other section teams are Allderdice, Bethel Park, Brashear, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair.

Fuchs was an assistant coach at Pitt for 13 years and now lists her occupation as a professional softball instructor and recruiting consultant. She was a four-year starting center fielder at Penn State.

“Our coaching staff is amazing,” Tagg said. “Gina has definitely brought in the best people for us.”

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