Baldwin softball hopes to learn from rebuilding year

Sunday, June 6, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Baldwin advanced to the WPIAL softball playoffs in 2021 for an 11th consecutive season, although the youthful Highlanders were able to win only four games all year.

The team lost to section rival Bethel Park, 9-1, in the first round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs to finish 4-10 overall.

“This season was a learning experience for us,” Baldwin coach Gina Fuchs said. “We were young, and I challenged them with a tough schedule.

“Although our record wasn’t what we would’ve liked, I think we really learned and grew as the season progressed. I am happy with our resilience and fight throughout the season.”

The Highlanders started out 2-2 before dropping four consecutive games at midseason. They rebounded with two victories then lost their final three regular season contests.

“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.

“Next season, I expect us to take what we learned this year and keep moving forward, getting 1% better each day.”

The team’s leading hitter was sophomore left fielder Grace Schumacher with a .405 batting average and .541 slugging percentage.

She was complemented by junior shortstop Maleah Pacella (.357/.571) and freshman first baseman Anna Schumacher (.317/.488).

“We had a slow start to our season,” Pacella said. “As time went on, our team started to create a solid foundation for us to build on for next year. I think we did what we could when dealing with all the covid restrictions.

“We also have a history of being fighters. To say the very least, our team is tough. I played with great energy. I know every time I stepped onto the field, I gave it everything I had.”

Baldwin’s starting pitcher was junior Brookelle Holby, a right-handed hurler who fanned 79 batters in 64 innings and held opponents to a .274 batting average.

“We had extreme highs and some pretty extreme lows this season,” Holby said, “but we as a team never gave up and that is what I see the most value in. We played well as a team and did our best to come out on top. I think the most important thing is the fact that we had fun this season.

“I expect us to come back next year with positive attitudes and the feeling that it’s going to be a wonderful season. Since it will be my last year with Baldwin softball, I want to make it the best year, not just for myself but for everyone around me.

Others in the starting lineup included senior outfielders Beatrice Cook and Olivia Los, senior second baseman Lindsay Bonetti, junior outfielder Alexa Flavell, freshmen catcher Kiera Platz and freshman third baseman Sydney Zenkovich.

Bonetti, a three-year starter who recently was chosen as an Outstanding Young Citizen by the Tribune-Review, said the Highlanders were tenacious this season despite their subpar record.

“We really had a tough section,” Bonetti said. “We had our ups and downs, but what I saw constantly from our team was tenacity. When we had that 18-0 loss to Canon-Mac, we easily could have gone into our next game against them feeling defeated. It was embarrassing, and I know none of us wanted to be laughed at (or yelled at) again. So we gave everything we had and fought back for a 3-2 victory against them.

“We had covid shut us down for a week in the middle of our season, which definitely hurt. But we came back strong right after and gave Bethel a close game. I think our main issue this year was leaving a lot of runners on base. We were getting the hits, just not at the right times.”

Cook, a switch-hitting center fielder, was another three-year starter for the Highlanders.

“This season has been a heck of a ride,” she said. “We were a very young team. After losing some great seniors in the previous year, we were hoping that somehow that would not change a thing and we would stay on top.

“But what we learned is we need to rebuild our team from the ground up. We had to re-learn how to play as a team with a different group of girls. I feel we could have gone farther than we did (in the playoffs) if we had a little more experience together as a team.”

Los and Flavell shared the starting job in right field this spring. Los was not part of the team for all four years of high school but returned to play during her senior season.

“This year brought many new obstacles and caused practices to look very different,” Los said. “The dedication and perseverance of the team this year reflected well on our performance, teamwork and overall support we have for one another.

“This season, I was lucky enough to play again on the Baldwin softball team. Coming back my senior year was something that was unexpected but rewarding. Although my Baldwin softball career is over, I feel I have taken a lot from every practice and learned many life skills from my coaches and teammates.”

There were eight juniors, three seniors, one sophomore and seven freshmen in the Baldwin softball program this season.

“I personally expect a lot from next year’s team,” Pacella said. “Although we’re losing a few starters this year, we really spent our time rebuilding. We have a group of younger girls that did a great job, and I plan on watching them excel next year.

“Being able to take our covid year to rebuild I think will pay off and be beneficial for us in the future.”

Prior to 2020, the Highlanders won or shared five consecutive section titles and advanced to the playoffs 10 years in a row.

Baldwin, Bethel Park and Canon-McMillan tied for first place in Section 1-6A in 2019 in Fuchs’ first season as coach, and finished 12-4.


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