Baldwin softball keeps streak of section titles alive

Friday, May 10, 2019 | 8:10 PM

Their drive for five came to fruition on the final day of the regular season.

For the fifth consecutive year, Baldwin’s softball team has won or shared a section championship.

This year, it took a tense 1-0 win at Bethel Park for the Highlanders to climb into a tie for first with the Black Hawks in Section 1-6A.

Baldwin ended the regular season May 8 with a 15-0 four-inning win at home against Brashear, lifting the Highlanders into a three-way tie with Bethel Park and Canon-McMillan with 11-3 records atop the section standings.

No. 6 seeded Baldwin (12-3) was scheduled to play four-time defending WPIAL champion and third-seeded Hempfield (13-6) on Wednesday in the first round of the 6A playoffs. The game ended after deadline for this edition.

“I really think we are a team that has grown throughout the year,” said Gina Fuchs, Baldwin’s first-year coach. “I am most proud of how we have learned from our losses. It has made us stronger, and I honestly feel we are playing our best softball right now.

“The pitching is on point. The defense is really starting to trust each other, and we are having more quality at-bats.

The Highlanders were section champs with a 10-2 record last season, and shared the section title with Canon-McMillan the three previous seasons, with 10-2 records all three years.

Baldwin reached the WPIAL semifinals in each of the past four seasons, finishing as runner-up in 2017.

After starting 3-0 and 7-1 this spring, Baldwin suffered a loss at home to Bethel Park. The Highlanders rebounded with three consecutive victories before losing to Canon-McMillan.

That made it a must-win situation in the rematch with the Black Hawks.

“I thought we came out ready to play from the first inning,” Fuchs said. “Before the game, I challenged the team to win every inning. They really bought into that, and it seemed to keep them focused.”

Baldwin scored the game’s only run in the top of the first inning. Senior hurler Addie Tagg, a four-year starter, tossed a shutout — her 16th over the past three seasons — striking out seven and allowing six hits.

Salena Jaquay, a junior third baseman, walked, stole two bases, then scored on a single by Tagg.

“I loved how we came out in the first inning and really set the tone by scoring first,” Fuchs said. “We strung some quality at-bats together in the inning to manufacture a run. We had some other scoring opportunities and did a good job putting pressure on their defense but just couldn’t get that timely hit to score more runs. It was just a great battle on both sides.

“Addie threw an awesome game, and the defense backed her up. She had their batters off-balance the whole game, which is tough to do because they have a great hitting team.”

Tagg ended the regular season at 11-3 with a 1.68 ERA and seven shutouts. In 7913 innings, she struck out 72, and walked seven.

“I think we played the best game ever defensively against Bethel,” said Tagg, who plans to play softball at Wooster. “We worked really hard to win every inning.”

The Highlanders, with a team batting average of .423, were led by Jaquay, who hit .679 with an .830 slugging percentage. She led the club with 36 hits and 29 runs.

“I think the team is doing a great job preparing for games,” Jaquay said, “and I think we are really pushing ourselves to give 110% and to play every game like it’s our last. If we can continue to keep a good mental state and play to the best of our abilities, we will go far and reach our maximum potentials.

“I feel I’ve performed to my best abilities; there is always room for improvement. I’ll keep working toward bigger goals and new achievements.

Jaquay also plays travel ball for Team PA, and owns a 3.5 GPA.

“With all of our coaching changes (at Baldwin), I feel the team has done a great job adjusting,” she said. “The coaches have pushed us to work our hardest and to not give up when we get down.

“This team is a great example of perseverance, as we overcome our struggles and know we can lean on each other when things are not going our way.”

Tagg was next-in-line in the hitting department with a .537 batting average, .951 slugging percentage, five home runs and 30 RBIs. In the Highlanders’ recent 17-1 section win at Mt. Lebanon, Tagg was issued two intentional walks in the same inning — the first time that happened to her in her high school career.

“Intentional walks happen to me quite frequently in high school ball and in travel ball,” she said. “It’s honestly a sign of respect.”

Four other players batted .400 or better: freshman shortstop Maleah Pacella (.483), junior catcher Cassie Carlson (.471), senior left fielder Chyenne Shandor (.431) and freshman designated player Brookelle Holby (.409).

Junior first baseman Shelby Kozarian hit .368.


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