Baldwin softball players relish special season that included 4th straight section title

Friday, June 15, 2018 | 11:00 PM

It wasn't the finish they envisioned, but the season can be deemed a success.

Baldwin's softball team's 2018 campaign ended June 7 in the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal round when the Highlanders lost a nail-biter to WPIAL champion Hempfield, 2-1, in eight innings at Latrobe's sun-filled Graham-Sobota Field.

In 2018, Baldwin won its fourth consecutive section championship, advanced to the WPIAL semifinals, won the third-place consolation game against Norwin, and went 1-1 in the state playoffs.

Baldwin closed out the year with a 13-6 overall record after posting a 10-4 regular-season mark.

One of the Highlanders' team leaders was senior shortstop Taylor Dadig, a four-year starter who finished her career with 138 base hits — believed to be one of the highest career totals in school history.

“I am very proud of my team's accomplishments this season,” Dadig said. “We came up a little short of our goals of a WPIAL and PIAA championship, but this team worked so hard every day year-round, and we gave ourselves the opportunity to compete with the best.

“Coach (Vince) Sortino always had us prepared for the physical and mental aspects of the game. I owe so much of my success to my teammates and coaches who always pushed everyone during the offseason and at practices. Looking back on my career, I'm proud of being a four-year starter at shortstop. I was fortunate to be part of (four) very successful teams.”

Dadig, who recently was lauded as a senior athlete of the year at Baldwin, along with Mike Goga, will continue her softball career at George Mason.

This summer, she is playing for the Pittsburgh Spirit 18U Premier travel team for the ninth year.

Baldwin's starting pitcher for a third consecutive season was Addie Tagg, a right-handed junior hurler.

“I think we had a fantastic season,” Tagg said. “It was definitely one for the books. This was one of my favorite seasons ever. I don't think there was one moment where we weren't all in the game mindset-wise.”

Baldwin defeated Mt. Lebanon, 4-1; lost to Latrobe, 2-0; and beat Norwin, 7-1; in the WPIAL playoffs; then beat Mifflin County, 9-6, and fell to Hempfield in the PIAA tournament.

One of the highlights during the regular season for the Highlanders was a nine-game winning streak that ran from April 12 to May 3. Baldwin outscored the opposition 73-13 during the streak, and registered four shutouts.

The Highlanders finished with a 120-50 overall scoring advantage, and averaged 6.8 runs per game.

The team's starting lineup consisted of sophomore second baseman Cassie Carlson, sophomore third baseman Salena Jaquay, Dadig, senior catcher Carly Santillo, Tagg, sophomore first baseman Allison Murray, junior left fielder Chyenne Shandor, senior right fielder Isabella Rossa and senior center fielder Emma Berta. Santillo, a four-year starter, is a Pitt-Johnstown recruit.

“Some of my fondest memories include making lifelong friends with my teammates,” Dadig said, “and always having an amazing support system within the Baldwin softball family.”

Three sophomores and two juniors will be returning starters for the Highlanders in 2019.

“I think we will come back just as strong next year, if not stronger,” Tagg said. “We all want a WPIAL first-place medal, and we will work hard to get it. We will definitely face some challenges, like new positions for some, but nothing can stop us from getting what we want. Baldwin softball will be back better than ever.”

Tagg is competing for the Pittsburgh Spirit 18U Gold LeViere travel team this summer.

“It's a showcase team, and I'm gone every weekend, either in another state or on the other side of Pennsylvania,” she said. “Most people say, ‘Wow, don't you want a summer?' And I reply, ‘This is my summer.' I love this game and the team that I play on. I would want nothing else but to spend my summer on the field.”

Baldwin posted 13 victories in each of the last four seasons, compiling a 52-21 overall record, and also finished 10-2 in section play all four years.

Baldwin advanced to the WPIAL semifinals three times and was a finalist once, and also qualified for the PIAA tournament twice. The Highlanders compiled 10-4, 12-3, 11-3 and 12-3 regular-season records since 2015, going 45-13 overall (with 22 shutouts).

Baldwin defeated section rival Mt. Lebanon three times this season by scores of 9-3, 5-2 and 4-1.

The Highlanders, who dropped a 5-1 decision at home to Hempfield in their regular-season finale, also lost to the Spartans, 2-0, in the WPIAL championship game in 2016.

Dadig and Jaquay both punched out two hits against Hempfield in this year's PIAA quarterfinal round; Tagg allowed only one hit through 5 23 innings.

Dadig, Santillo and Rossa served as Baldwin's co-captains in the game.

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

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