‘Baptism by fire’ could pay off for Hampton softball
Thursday, March 28, 2019 | 9:47 PM
The Hampton softball team had inched its way toward a playoff berth for a couple of years before it finally broke through last year.
Now, the freshmen and sophomores who were thrown into the top-notch competition by coach Ron Fedell are juniors and seniors, and they are poised for a deep run.
“When my juniors were freshmen, they got a baptism by fire,” Fedell said. “They were thrown into the section with a lot of those top teams. Now that they’re juniors, we expect a lot out of them.”
The same can be said of Hampton’s two seniors, who hope to lead the Talbots to their first section title since 2015.
Section 2-5A lost perennial power West Allegheny in realignment, which should help a Hampton team that finished 9-8 overall, 7-5 in section.
Seniors Sydney Kasper (first base) and Maddie Warner (third base) will start in the infield. Kasper is a two-year letterwinner and returning starter, and Warner has lettered three times. They are team captains.
The Talbots also return top pitchers in junior Anneliese Probeck and sophomore Bella Nordick. Probeck pitched the majority of the innings last year, but Norick, who pitched in and won the back end of three doubleheaders in 2018, is expected to take on a larger role.
“I feel comfortable with both of them,” Fedell said. “They’re both very good pitchers. Anneliese made a big leap from freshman to sophomore. I expect the same thing out of Bella. So far, I think I’m seeing it.”
Maria Schrecengost is a three-year starter at shortstop. Lydia Quaglia, a two-year starter, moved to center field, where Fedell thinks she will excel.
Sophomore Hannah Bradfield, who hit over .500 last year, is an above-average defender at second base.
“If the ball is hit her way, she is going to dive at it, field it with the glove, her bare hand … she’s going to stop the ball,” Fedell said. “She just gives it everything she has on every play.”
The infield’s defense is a strength that comes from experience, and it should be even greater this year.
“Last year, we talked to the kids and thought if we had three or less errors in the infield, we’d win the game,” Fedell said. “I don’t think we’re going to have a problem with that.
“The outfield, we might start slow because we haven’t been outside that much. But I think by the end of the season we’ll be very good.”
Left field will feature Arianna Erka, who started some as a freshman, and a platoon of Nordick and sophomore Caitlin McCarthy, who Fedell said is “a good player who I just don’t have a position for right now.”
The only player lacking varsity experience is freshman catcher Bella Henzler, but she impressed enough to earn the starting job.
Overall, the team’s experience should help it overcome previous obstacles.
“I think it’s just the confidence factor,” Fedell said. “One thing about the girls, they hear about these teams like West Allegheny and Shaler. They play them. They’re a little bit in awe of them. Now, I think the confidence is there, and they feel like they can go out there and beat anybody.”