Belle Vernon senior’s memorable day helps team dedicate WPIAL-title win to coach

Friday, June 2, 2023 | 8:06 PM

Belle Vernon senior Alexa Daniels had quite an eventful WPIAL Class 4A softball championship game Wednesday.

It began with a fastball to the foot and ended by jumping into teammate Ava Zubovic’s pool with her uniform on.

In between, she took a glove to the face, a fastball to the back and a knee to the head on a steal attempt. She had a clutch RBI triple in the eighth inning, scored a big run and celebrated her school’s fifth WPIAL softball championship.

It’s unclear if the WPIAL trophy joined her and her teammates in the swimming pool, but it was a day she won’t forget.

“I’m a little sore, but I’ll be OK,” Daniels smiled.

Winning a title probably took away the pain.

Belle Vernon (18-4) rallied for an 8-7 victory against Montour with a three-run eighth inning, Now the Leopards begin their quest to try to win their first state title, matching what the football team did in the fall.

Daniels’ triple broke the tie, and she later scored on sacrifice fly by Gracie Sokol.

“All I was thinking when I came up was to get on base. That was all I needed to do because I have a whole stacked lineup behind me that would hit me in,” Daniels said. “I just ended up hitting a triple. I don’t know what to say. I’m at a loss for words.

“I’m so proud of our team because how far we’ve come. We really deserved this win.”

It was also doubly important that the team got the win for coach Tom Rodriguez, who lost his wife March 28.

The team dedicated the season to his family.

“It was really big,” Daniels said. “Losing his wife was a tough loss for him and his family. To see Mr. Rod crying and giving me a hug, it meant the world to me.”

Lauren VanDivner added: “We just wanted to win this for Coach Rodriguez. This is for him and his wife.”

Talia Ross added: “We’ve been through a lot this season. We’re just so happy for Coach Rod.”

Rodriguez said the players said they won the game for his family. But he deflected those comments back to the team.

“This is just another game. I’m happy for the girls,” Rodriguez said. “We shouldn’t have lost last year’s game in 11 innings. They said they were doing it for my wife. They were also doing it for coach (John) Christner, who couldn’t get back for the game from Florida because of flight issues.”

Christner tried to get his tickets changed so he could get back from Miami. He bought new tickets, and a storm canceled that flight.

“I felt bad for John,” Rodriguez said. “He was a big help.”

Rodriguez said he gave the team Thursday off and scheduled a scrimmage for Friday to get ready for Monday’s first-round game against Trinity (Camp Hill), the District 3 third-place team, at 2 p.m. at Hempfield.

The winner plays the winner of Cathedral Prep (20-2) vs. Elizabeth Forward (18-1) on June 8 at a site and time to be determined.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at


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