Bethel Park softball has reason for celebration, confidence

Saturday, March 26, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Bethel Park’s softball team reveled in a banner 2021 campaign, winning a WPIAL title and outright section crown for the first time in school history.

Ohio State recruit Reagan Milliken led a talented eight-player senior class last spring. Milliken was named Class 6A Player of the Year by Trib HSSN as Bethel Park’s shortstop. She hit 11 home runs and drove in 37 while batting a sizzling .660.

Milliken also was lauded as the 6A Player of the Year by the Pennsylvania High School Softball Coaches Association.

Last year’s senior class was Milliken, Gianna Sciullo (1B), Lauren Caye (CF), Delaney Nagy (P), Samantha Stephenson (3B), Riley McCann (P), Lexi Seese (OF) and Emily Momchilovich (INF/DP).

Five are continuing their careers at the next level: Milliken, Sciullo (Georgetown), Caye (Seton Hall), Nagy (UConn), who threw three no-hitters in her varsity career, and Momchilovich (Chatham), who was injured last year.

“This senior class will go down in school history as one of the greatest groups,” coach Heather Semplice-Scott said. “They showed younger players, not only on our team but throughout the community, what it takes to be a champion. They left their mark.”

The Black Hawks outscored the opposition 187-39 last season as eight players hit .300 or better in WPIAL action.

Semplice-Scott was named Trib HSSN and section Coach of the Year. She said one of the team’s goals this spring is pretty basic: to strive for a playoff position.

“Our expectations are to work hard and try to earn a spot in the playoffs,” she said. “I think we will be competitive, but the girls will have to work hard to earn a playoff spot. The team has been working on and learning how to play together. We continue to work on fundamentals.”

The next chapter of Bethel Park softball is rich in talent, making for an interesting read.

Catcher Sandra Soltes, outfielder Ali Sniegocki and infielders Abby Quickel and Delaney Sierka form a solid nucleus as returning senior starters.

Soltes hit .500 with eight home runs last season, and Quickel (.380), Sniegocki (.340) and Sierka (.312) were “.300 Club” members.

“I think our team will be competitive,” Soltes said. “We have to learn how we play in a game-like situation. We had our first scrimmage (March 16) against Connellsville, and I thought it was a successful scrimmage because we started to look more comfortable with each other.”

All four returning starters were named all-section a year ago; three are Division I college recruits. Soltes has committed to Pitt; Quickel, normally an infielder who switched to the outfield last spring, has pledged to Robert Morris; and Sniegocki has designated Holy Cross as her college choice.

“I will be majoring in computational biology,” Soltes said, “which is the study of biological, ecological and social systems.”

Soltes picked a great time to deliver her best high school performance, going 3 for 4 with two home runs, a single, three runs scored and eight RBIs in her team’s 9-2 win against Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL championship game.

Her offensive barrage began with a bases-loaded homer — known as the “Soltes Slam” — over the left-field fence in the first inning.

“That was definitely the best performance of my career,” Soltes said. “I thought I played really well and did my job to help us win the championship. Our team played lights-out throughout the WPIAL playoffs.”

Semplice-Scott marveled at Soltes’ offensive display against the section-rival Big Macs.

“Sandra’s performance was unbelievable,” Semplice-Scott said. “The power she brought to the plate set the tone to the game. Pitt will be gaining a great young lady. Sandra is a hard-working, driven and dedicated player.”

Soltes was a first team all-state selection by the Pennsylvania High School Softball Coaches Association.

“My main personal goal (this season) is to keep my batting average above .450,” Soltes said, “and to keep my walks at a minimum so I can try to drive more people in.”

Two newcomers who are expected to make an impact this year are Savana Knauff, a sophomore outfielder, and Lupe McElvenny, a sophomore utility player.

“Savana will help out in the outfield,” Semplice-Scott said.

Others looking to make their presence felt include senior utility players Anna Levis and Bella Pusateri, junior utility player Victoria DePasquale, sophomore infielder Julia Miller and sophomore utility players Nicolette Antonucci, Becky Gillenberger, Madison Kristobak and Lily Spence.

“There are many girls in contention for a starting role,” Semplice-Scott said.

Pitching is a key component of any high school softball team. The Black Hawks have three sophomore candidates: Alayna Owen, Makenzie Wade and Belinda Bova. Owen pitched in a few varsity games last season.

BP’s top freshman prospects in 2022 include infielder Kamiya Martin and utility players Audrey Campbell, Taylor Striegel, Allison Jones, Nina DePasquale and Rylee Rocco.

Semplice-Scott, who is in her 13th season as the Black Hawks’ field boss, believes Mt. Lebanon and Baldwin are the teams to beat in the Section 1-6A. She also expects Canon-McMillan to contend for the section title.

Bethel Park breezed through section play with an 8-0 record in 2021 en route to an 18-1 overall mark.

The Black Hawks rolled past Baldwin, Pine-Richland and Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL playoffs before losing a 4-1 decision to District 3’s third-place representative Penn Manor in a first-round PIAA playoff game.

Milliken led a lethal offense that scored nine or more runs in 14 of 19 games, averaged 10.4 runs and outscored its three WPIAL playoff opponents by a 27-3 difference.

“Winning a WPIAL title was definitely a goal for us, and it was by far the most exciting game I have ever been a part of,” Milliken said. “It is so cool to say that I was a part of the only softball team from Bethel Park to win a WPIAL title.”

Semplice-Scott attained her 100th career victory May 5, 2019, in an 8-6 nonsection win at home against Keystone Oaks. Her career record entering the season is 119-75.

The Black Hawks have advanced to the postseason seven consecutive years and haven’t had a losing record since 2011.

Their composite record in the regular season in those seven playoff years was 87-28.

The 2020 campaign was wiped out for all WPIAL teams because of covid protocols.

“Just like everyone else, not playing in 2020 was tough to take,” Semplice-Scott said. “These girls love the game and were devastated. Plus, the girls lost a year of playing high school ball together.”

Bethel Park has advanced to the WPIAL finals four times: in 1981 against North Hills, 1987 versus Montour, 1994 against Baldwin and last year.


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