Burrell’s Katie Armstrong earns 2022 Valley News Dispatch Softball Player of the Year honors

Saturday, June 25, 2022 | 11:27 PM

2022 Valley News Dispatch Softball All-Stars

Player of the Year

Katie Armstrong

Burrell, Jr., P

If the regular season didn’t already show it, then a WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal game against Belle Vernon proved just how dominant Burrell junior pitcher Katie Armstrong was throughout the spring.

Armstrong held a potent Leopards lineup to just five hits through 11 innings. She walked none and struck out 21 as No. 3 Burrell prevailed 1-0 to advance to the semifinals.

“I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be an easy game to win, but I didn’t think it would take 11 innings to get it,” Armstrong said.

Eleven innings or seven innings, Armstrong was always in the zone, and it created hard times for Burrell’s opponents.

Her season numbers tell the story as she helped lead the Bucs to the WPIAL final four and the PIAA tournament.

She pitched every inning over Burrell’s 17 games, faced 437 batters, surrendered 44 hits and 17 walks and struck out 257.

Of the 15 runs scored against her, only three were earned: one in the season opener against Mt. Pleasant, one in the WPIAL consolation win over Montour, and one against Beaver in the 3-0 PIAA quarterfinal loss.

She finished with a 0.18 ERA and an 0.58 WHIP.

Ten of her 14 victories came by shutout, including a 6-0 triumph of District 10 champion Villa Maria Academy in the first round of states. It was the first PIAA game for Burrell since 2011.

“Going in, we had that mentality that the game was big, and we had to represent our school the best we could,” Armstrong said. “We were playing for each other, which was really nice.”

For all that she accomplished throughout the season, Armstrong has been selected the Valley News Dispatch Softball Player of the Year.

Armstrong said it was a great ride with her Burrell teammates from the early practices all the way to the state quarterfinal game against Beaver. She noted the number of intense Section 1 games and how they prepared the team for the playoffs.

“Looking back to the first day of mandatory practices and seeing only 10 girls on the field, we still stuck together and grew,” Armstrong said.

“We battled through adversity, and it was a great feeling to still be playing in June. Every single girl on that team worked so hard. With the mix of young and older players, we still had the confidence that we could have a great season. We wanted to prove people wrong who said we couldn’t have a good season with the low numbers and a number of young players. We worked hard for each other, and great things happened because of it.”

Armstrong said she’s looking forward to next season and its potential. This year’s Bucs featured just one senior — Caroline Dynka — and had five freshmen earn starting experience.

“We have three or four incoming freshmen who play travel ball, and with just losing one, the numbers are going to be better,” Armstrong said. “We’ll have that experience, and we’re excited to, hopefully, be able to do it all over again and maybe go even further.”

First-team all-stars

Ashlee Bair

Kiski Area, Sr., INF

The Cavaliers finished tied for second place in Section 1-5A with Franklin Regional behind only PIAA runner-up Armstrong, and the senior veteran was a key presence in the lineup throughout the season. Bair batted .375 (18 of 48) with five multi-hit games and a team-best 17 runs batted in. She tied for the team lead with 21 runs scored. For her efforts, she was voted a Section 1 all-star.

Morgan Dunkel

Valley, Jr., P

A heart-and-soul player for the Vikings softball team, Dunkel helped Valley finish 6-2 in Section 1-3A and qualify for the playoffs for the second year in a row after a seven-year hiatus. In the pitching circle, Dunkel struck out 90 while walking 18 in more than 100 innings. At the plate, she batted a team-best .413 (19 of 46) with seven doubles, four home runs and 27 runs batted in.

Pyper Ferres

Burrell, Fr., 2B

Ferres was one of a number of young Bucs players who helped the team finish third in WPIAL Class 4A and earn a spot in the PIAA playoffs for the first time in 11 years. She paced Burrell with a .321 batting average (17 of 53) and tied for the team lead in RBIs with 11 while scoring a team-best 15 runs. Her 17 hits included 11 for extra bases – eight doubles, one triple and two home runs.

Jaycee Haidze

Highlands, Sr., 1B/P

Last year’s VND Player of the Year had another strong season at the plate to help the Golden Rams qualify for the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs. The IUP softball commit led the Highlands offense with a .519 average (27 of 52) and scored a team-best 21 runs. Haidze also produced 13 extra base hits — six doubles, three triples and four home runs. She also went 3-3 with 84 strikeouts in 49 innings in the pitching circle.

Reese Hasley

Deer Lakes, Sr., OF

The anchor of the Lancers outfield, Hasley produced in the field and at the plate as Deer Lakes finished as WPIAL Class 3A runner-up and earned a spot in the PIAA playoffs for the sixth time in 10 seasons. Hasley, a Grove City basketball commit, led the Lancers in batting at .409 (27 of 66) with 17 RBIs. She collected six doubles, and her two-run homer in the WPIAL semifinals against No. 2 South Allegheny helped propel Deer Lakes to the championship game.

Maddie Kee

Deer Lakes, So., P

Kee had a breakout season in the pitching circle and also was strong at the plate for a Lancers team which captured the Section 1-3A title and won 14 games. She finished 14-3 and fashioned a 1.88 earned-run average with 141 strikeouts in 112 innings. She scattered five hits and struck out 11 in Deer Lakes’ 5-1 PIAA first-round win over District 10 champ Corry. At the plate, Kee batted .371 with a team-best seven doubles and 24 RBIs.

Natalie King

Freeport, Sr., C

The defensive field general behind the plate for the Yellowjackets also was a force at the plate in helping her team reach the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs. King paced the Freeport offense throughout the season and finished with a .458 average (27 of 59) with team highs of 18 RBIs and 20 runs scored. She also belted a team-best three home runs.

Makenzie Lang

Plum, Jr., P/1B

A VND first-team selection for the second year in a row, Lang took over pitching duties this season in addition to her duties at first base. At the plate, Lang hit a team-best .442 (19 of 43) and knocked in 14 runs while scoring 19. She again showed her prowess for power with a team-leading six home runs. Lang struck out eight, walked none and scattered four hits in a 6-0 victory over Penn Hills on May 10 which clinched Plum’s trip to the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

Karli Mazak

Leechburg, Jr., CF

The Blue Devils, in their run to the WPIAL Class A playoffs for a record 35th season in a row, featured a team batting average of close to .400. Mazak was a major contributor to the offensive success in addition to her abilities as the team’s outfield anchor. Mazak, hitting leadoff, batted .540 with 16 RBIs and a team-best 22 runs scored to go along with two doubles and three triples.

Bri Thompson

Springdale, Sr., C

A Geneva commit for softball, Thompson was a veteran dual-threat presence for the Section 3-A champion Dynamos. She formed a formidable battery with pitching standout and classmate Alexis Hrivnak. Thompson also shined with the bat, hitting a team-best .343 with 34 RBIs and 31 runs scored. Of her total hits, 15 went for extra base hits as she belted eight doubles, five triples and a pair of home runs.

Second-team all-stars

Anna Bokulich, Deer Lakes, Jr., 2B

Jess Cekada, Highlands, Sr., SS

Mackenzie Favero, Kiski Area, Jr., SS

Alexis Hrivnak, Springdale, Sr., P

Dani Pici, Plum, Fr., C/P

Sydney Selker, Freeport, So., P/CF/UT

Hannah Simpson, Kiski Area, Jr., P

Leah Taliani, Valley, Jr., SS

Bella Vozar, Leechburg, Sr., C

Bailey Zidek, Apollo-Ridge, Sr., SS

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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