Carlynton softball contends for playoff berth
By: Nathan Smith
Monday, May 7, 2018 | 5:30 PM
The Carlynton softball team isn't giving up hope just yet.
With a 2-6 record in Section 1-2A play, the Cougars started May in fifth place. But with the top four teams making the WPIAL playoffs, stringing together a couple of late-season wins could end an extended postseason drought.
Carlynton softball has not been to the playoffs since 2007.
“We have pushed that every game,” Carlynton coach Traci Melko said. “We have told the girls to forget about everything else and focus on the game. From here on out, we need to win.
“We can do this. I feel in my heart we can.”
The program is struggling with low numbers. Starting off with 16 players, numbers have dwindled for a variety of reasons. The team now has little to no depth. That can be disastrous when combined with a back-loaded schedule.
“It is very frustrating being in the gym,” Melko said. “But everyone has that excuse. There are games we get psyched to play, but they get canceled and not rescheduled because they are nonsection. We were supposed to play Canevin, and the girls were fired up. But it got canceled.
“You think about it being an 11-game season. That's it? It is a lot of practice for very few games.”
Jaeyln Melko has been finding success in the circle. The sophomore pitcher is in her second season as Carlynton's starter and has more than 50 strikeouts through the first nine games of the season.
The young pitcher tossed a perfect game April 13 in a 22-0 win over Sto-Rox.
“She worked hard in the offseason,” Traci Melko said. “Last year, she had two pitches. Now she has five. And she is throwing pitches at different speeds. She has good movement on her pitches. Being only her second year, I am excited to see what she brings to the mound in the future.”
Traci Melko praised the efforts of the three seniors on the roster. Left fielder Kayla Moorby and catcher Alexis Stewart have both boosted the team's play. Bri Koval has been a bit of a utility player — playing shortstop, third base and first base.
“(Sophomore) Carlee Smith has come to play,” Traci Melko said. “She is our center fielder, and she is ready for any fly balls coming her way.”
The Cougars have been trying to build consistency at the plate. While the team is averaging almost five runs, Carlynton has scored two runs or less in six contests.
Two of the team's most consistent batters have been Smith and freshman Emma Weiland. The underclassmen have each had several multi-hit games. Jaelyn Melko has also been a presence at the plate.
Stewart has brought power to the lineup. The team's No. 4 batter, Stewart was 4 for 4 with a grand slam and a pair of doubles in the team's win over Sto-Rox.
The Cougars entered their final two section games needing wins to keep the playoff dreams alive. Those dreams can become a reality if the team finds consistency at the plate.
“We need to bring our bats,” Traci Melko said. “We have a good group of girls. There is good camaraderie. If we get the bats going, we'll be OK.”
Nathan Smith is a freelance writer.