Catcher Bella Henzler ends Hampton career with flourish

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Saturday, May 21, 2022 | 2:36 PM


The Hampton softball team will return almost everyone from this year’s WPIAL Class 5A playoff qualifier, but one loss is going to sting.

Senior catcher Bella Henzler played her final high school game in the Talbots’ 11-5 loss to top-seeded Armstrong on May 17 at Mars in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs.

“She’s going to really be missed,” coach Ron Fedell said. “Aside from softball, she is such an outstanding kid. She is a great individual.”

Henzler, a James Madison recruit and three-time all-section selection, hit .610 in the regular season with 11 RBIs and 20 runs from the leadoff spot, while playing superb defense and skillfully handling the pitching staff.

Henzler was also the unquestioned leader of the youthful Talbots (7-8), who made a fourth consecutive WPIAL playoff appearance for the first time in program history.

“I did have a very good year,” Henzler said. “We dealt with a lot. Overall, we are a fairly young team and had a lot of learning to do. We made a lot of progress as a team. It was just a fun year.”

The season ended with the first-round loss to Armstrong. Hampton, the No. 16 seed in a 16-team bracket, led 3-1 heading into the bottom of the third inning, but sloppy defensive play led to six Armstrong runs and a 7-3 deficit.

“When you are a 16 seed trying to beat a No. 1 seed, you almost can’t make any mistakes,” Fedell said. “The girls gave it everything they had, and I thought we played a good game. But that one inning, we made our mistakes and we couldn’t come back from them.”

Said Henzler, “Everyone makes errors. Everyone screws up. We win as a team. We lose as a team. Being able to pick each other up as a team is something that we struggled with a little bit at the beginning of the year, but that is something that continually got better throughout the season.”

Henzler will play this summer for the New Jersey-based Stars National 18U team. She will compete in tournaments in New Jersey, Georgia, Colorado, Oklahoma and California before leaving for James Madison in late August.

“She is one of the few kids that has impacted the way I coach,” said Fedell, who will return next spring for his 24th season. “I’m a little bit mellower as a coach because she would take over a lot of the leadership and things that needed to be said, so I didn’t have to be quite as, we’ll say, forceful with the team because she was always there to give them maybe the kick in the rear end that they needed.”

The Talbots also graduate senior second baseman Shannon Shaughnessy, but they will return a large core of players who made progress during an up-and-down 2022 season.

Among the returnees are junior third baseman Addy Maguire, who hit .405 with 17 RBI and 20 runs, and sophomore first baseman Mackenzie Reese, who hit .390 with a team-high six home runs.

Henzler, Maguire and Reese were named all-Section 3-5A in voting by coaches.

Errors haunted the Talbots for much of the season, prompting Fedell to move his starting pitcher, sophomore Charlotte Lomb, to shortstop in the final week of the regular season and put freshman Cassie Vidic on the mound. Vidic relieved in a 9-8 come-from-behind win over Moon and beat Freeport, 4-2, in the regular-season finale before starting the WPIAL playoff game against Armstrong.

“It wasn’t a real hard decision because (Cassie) was pitching great, and Charlotte is a top-notch shortstop,” Fedell said of the decision to start Vidic in the playoff game. “We felt our best defense was with Charlotte at short and Cassie pitching.”

Whoever pitches next season — Fedell expects to use both in a “tandem-type thing” — will be working with a new catcher. Henzler’s leadership void may be the most difficult to fill.

“Next year, I’m hoping some of these guys take a big step forward,” Fedell said. “We are going to need some more leaders on this team.”

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