Derry softball returns 8 starters, hopes drop to Class 3A pays off

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Saturday, March 9, 2019 | 7:13 PM


Could this be a year of playoff success for the Derry softball team?

With no seniors on the roster, coach Pat Meloy said it’s still a goal to get past a WPIAL first-round game.

The Trojans, despite sub-par records in Class 4A, managed to snag WPIAL playoff berths the past two seasons, only to lose in opening-round play both times: 6-2 to Ambridge last season and 4-2 to Central Valley in 2017.

Derry, which drops in classification this season to 3A, returns eight of nine starters from a 5-10 team.

The big name missing this year from the Trojans’ lineup is shortstop Chelsea Bisi, a freshman at Penn State.

Bisi, who compiled a career batting average of nearly .800 at Derry, missed part of her senior high school season with a knee injury.

“She probably was the best athlete in softball to come through Derry,” Meloy said.

Bisi suffered an MCL injury April 26 in the batter’s box at Uniontown, when she turned on a ball and clubbed a home run in a 4-3 Derry victory.

“The biggest impact she made on our program was with her incredible work ethic,” Meloy said. “All those young girls just learned so much from Chelsea. She was clinical on making sure her mechanics were right. Having these girls watch how methodical she was, dissecting her swing, making sure every drill was carried out 100 percent. She practiced how she played.

“When a coach tells you something, it’s one thing. When the girls see a Division I-caliber player do something, it kept them on focus.”

Now, Meloy said, it’s time to apply what they have learned.

“We probably surprised some people with how competitive our playoff games were,” he said.

A move to Class 3A means a fresh lineup of teams for Derry. The Trojans will compete in Section 1 with Burrell, Deer Lakes, East Allegheny, Freeport and Valley.

“For the first time I can remember, we’re away from Mt. Pleasant,” Meloy said.

The Vikings, longtime section-mates of Derry, captured a PIAA Class 4A championship in 2017 and reached the semifinals last season.

Meloy said pitching will be an area to watch for Derry, which likely will use a committee of hurlers, led by sophomore right-hander Maddy Berger, who frequently pitched as a freshman.

“She pitched a lot for us last year,” Meloy said. “We don’t have a barn burner to come in and throw 60 and get a ton of Ks, but she’s got some experience.”

Other front-line players include junior shortstop Kam Kelly, a .300 hitter since her freshman season, second baseman Alana Meloy, the coach’s sister and another .300 hitter, sophomore catcher/infielder/pitcher Lex Jellison and sophomore outfielder/pitcher Gianna Copelli.

“Gianna will be a good leadoff hitter for us,” Meloy said. “She did well in that spot last year and also hit around .300 and can get on base for us. So, we’ve got some girls who can sting the ball.”

Switching classes could work in Derry’s favor, said Meloy, who enters his sixth season as coach. He’s preaching a message of hope to his team, telling players they can “forget the last year and write your own story now.

“We’re going in with a clean slate,” he said. “These teams don’t know much about us and we don’t know much about them. We get to paint our own picture.”

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