Experienced juniors set to lead Greensburg Salem softball

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 | 4:39 PM

For the first time in nearly four decades, the Greensburg Salem softball team will have a new head coach in the dugout.

Rachel Brannigan has stepped in to take over for Jody Morgan, who captained the program for the last 38 years.

While it is a new role for Brannigan, she is quite familiar with the community. She was a multi-sport athlete for the Golden Lions in her playing days before moving on to play volleyball at Point Park. She also has spent the last couple of years coaching basketball and volleyball in the district.

As for her new post as the head coach of the softball team, Brannigan doesn't necessarily expect to make wholesale changes from the way Morgan ran things. However, she does, along with assistant coach Alyssa Bates, intend to bring pride and passion to the program in large doses.

“Being able to coach where I came from, I think it gives me a lot of passion when it comes to wanting the girls to be successful and wanting Greensburg Salem to remain a big name, a team to look out for,” Brannigan said.

“I have a lot of pride in this community, and I want to the girls to do well. Having that tie-in, being able to tell them that I've been here before, I think it's very helpful.”

The newly-minted manager will try to help steer the Golden Lions back to the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs after a two-year hiatus from postseason play that was preceded by a playoff streak that lasted more than a decade.

If the team can have that type of success this season, it may be in large part to a strong defensive corps of returning starters that runs down the middle of the field, according to Brannigan.

The group is composed of juniors, including catcher Sydney Tressler, pitcher Rena Caruso, shortstop Tiffany Bruzda and center fielder Nikki Mellinger.

“I think that we have a solid defense. We may still need to work on a few of the offensive aspects of our team, but I really think that our defense will be strong enough that they could be able to pull us through some games,” Brannigan said.

“I look for a lot of leadership from those girls as juniors with experience, and also from Kasey Storkel, as well. She's only a sophomore, and she will play second base, but she brings a lot to the table. She has that relentless defensive spirit that we're looking for.”

The team's lone senior, Elizabeth O'Neal, also returns to the team after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

Mattie Mae White will look to provide pitching depth behind Caruso after seeing plenty of time in the circle last season. Another junior, Mya Berger, figures to contribute defensively in the outfield and on the bases with her speed.

The Golden Lions are scheduled to begin their season at 4 p.m. March 29 with a Section 1-5A game at Woodland Hills.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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