Franklin Regional softball blending youth, experience

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Saturday, March 7, 2020 | 7:20 PM


Franklin Regional’s softball team is hoping to carry its momentum from last season.

The Panthers advanced to the WPIAL semifinals in Class 5A last spring, when they lost 4-2 to West Allegheny. The Indians went on to claim their third straight championship.

Franklin Regional finished 13-9 overall and 10-4 record in Section 1. The Panthers, who battled injuries much of the season, tied Connellsville for second place behind Penn-Trafford (14-0). Latrobe and Albert Gallatin tied for fourth.

“Last year, it kind of came together for us at the end of the year,” FR coach Jim Armstrong said. “It was nice to win (two playoff games), and it was nice that we got that far.”

Armstrong welcomes back a strong group of returning starters with an influx of freshman prospects. The team will spend part of spring training in the Madeira Beach area near St. Petersburg, Fla.

“We lost a great pitcher (Angalee Beall), and we lost a great first baseman (Mallory Halleck) from last year, but I’m pretty excited about our team,” Armstrong said. “I think we’re going to be pretty good. We have some experience and we have some young girls. We have girls who are excited about playing.

“We are going to be young. We have some young players who will be exciting to watch. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Among the returning players are seniors Olivia Yurinko (OF), Abby Kane (C), Mariah DeRiggi (SS), Kylee O’Neill (OF) and Anna Damico (utility); juniors Sara Cowell (OF), Kamaria Kelly (OF) and Makinzie DeRiggi (P); plus sophomores Alisa Kane (3B) and Kammi Marcus (2B).

Makinzie DeRiggi, a junior and cousin of Mariah, is the Panthers’ No. 1 pitcher. She has recovered from a broken leg suffered last year.

“My expectations are for us to make it to playoffs and hopefully states,” DeRiggi said.

DeRiggi said her curveball is her best pitch.

“Either my curve or my drop curve,” she said.

Two younger players, sophomore Erin Hanes and freshman Madison Nguyen, are vying for playing time at first base.

Two freshman infielders also looking to make immediate contributions are cousins Tait Ramchandran and Carli Ramchandran, who also might pitch.

“They’re players; that’s for sure,” Armstrong said.

Other leading freshman prospects include Alexa Patberg (DH/OF) and Sydney Jackson (C/OF).

“We’re going to have some sophomores and some freshmen starting,” Armstrong said. “We have a nice group of freshmen who are pretty talented. We have a lot of young girls in the ninth-grade class. Some are going to make an impact on the team this year.

“We will have a lot of contributions from that younger group.”

Franklin Regional will be in Florida from March 19-24 after spending time in Dodgertown at Vero Beach the past three seasons.

“We decided we’d try this other side (of the state) out,” Armstrong said. “It’s spring break time, so there will be more tourists than we’re normally used to. We’ll get some games in down there. That really will become a barometer for us.”

The Panthers are slated to play South Fayette, Notre Dame Academy (N.Y.) and Immaculate Conception Prep (Ill.) while in the Sunshine State.

“The dynamics have changed a lot, with cellphones and travel teams now,” Armstrong said. “You used to have one or two girls play travel ball. Now, most of the girls play and are used to traveling.”

FR will open its section schedule March 26 at home against Connellsville, followed by three straight road tests.

“In our section, they’re all games that are going to be good.” Armstrong said. “You know you are going to play a (good) game every day.”

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