Freeport confident heading into softball season with small but talented roster
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 | 6:27 PM
When Freeport softball takes the field this year, there’s a good chance there will only be 11 players on the team.
Don’t be fooled by the small roster, though.
The Yellowjackets have a mix of veteran and young talent, and they expect to be in the mix for a section title.
Freeport started five freshmen last year on a team that finished 10-4 overall and second in the Section 1-3A standings.
With a year of experience plus standout senior pitcher Tori Radvan, junior shortstop Emily Schmidt and senior designated hitter/outfielder Anastazia Herbst returning, there’s a confident buzz around the team.
“We have some good players, and we just have to find where they all fit in,” coach Sam Ross said.
Ross has fielded a small roster before. In 2016, Freeport had only 13 players but managed to reach the WPIAL quarterfinals.
This year’s Yellowjackets have embraced a band-of-sisters mentality and have seen some benefits from it in training.
“In a sense, having a smaller number kind of helps us, because we’re all able to get more reps,” Herbst said. “Last year we started with 19 girls and it was hard to get everyone through in a timely manner without being (at practice) for what felt like three or four hours. We’re also able to support each other more.”
Freeport graduated two seniors: second baseman Madison Wagner, whom Ross lauded for her defensive play, and standout center fielder Ally DeJidas.
DeJidas hit over .500 in her four years at Freeport and has now taken that big bat to Mercyhurst.
“Madison and Ally were good seniors and good leaders,” Ross said. “We’ll miss Ally’s bat. Anytime someone bats around .500 all four years, they’re tough to replace, but we hope that happens.”
Radvan, a Pitt-Johnstown recruit, played last year five months after recovering from a severe knee injury sustained during volleyball season and had a stellar season with the bat and as the team’s ace. She had a .644 batting average with seven homers and 29 RBIs and had an 8-3 record with a 3.79 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 61 innings.
“It helps a lot having Tori, because we trust her,” Schmidt said. “We know what she can do and what she’s capable of.”
Schmidt hit .440 last year and Herbst had a .314 batting average.
Sophomores Autumn Powell (.417), Madison Shanta (.378), Taylor Davis (.348), Natalie King (.303) and Savanna Urik (.280) all had strong seasons in their first varsity go-round. Sophomore Jenna Selker and incoming freshman Aimmi Heasley are also expected to contribute.
“We all have to do our part, so we’re not solely relying on Tori,” Herbst said. “We have to contribute in whatever way we can, whether it’s hitting or fielding.”
Freeport finished runner-up to Burrell in Section 1. Deer Lakes and Derry were also playoff teams and Valley and East Allegheny round out a section that is entertaining year in and year out.
“It’s very competitive,” Schmidt said. “We have the local rivalries with Burrell and Deer Lakes, and we have it in pretty much every sport, so that makes it fun.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer
More High School Softball• Senior spotlight: West Allegheny catcher misses camaraderie on softball diamond
• Pine-Richland softball focused on adding punch at the plate
• Local ballplayers trying to stay sharp during coronavirus’ spring shutdown
• Yough softball returns 7 starters, expects championship-caliber season
• With youth and experience, Valley softball is looking to break its playoff hiatus