Fueled by playoff loss, expectations surging for Springdale softball

Wednesday, March 23, 2022 | 10:01 PM

To say the Springdale softball program has turned things around would be an understatement.

The Dynamos won 24 games over the past two seasons, more than they won in the previous 10 years combined.

Now, coach Anthony Pototo feels his team can take it a step further.

“It’s just been a really good, solid group of girls that I’ve had since they came in as freshmen,” said Pototo, entering his eighth season. “In the last year, we’ve progressively gotten better.”

The next hurdle, however, is making a deep run in the playoffs. In 2021 and ‘19, Springdale had blowout first-round wins in the Class A playoffs but lost in the quarterfinal round.

A year ago, the team went 11-4 and split the Section 3-A title with Leechburg. But a 3-2 loss to South Side in the WPIAL quarterfinals still lingers.

“We just came up short,” Pototo said. “We know we had that game. I believe they know we had that game. But it was a learning experience. From the last couple of years of us all being together and with a core group of seniors, we’re ready to win the section title flat out, make it past that second round and win a WPIAL championship.”

Gone from last year’s team are three players who graduated and occupied the right side of the field in first baseman Natalie Woitas, second baseman Dayna Zezza and right fielder Miranda Shock.

“We’ve had some girls step up and take on those roles,” Pototo said. “We’re moving some people around to see where they fit.”

From the pitching circle to home plate is where this group is strongest. Pitt-Johnstown commit Alexis Hrivnak will handle the bulk of the pitching in her senior season.

“She’s the workhorse on the team,” said Pototo of Hrivnak, who also will be the team’s cleanup hitter. “We all rally behind her, and she does well on the mound. She’s very tough to hit against, and she throws a lot of innings. She’s very consistent and works hard on the game.”

Brianna Thompson, who is a travel softball player, provides position flexibility for Springdale but primarily will see time behind the plate, as she is committed to catch at Geneva next year.

Senior Emily Wilhelm, a shortstop, will hit second in the order and provide more veteran leadership for a team that will have plenty.

“These girls, they don’t just play school ball, they play travel ball,” Pototo added. “So they know what it’s like to win. They brought that mentality, that work ethic, back to Springdale. They’re taking the young girls under their wing and are helping them out and teaching them along the way.”

Autumn Sprouse, Maggie Dvorsak and Isabella Savko will be reliable contributors, and a freshman, Ashlyn Ferderbar, is a promising newcomer.

“(Ferderbar) can play anywhere in the infield,” he said. “We’re looking to see if she can give us some innings (pitching) as well. And she’ll hit leadoff for us, as well.”

Pototo feels the section might come down to his team and Leechburg.

“They’re the team we always kind of star (on the schedule),” he said. “Not only are they a section game, but we’re like, ‘This is what we’ve got to get ready for.’ They’re coached very well, and they have their pitcher back from last year.”

Expectations, for a program just four years removed from consecutive one-win seasons, are suddenly quite high. And the fuel from last year’s finish could be enough to push the Dynamos over the top.

“We know what we’re capable of doing,” Pototo said. “We know that there’s a lot of talent in not only our section, but the other sections. But we know that we can compete against any team in Class A.

“We want to get past that, we’re confident enough that we will get past that. We just have to go out there and do it. We don’t want to leave with that sour taste in our mouth from last year.”


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