George Guido: Highlands softball team’s new field a hit
Saturday, May 15, 2021 | 8:35 PM
Highlands is celebrating its first section softball title since 2005, and the Golden Rams did it in the first year of their new field.
During the offseason, a number of parents and community volunteers converted a former PONY baseball field on the high school campus to softball.
The field is on the other side of the parking lot from the school’s baseball field.
For a number of years, Highlands used a youth ballfield on the other end of the complex near the former Riverview Elementary School. Starting last fall, the boosters club had a variety of fundraisers and donations from community businesses to get the ball rolling.
“The new field was really a motivator for the girls to do well,” Golden Rams coach Jenn Koprivnikar said. “We were happy with all the support from all the parents, and I can’t say enough about their contribution.”
Highlands finished the season with a 7-3 record in Section 1-4A and were 13-4 overall. The No. 5-seeded Golden Rams will battle No. 12 Blackhawk to open the playoffs at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Montour.
“We flipped that field around, and it took a whole community of people to make it work,” boosters club member Mary Pierce said. “We had the dugouts painted the school colors, and we had a concession stand for the first time.”
Once the school board gave approval of field usage, the boosters went to work and produced the renovated facility without any taxpayer money from the school district general fund. A number of people also donated their skills, such as carpentry.
An anonymous area businessman donated money for a regulation outfield fence.
Said Koprivnikar: “We really got a lot of help from John Zourelias, an uncle of one of our players, and our athletic director, Drew Karpen. They made things happen, and we have a really talented group of parents.”
Highlands went 9-2-1 on the new field this season.
But there’s work remaining.
“We want to get a scoreboard and bring in the outfield grass,” Pierce. “We also look to expand our concession stand. The middle school team also uses the field, and their parents helped out. We’ve had overwhelming help from the community.”
Since PONY baseball uses a 75-foot diamond and high school softball 60 feet, there is a large dirt area behind where the infielders normally play. The boosters group hopes that the field will someday be considered by the WPIAL for playoff games, much like the baseball field.
As for now, Highlands will seek its first playoff softball win since defeating Greensburg Salem, 9-3, on May 21, 2005.
Piling up the runs
Mars had one of the WPIAL’s most potent baseball offenses this season, setting a school record with 165 runs, bettering the old mark of 157 in 2003.
The No. 8 Planets (12-6) will take on No. 9 Gateway in opening-round Class 5A play at 4 p.m. Wednesday at North Allegheny.
Gateway has scored 65 runs, leaving Mars with a plus-100 run differential. But as we have seen many times in the baseball playoffs, it’s hard to predict what might happen.
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