Greensburg Salem softball looking to contend in new section

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Monday, March 11, 2019 | 9:07 PM


A move to a new section could be the right formula for the Greensburg Salem softball team this season.

Greensburg Salem dropped from Class 5A to Section 1-4A, and while the new section isn’t any easier, second-year coach Rachel (Roddy) Brannigan and her players are excited about the challenges.

The Golden Lions were moved into a section that includes two Class 4A perennial powers: Mt. Pleasant and Yough. They were the top seeds in the WPIAL playoffs last season.

Greensburg Salem (8-9, 7-7) missed the WPIAL playoffs by a game in 5A.

“The new section provides us with a challenge,” Brannigan said. “We’re looking forward to playing against Mt. Pleasant and Yough. Now we’re in a section with similar size schools.”

The other teams in the section are Highlands, Indiana and Uniontown, all playoff qualifiers. Yough moved over from Section 2-4A.

Greensburg Salem returns seven starters from the last season, including four seniors in catcher Sydney Tressler, pitcher Rena Caruso, center fielder Nikki Mellinger and shortstop Tiffany Bruzda.

Other returning starters are junior second baseman Kasey Storkel, junior first baseman pitcher Mattie Mae White and sophomore Kayla Gaughan.

Caruso was 6-5 with a 2.07 earned run average. White (1-3) pitched 30 innings.

“Our pitching and defense are our strengths,” Brannigan said. “If we can pick up our hitting, I like our chances to be in games. The goal is to qualify for the playoffs and be a contender for the section title. I feel we can do that as long as the offense steps up.”

Tressler agreed the defense and Caruso work hand-in-hand.

“Rena has good control, and her curveball usually gets a lot of batters out,” Tressler said. “She has good energy and rhythm.”

Bruzda led the offense with a .271 batting average with 13 hits, a home run and a team-high 12 RBIs. Mellinger bounced back after a slow start to finish with a .268 average, four doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs.

Bruzda said playing as a team will be the key.

“I feel the seniors have to become leaders and show the way,” Bruzda said. “This year, we have a pack of four (seniors) that will drive us to win.”

White had 12 hits, including two doubles, a home run and eight RBIs, and Tressler had 10 hits, including three doubles.

“The offense has to step up and, hopefully, the leadership will push to the top,” Brannigan said. “We’re really solid up the middle with Kasey, Tiffany, Nikki and Sydney. We do have a good group of freshmen that are pushing for playing time.”

Mellinger said: “The new section is going to be tough, but we have to come in with a winning mindset that we can compete with every team in the section no matter who it is.”

The two key positions that are open are at third base and left field. The three players battling for the jobs are freshmen Karissa Caldwell, Angela Kobuck and Roni Kaufman.

Others vying for playing time are freshman Chelsea Stabile as a pitcher and Megan Toth at first base.

Brannigan said when she took over the program she wanted to build the numbers back up. She has 19 players on the roster and good numbers in middle school.

After scrimmages with Jeannette and Ligonier Valley, Greensburg Salem opens the season against returning WPIAL Class 4A champion Belle Vernon on March 22 at home.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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