Hampton softball has ‘a lot of games to win’ after coach’s covid scare

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Saturday, March 27, 2021 | 10:01 AM


They were simple get-well cards. Some were store-bought, some caringly drawn by hand.

But when Hampton softball coach Ron Fedell returned home in mid-January after a frightening two-week hospital stay with complications from covid-19, the stack of well-wishes meant the world to him.

“Some of these kids sent me cards,” he said. “I didn’t get them until I got home. But I’m sick, and then you read these cards. … It really uplifted me.”

Fedell was reluctant to put any focus on his near-death brush — doctors gave him only a 15-30% chance of survival — during practice inside the gym during a wet March 18.

“This is all about the kids,” the 22nd-year coach said.

For sure, the players were a big part of the recovery. The same virus that had wiped out a promising 2020 season — “I think we could have contended for the WPIAL (title),” Fedell said — was now attacking their beloved coach.

“I did send him a card,” star junior catcher Bella Henzler said. “I told him we’ve got a lot of games to win.”

Fedell developed chills Christmas Day and tested positive for covid-19 two days later. After being released, he was back in the emergency room Jan. 5.

About four days later, his wife Kathy was warned to prepare for the worst.

“I had bacterial pneumonia,” Fedell said. “There is nothing they can do. (The doctor) told my wife, ‘I think you should start planning on him not coming home.’”

But Fedell, a fit 65-year-old, fought off the virus and gradually improved enough to return home — to a therapeutic pile of get-well cards. He said he dropped 25 pounds, from 200 to 175, and he still gets fatigued more than usual, but the worst is over.

“They said it’s going to be like that for two or three months,” Fedell said.

High expectations for this season also has Fedell feeling better.

Henzler, a James Madison recruit, is one of the top catchers in the WPIAL. She is joined by senior shortstop and co-captain Hannah Bradfield, sophomore third baseman and cleanup hitter Addy Maguire and senior left fielder Arianna Erka as top returners.

Freshman Charlotte Lomb takes over pitching duties for the Talbots, who are transitioning into Section 3-5A with Fox Chapel, Mars, North Hills, Oakland Catholic and Shaler. Lomb was effective in the Talbots’ opening scrimmage against Kiski Area on March 17.

“I thought I did pretty good,” she said. “I was definitely kind of nervous going into it. … But I think it went really well.”

Senior Katie Collins and freshman Mackenzie Reese are auditioning at first base, and freshmen Abby Dittrich and Jessica Lange and junior Shannon Shaughnessy are vying for the starting shortstop job.

Lange also can play center field, and junior Carolyn Kuzniewski will start in right.

Seniors Caitlin McCarthy and Alyssa Zottola also will contribute as Hampton looks to make a third consecutive WPIAL playoff appearance for only second time in program history.

“I think we have a really good team,” said Bradfield, who will bat leadoff. “We’re really connecting, and there is a lot of good energy with these girls.”

Fedell expects to have a solid lineup and an “above-average” defensive team. The Talbots, who open the season March 30 at Seneca Valley, committed only one error against Kiski Area.

“If we can get any kind of pitching at all, we will be very good,” Fedell said. “But we have young pitchers, and it can be a struggle sometimes.”

Lomb has the benefit of working with an outstanding catcher. Henzler was voted second-team all-section as a freshman. She batted over .400, and Fedell estimates she threw out 11 of 12 would-be basestealers.

Lomb said she settled down after her defense recorded the first out in her debut against Kiski Area.

“That made me feel a lot safer trusting my defense behind me, and it made me feel really secure,” she said. “I was able to breathe for a second.”

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