Hampton softball picks up pace under new coach

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Saturday, March 9, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Hampton all-section senior shortstop Charlotte Lomb said new coach Kate Hedderman’s high-paced workouts were an eye-opener for some of her teammates.

“It was a little bit of a culture shock,” Lomb said. “She definitely moves a lot quicker. It’s a lot more serious practices than we are used to. But I think it’s really good for us.”

Hedderman, a former Deer Lakes assistant and standout catcher at Slippery Rock, was hired in late November to replace Ron Fedell, who stepped down after last season due to family obligations. Fedell went 202-194-1 in 23 seasons.

Hedderman runs HomePL8, a softball training facility in Hampton, and Lomb works there as a junior instructor. Lomb, an Albany recruit, is familiar with Hedderman’s fast-moving approach and wasn’t fazed by the pace of practice.

“I kind of expected this,” Lomb said after an energetic early March team workout at Hampton Community Park.

Pitt-bound senior Mackenzie Reese, who is moving to catcher after playing third base last season, has embraced her new coach.

“I love her,” Reese said. “I grew up with her. She was my coach when I was 10 years old, 12 years old, and just having her now is real nice.”

Hedderman inherited a promising squad from Fedell. The Talbots return eight starters, including Lomb (.500, 6 HRs, 21 RBIs, 28 runs), Reese (.593, 27 RBIs), all-section senior centerfielder Jessica Lange and junior pitcher Cassie Vidic (9-5).

“Leadership is a big strength and the fight they have to get out and show who the new Hampton softball is,” Hedderman said. “I think the change of culture is just a faster-paced program and a program that really focuses on development.”

Junior third baseman Aliza Michielli and sophomore first baseman Giana Nelson also return from last year’s team, which went 13-6 and won a WPIAL playoff game for the first time since 2019. Only one Hampton team in the past 15 seasons won more games than last year’s group (‘19).

Seniors Sarah Dietz and Brooke Murgenovich, junior Alaina Dittrich and freshman Cara Ibinson are vying for the corner outfield spots, flanking Lange.

The returnees — only all-section catcher Addy Maguire was lost to graduation — are joined by an encouraging group of freshmen, who posted eye-popping numbers last season for a successful middle school team. More than half of the 27 players at the initial tryouts were ninth-graders (14).

“I think we are going to do really good,” Lomb said. “I think we have a really good group of freshmen who are going to help us be a full team.”

Freshman Addi Hannah is penciled in as the starter at second base and another ninth-grader, Katelyn Dubee, is pushing Nelson at first base. Freshmen pitchers Teresa Fritsch and Marissa Snyder give the program quality arms down the line.

“We have a lot of strengths,” Reese said. “It’s amazing. We have so much energy. We’re so excited for this year.”

Hampton, which opens the season March 19 against visiting Knoch, is looking to challenge Montour and Chartiers Valley as the top team in Section 3-4A. The Talbots spent a lot of time in Hedderman’s training facility during the winter and early season practices and hope the added swings help them have a more balanced lineup this season after being top-heavy last year.

“We hope to see not as many gaps in the lineup,” Hedderman said. “We’ve done a lot of offense, with the weather and being inside. That’s what we’ve been doing heavy, and we expect them to be able to hit.”

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