Hard-hitting Apollo-Ridge softball in WPIAL playoff mix

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Wednesday, April 28, 2021 | 7:31 PM


The Apollo-Ridge softball team was on the wrong side of a perfect game Monday against Ligonier Valley junior standout Maddie Griffin.

But rather than wallow in the wake of the setback, Vikings coach John Kinnamon said his team was laser-focused and ready to prepare for the next contest.

Apollo-Ridge has used a combination of effective pitching and strong hitting to be in the mix for the WPIAL playoffs in Section 2-2A.

“You ask any coach, the coaches sometimes take the losses harder than the players do,” Kinnamon said. “These players are kids, and they are resilient. Not to say they took that game lightly afterwards. But they came back Tuesday and were ready to get ready for Wednesday’s game (with Steel Valley).”

Apollo-Ridge got back on track Wednesday, rallying past Steel Valley, 11-3, to improve to 7-2-1 overall and 7-2 in section play.

In the Vikings’ wins, they averaged 12.7 runs. Through the ups and downs of season preparation, Kinnamon believed the team would be able to put the bat on the ball and put runs on the board.

“The one thing we could prepare for was hitting,” said Kinnamon, who also is working with his players on cutting down on errors and other fielding miscues.

“We had an off-site facility available to the girls before preseason practices started. The boosters were a great help in getting us there. The girls took advantage of that, and we came in ready to hit.”

Junior Bailey Zidek, an anchor at shortstop, also has been at the heart of the batting order.

In an 11-3 section victory over Seton LaSalle last week that avenged an earlier 4-2 loss to the Rebels, Zidek went 4 for 4 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and four RBIs.

Her hitting was contagious as the Vikings collected 15 hits. Seniors Amber Earnest, Casey Weightman and Addy Baustert and freshman Makenna Syster collected two hits apiece.

“All season, we’ve been focused on one game at a time and doing what we need to do to be prepared mentally and physically for that game right in front of us,” Zidek said. “I knew that we would be able to hit the ball coming right into the season, and we were excited about that.”

Apollo-Ridge scored another big section win, 11-4 over Serra Catholic, on April 19 as freshman Cam Kowalczyk had a breakout game from the leadoff spot.

The catcher went 2 for 4 with a home run and five RBIs. Amber Earnest, Zidek and Syster also had two hits in the game.

Sophomore April Earnest collected four RBIs in a 17-2 triumph over Brentwood on April 16.

“Everyone on the team has a bat, and they can use it,” Zidek said.

Baustert initially feared she would miss several weeks because of an upper arm and shoulder injury suffered in preseason practices, but after several physical therapy sessions, she was given the go-ahead to play. She missed the scrimmage against Greensburg Central Catholic but was there for the opener against Class 4A Highlands — a 9-9 tie — on March 26.

“I was really surprised I could come back as soon as I did because I thought it was worse than it really was,” said Baustert, who feels no effects from the injury.

“I was so glad to be able to play with the team, because without it, I think I would’ve gone crazy by the end of the season.”

While hitting has been a key to the team’s success this year, pitching also has been right there, Kinnamon said.

Weightman, who started Monday, headed into Wednesday’s game with a 3-1 record. She owned wins against Steel Valley, Serra and Seton LaSalle.

Senior Morgan Shupe was 1-0 with a five-inning perfect game against Jeannette.

April Earnest posted a 2-1 record with wins over Jeannette and Brentwood.

“Casey didn’t pitch for a lot of years, so the plan was to bring her along an inning here and an inning there to build up her endurance,” Kinnamon said. “We’ve gotten some really strong innings from April and Morgan. The pitching staff is deep, and we trust all three to go out there and pitch well.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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