Highlands’ Jaycee Haidze named Valley News Dispatch Softball Player of the Year

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Saturday, June 26, 2021 | 11:15 PM


2021 Valley News Dispatch Softball All-Stars

Player of the Year

Jaycee Haidze

Highlands, Jr., P

At the start of the 2021 season, Jaycee Haidze set goals for herself and helped establish them for her team.

The Golden Rams were young with only three seniors, and with 2020 wiped out, the team didn’t have much varsity experience. But Haidze had a feeling that this year could be special.

She was right.

The team came together as the season progressed and capped it with first-ever trips to the WPIAL Class 4A championship game and PIAA semifinals in only the program’s second appearance in the state tournament.

Haidze was at the center of it all as she was a stalwart at the plate, in the pitching circle and also at first base.

She started the season in a pitching mix with sophomore Abbie Deiseroth before taking over every-game duties in the second half of the regular season.

Haidze finished 13-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 118 innings.

She stepped up her pitching prowess when it counted in the postseason. In 46.2 innings over seven WPIAL and PIAA games, she fashioned a 1.52 ERA with 67 strikeouts. She had nine or 10 strikeouts in every game.

Haidze held WPIAL and PIAA champion Beaver to no earned runs over 11 2/3 innings before the Bobcats came alive in the sixth inning of the state semifinal.

At the plate, Haidze batted .449 over 25 games with 40 hits, 35 RBIs, 12 doubles, three triples and eight home runs.

In the seven postseason games, she collected nine hits in 24 at-bats with two triples, a double and a home run.

Highlands finished 18-6-1 overall.

For her efforts, Haidze is the Valley News Dispatch’s Softball Player of the Year.

After having some time to reflect, what are your overall thoughts on your team’s season?

I am very proud of what we accomplished as a team. We were all heart every game. The support of each other, coaches, our athletic director Drew Karpen, trainer Jimmy (Wright) and the community was immeasurable the whole season. I think it motivated us to elevate our level of play each and every game. We made history at Highlands and will have memories that will last a lifetime.

What was the highlight of the season?

Definitely coming back to beat Elizabeth Forward in extra innings. It was such an amazing feeling to compete and win against the No. 1 seed. Our team never gave up, and every single player contributed to win that game.

How were you and your teammates able to stay focused for your PIAA quarterfinal game against Bishop McDevitt with the long rain delay and the change of game location?

We just hung out on the bus and kept each other hyped up and focused. We listened to music, played UNO and talked about strategies for the game. We didn’t let the situation get to us, and we were ready to play regardless of the time or location.

Were you confident coming into this season that this team could have a good season and make a run in the postseason? What drove that confidence?

We didn’t start our first section game off against Freeport the way we wanted, but we used that loss to refocus and improve on our weaknesses. After our next few games and wins, we knew this team was something special. We were determined to make a name for ourselves, and we did.

What are your expectations for next season with so many players returning?

My hope is that we will go further than we did this year and bring home both the WPIAL and state title.

Who was the toughest hitter you faced this season? What about her made it such a challenge?

The toughest hitter I faced was (Elizabeth Forward shortstop) Anna Resnik. She hit the ball hard and into play every at-bat.

With your dual prowess for hitting and pitching, would you rather hit a walk-off home run or pitch a no-hitter?

I would rather hit a walk-off home run.

What are your plans for summer softball? Would you play a game every day if you could?

I am playing summer ball for Ohio Outlaws (Griffin). If I had the chance to play every day, I most definitely would!

How many pitches do you throw? Which one is your favorite, and why?

I throw five pitches. My favorite pitch is my two-seam (fastball) because it is my fastest pitch and most effective.

Did you have a specific team you were rooting for in the Women’s College World Series? Why were they your team?

I was rooting for Alabama because watching the chemistry between (catcher) Bailey Hemphill and (pitcher) Montana Fouts was one of a kind.

Do you have a nickname?

Yes. Jay.

Have you made any plans for college yet?

I am currently verbally committed to IUP. I went for a visit and immediately had a connection with the coaching staff and players. The campus was very inviting and felt like home, which I really like. I also like the rural area and being close to home. I am still undecided for a major but interested in the medical field.

What is your favorite account to follow on Twitter?

I am not a big social media fan, but I keep up to date on our Highlands athletics pages.

What are some favorites on your music playlist?

I have a wide variety of rap and country songs.

If you could listen to only one rap artist or country singer, who would they be?

My favorite rap artist is either Drake or Polo G. My favorite country artist is Luke Combs.

Are there any shows you are binge watching?

I binge watched Grey’s Anatomy because the medical field interests me.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I used to compete in English horseback riding.

When and how did you get started?

I started because of my love for horses and I wanted to give it a try. I began riding at the age of 7 and stopped when I was about 10 when I found a love for softball. I trained at Double Springs Farm (Saxonburg).

First team

Katie Armstrong

Burrell, So., P

In her varsity debut, Armstrong went 7-5 in and out of a challenging Section 1-4A and finished with a 1.15 ERA and 163 strikeouts against just 21 walks over 85.1 innings. She started the season by allowing one earned run in 16.2 combined innings in one-run losses to Class 6A semifinalist Norwin and Class 4A state qualifier Fox Chapel. Armstrong added a .340 average with eight RBIs.

Mackenzie Borkovich

Fox Chapel, Jr., P

The Section 3-5A second-team selection helped the Foxes reach the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA playoffs for the first time in program history. Borkovich finished 13-9 with a 2.48 ERA and 252 strikeouts in 140.2 innings. She shut out Class 5A No. 3 Plum in the WPIAL first round and held WPIAL and PIAA finalist Armstrong to one earned run in the WPIAL semifinals. At the plate, she batted .329 with six doubles and 11 RBIs.

Kassidy Cambal

Highlands, Jr., C

An anchor of a stingy Golden Rams defense, Cambal developed a reputation as a catcher the opposition was wary to test. In the batter’s box, she broke out in her varsity debut by leading Highlands with a .475 average (38 of 80), eight doubles, two home runs, 26 RBIs and a team-best 35 runs scored. She had her team’s lone hit against Beaver standout Payton List in both the WPIAL title game and PIAA semifinals.

Shayne Cerra

Deer Lakes, So., SS

The Lancers extended their WPIAL playoff qualification streak to 10 years out of Section 1-3A (11-4, 8-2), and Cerra was a big piece of the puzzle. Cerra led the team in batting with a .521 average (25 of 48) with 14 RBIs and a team-best 27 runs scored. She had nine multi-hit games and was 7 for 14 in four games against fellow section leaders North Catholic and Derry.

Abbie Deiseroth

Highlands, So., 1B

At the heart of the Highlands lineup, Deiseroth batted .433 (39 of 90) with 38 RBIs and 29 runs scored over 25 games. She hit seven home runs with a triple and five doubles. Deiseroth had at least one hit in 20 games and collected three hits in a game five times. She also went 5-1 in seven starts in the pitching circle with 46 strikeouts in 43 innings.

Mackenzie Lang

Plum, So., 1B

The Section 1-5A first-team selection paced the back-to-back section champion Mustangs with a .348 average, 16 runs scored and a team-best eight home runs and 26 RBIs. She homered in her first varsity at-bat. Lang garnered respect at the plate as the season went on as she drew several intentional walks.

Melanie Mienke

Plum, Sr., P

Mienke was a standout in the pitching circle for the Mustangs as she struck out 171 batters and walked just 15 in 111 innings over 17 games. She fashioned a 2.14 ERA and compiled a 13-4 record to help lead Plum to the Section 1-5A title. Mienke, an all-section first-team selection, will continue her softball career at Pitt-Greensburg.

Emma Ritchie

Leechburg, Sr., P/1B

Ritchie was a headache for opposing pitchers as the Blue Devils won the section title, made their 34th straight WPIAL playoff appearance and earned another trip to the PIAA tournament. She batted .439 with three home runs, 18 RBIs and 17 runs scored. As the main pitcher, she went 8-4 with 72 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched.

Sydney Selker

Freeport, Fr., P

Selker quickly established herself at the varsity level in the pitching circle and at the plate. She led the Yellowjackets with a .483 batting average, seven home runs, 27 RBIs and 29 runs scored. As the main pitcher, she finished 8-5 with a 3.70 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 89 innings as Freeport made the WPIAL playoffs for the 11th year in a row.

Olivia Vissari

Knoch, Sr., OF

Vissari fueled an experienced Knoch lineup as the Knights captured a share of the Section 1-4A title and made the WPIAL quarterfinals. She led the team in batting at .508 (31 of 61) with nine doubles, five home runs, 18 RBIs and 22 runs scored. She homered and drove in two in Knoch’s 4-1 WPIAL first-round playoff victory over Central Valley.

SECOND TEAM

Jess Cekada, Highlands, Jr., SS

Kasandra Cessna, Kiski Area, Sr., OF

Liz Clark, Burrell, Sr., CF

Lindsay Edwards, Knoch, Soph., CF

Amelia Herzer, Fox Chapel, Jr., C

Alexis Hrivnak, Springdale, Jr., P

Hannah Mass, Deer Lakes, Sr., 3B

Autumn Powell, Freeport, Jr., 3B/P

McKenna Pierce, Leechburg, Sr., SS

Bailey Zidek, Apollo-Ridge, Jr., SS

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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