Infusion of young talent boosts Valley softball

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Friday, April 2, 2021 | 6:50 PM


While there are many things Valley softball coach Carrol Perroz is concentrating on this season, planning a senior-day ceremony isn’t one of them.

A youthful Vikings squad will take the field made up primarily of sophomores and freshmen. There are no seniors and just one junior is on the 17-player roster.

Despite the youth and inexperience in terms of games played at the varsity level, Perroz is confident that it’s not wise to sleep on her team this spring.

“There is a lot of talent with this group,” Perroz said. “Hopefully, they continue to realize the opportunity they have, work hard and not take anything for granted because we lost that opportunity last year.”

Valley, led by seven seniors, was hoping for big things in 2020 before the PIAA paused, then canceled the season amidst growing covid pandemic concerns.

“We were at practice on the 13th of March, and they came out and told us we had to leave the field,” Perroz said. “We were off for two weeks, and at first, we weren’t thinking much of it. We had that experience, so I didn’t think that it would hurt us, and we would be back on the field ready to go. But unfortunately, that didn’t occur.

“Among those seniors, I had some who were starters since they were freshmen, and they were looking forward to a great senior year. It was a sad thing for them that the season didn’t come to fruition.”

Perroz said this year’s group came into official preseason practice March 8 hungry and ready to compete for the program’s first winning season since 2014 (8-7) and its first trip to the WPIAL playoffs since 2012, a year after the Vikings won the Class AAA state championship.

“There’s definitely been a lot of healthy competition and a fun atmosphere,” Perroz said. “With 17 on the roster, you can do a lot of things at practice, but only nine can go on the field (for games). You have to do a lot of evaluating in practices and scrimmages. That’s a task, though, I don’t mind having.”

The team is led by a trio of captains in junior Brinley Hegedus and sophomores Jordan Kirkwood and Leah Taliani.

“I have my players vote for the team captains, and the team selected those three,” Perroz said. “Those three have stepped to the forefront leading as far as the drills in practice. I hear them communicating with each other and the rest of the team. All three are very worthy of their teammates’ recognition.”

Hegedus will be a starter at first base for the first time, and Perroz said there are others pushing her at that position.

Kirkwood (catcher) and Taliani (second base) both are travel ball players.

“We’re young with only the one junior, but with the young talent we have, I think we have the potential to win a lot of games this year,” Kirkwood said. “There has been no guaranteed spot for anyone, so that has created good work in practice. You know you have to work just as hard as everyone else.”

Valley is set at pitcher with sophomore Morgan Dunkel, who was set to go as a freshman last year before everything was shut down.

“I am going to be riding her as long as I can,” Perroz said. “Not only is she good in the circle, but she also brings a very good bat with her.”

Perroz said freshman Ryleigh Kasten, another travel ball player, is working to hold down the shortstop position.

“With the 17 players, there has been a lot of competition for openings,” Perroz said. “The lineup I put in for our Monday exhibition game (against Highlands) could be a much different lineup than what I put in for the last game of the season.

“We have a mix of travel ball players, a few in-house players and some who have never played before. We have a sprinkle of everything. Again, it’s that opportunity to compete, battle with each other and teach each other. We have the talent. I just want us to become one unit.”

Valley will do battle in Section 1-3A with Deer Lakes, Derry, East Allegheny, North Catholic and Shady Side Academy.

“We have some newcomers in the mix with North Catholic and Shady Side,” Perroz said. “I am not sure who lost what. I know we lost a lot, but we gained a lot, too. With the way kids are playing travel ball now and playing year round, they have that talent at a younger age. If you lose someone, a freshman is often right there ready to hit the ground running. Because of that, it will be a little harder to gauge how every team will be, but I am confident we will be ready to face each challenge.”

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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