Jeannette softball team to rely on youth

Thursday, March 25, 2021 | 7:03 PM

A priority early for the Jeannette softball team was a high-alert search for players at the high school.

“There is no feeder program here, and I had to cancel my first scrimmage due to having only eight players,” said Joe Giacomin, the Jayhawks’ first-year coach. “After every practice, I ask the kids to try to find other players, but we’ve had (little) luck.

“They’ve been trying really hard to ask other kids to come out for the team. The kids have tried, the (athletic director) has tried and the former coach has tried. There is not even one extra ballplayer in the whole school.”

The most experienced returner is senior shortstop Taylor-Lynn Finken, a third-year starter who plays travel ball. Finken, the team’s lone senior, also has played center field for the Jayhawks, and she was slated to move to catcher last year.

“Taylor-Lynn has jumped into the leadership role that I was expecting,” Giacomin said. “With us having such extremely young and inexperienced players, she has helped me in bridging the gap when explaining various skills and drills in our practices, taking some of the younger players under her wings at times.”

“She knows she’s not playing with the typical travel ballplayer but comes to every practice with a great attitude knowing it will be a challenge she’s more than willing to take on. She knows this year’s team is not about winning but having fun and what contributions she can make to the development of the team going forward.”

Finken started playing softball at age 7, and she has gone from rec ball to travel ball to high school competition.

“I’m honored to be chosen as a team leader this year,” she said. “There are a lot of people who have had a huge part in my softball (career). I’m hoping to pass on as much knowledge as I can that I have learned over the years.”

“My expectations for the team are very high. It is a little different this year because we have a very young team and a new coach, but I feel that gives us room to grow.”

Finken plans to continue her career at Westminster.

“I have committed to Westminster to play for coach (Jan) Reddinger while I study pre-veterinary medicine,” she said. “I chose Westminster because it is a small school, and I like that the town was built around the school. They also offered everything that I wanted from softball, to a marching band, to the major. And Coach Reddinger was one of the best coaches I spoke to when recruiting started.”

The only junior on the team is Sydney Matijevic, a right-handed pitcher. Three sophomores, Frankie Crosby, Autumn LaVella and Savannah Lock, have joined Finken in the infield at first, second and third base, respectively.

Freshman prospects include catcher Addasyn Stout, pitcher Syndee Tolvinski and outfielders Angelina Boley and MacKenzie Lewis.

“With one senior and one junior, we are most likely the youngest team in the WPIAL,” Giacomin said. “Every practice is a fastpitch clinic in all aspects of the game. I’ve broken down hitting, bunting, fielding, baserunning, etc., to their lowest levels.

“The kids have been great. They have great attitudes, and that’s half the battle. They want to play. But I’m literally teaching them the game from scratch. I hope we can be competitive.”

Finken praised the early efforts of her teammates.

“I’m very proud of all the girls and their commitment to the team,” she said. “They have been working hard and ask for help if they’re struggling. Our coach has been a good addition. He helps sharpen our skills as a team.

“I feel Jeannette softball has been an underdog for a while, and I’m looking forward to an amazing year and what it has to bring.”

Giacomin previously coached three seasons at Penn-Trafford, helping it reach the playoffs all three years.

He was an assistant at Norwin when the Knights defeated Hempfield four times before the Spartans’ impressive run of five state championships.

“I’ve coached travel ball for over 15 years, traveling to tournaments all over the state — Philly, York, the Poconos, State College,” said Giacomin, who inherited the Jeannette coaching job from Zac Karas. “I love the game. I enjoy coaching the kids and teaching them the game.”

In 2019, Jeannette went 9-6 overall and 7-5 in Section 3-A. The Jayhawks lost in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Jeannette moved to Section 2-2A this season and will compete against Apollo-Ridge, Brentwood, Ligonier Valley, Serra Catholic, Seton LaSalle and Steel Valley.

“The WPIAL did Jeannette no favors by putting us in a section with all the big dogs,” Giacomin said.

“The bottom line is every practice is a project, and I hope the team and players win some games, look back at the season and say they had some fun.”


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