Knoch softball eager to be tested by tough competition in 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021 | 8:45 PM
Two years ago, the Knoch softball team put together one of the best runs in program history.
The Knights went 18-3, finished third in the WPIAL Class 4A tournament and made their first PIAA playoff appearance. Now, as the Knights prepare for the 2021 season, third-year head coach Gary Coe brings back six starters from that historic season and is preparing for another run.
Although the Knights are returning a ton of experience, one of their biggest advantages this season will be the teams they play.
In 2019, the Knights ran through their section. They went 10-0, outscored their Section 3-4A opponents 102-15 and didn’t allow a run in six of 10 section matchups. Now, the Knights will be playing in a new section with Burrell, Freeport, Greensburg Salem, Highlands and McKeesport.
“It’s definitely going to be a tougher conference, and even in our nonsection games, we are playing some pretty tough teams, so those are going to help us,” Coe said. “I told the girls, our last section was a little weak, and we don’t want to say that about anyone, but now it’s going to be one- or two-run ball games most of the year.”
During their run through the WPIAL tournament, Knoch senior Quinn Hughes said they could immediately see how much better the competition was. So, the Knights are hoping that playing a tougher schedule will help them down the line.
“We went into the playoffs not having a lot of practice against competitive teams, so it was a bit of a shock to us,” Hughes said. “The level of play immediately went up when we got into WPIAL quarters, semis and then states. It was a lot tougher. So, I think being in a harder section will prepare us more for the postseason.”
Over the past two seasons, the Knights have only lost three starters, including the 2019 Valley News Dispatch player of the year Amanda Fischer, who finished her junior season with a 13-3 record, 1.73 ERA and 106 strikeouts.
While Coe will look to replace Fischer’s presence in the circle with junior Brynnae Coe and senior Bailey Rickenbrode, he won’t have to worry about replacing any power at the plate. The Knights scored 10 or more runs in 11 of their 21 games two years ago, and although they lost three of their best hitters, the elder Coe believes his lineup will still be able to smack the ball around the field.
“We spend a lot of time hitting, so I’m hoping the bats keep rolling,” Gary Coe said. “That will probably be one of our strengths this season.”
With a young roster and a few upperclassmen, Knoch’s run in 2019 was a special one. Knowing a big part of that lineup is returning this season has given the Knights a sense of confidence, and they are hoping to do some big things.
“We had a really good team last year, and we had a really good chance of winning our section again, so losing our season was a huge bummer to us,” senior Liv Vissari said. “So I think it’s motivated us to work harder this year and get the freshmen excited to play because they don’t know what Knoch softball was like before that season.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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