Knoch softball eager to build on last season’s long-awaited playoff victory
Friday, March 15, 2019 | 8:21 PM
Coming off a season in which it won a playoff game for the first time in 11 years, the Knoch softball team exudes optimism.
The Knights shared a section title two seasons ago and have been regular qualifiers for the postseason over the past five years, but getting that playoff drought erased was a big hurdle.
Knoch lost six players to graduation, but the team expects to be competitive again with the return of standout seniors Erin Luffy and Monica Gourley and junior Amanda Fischer.
“It was super cool to go that far last year because we were a really close group of girls,” Gourley said. “That’s the furthest a Knoch team has gone in a long time. It kind of showed that all the hard work that we’ve been doing paid off. The goal this year is to do that again and go as far as we can.”
Knoch finished 13-6 last season, defeating Blackhawk, 12-0, in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Mt. Pleasant, 10-0, in the quarterfinals.
Gary Coe takes over the Knights this season, replacing Tim Knappenberger. Coe served as an assistant last season.
He will rely on Luffy, Gourley and Fischer, as well as sophomore catcher Quinn Hughes, to lead the rest of the roster, which is composed of freshmen and sophomores.
“We have some leaders from last year, and we’ll kind of ride their coattails and try not to change up too much from what they are used to doing,” Coe said. “It’s going to be challenging, but I think we’ll be OK.”
Luffy, a first baseman, was a key cog in the middle of the lineup last season. Gourley anchors the infield at shortstop.
Fischer split pitching duties with Celia Knappenberger, who graduated, and will slot in as the No. 1 this spring.
“Having Amanda in the circle is pretty nice because she’s a great pitcher,” Luffy said. “I think having her in the circle allows us to play a little looser.”
Gourley called Fischer a “designated senior” since she brings plenty of experience and is happy to have her and Luffy help to lead the team.
“I’ve played with Erin since I was 8 years old,” Gourley said. “Erin and Amanda are both really hard workers. I wouldn’t want anyone else to play with my last year with.”
Other returners include sophomores Liv Vissari (second base) and Marissa Melius.
Knoch is in a new section this season after spending the last two with Highlands, Mt. Pleasant, Derry, Indiana and Uniontown. The Knights will make plenty of trips to Beaver County playing in Section 3-4A with Ambridge, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Quaker Valley and New Castle.
Aside from playing Blackhawk in the playoffs last year, the rest of the teams are a bit of a mystery, but it isn’t a huge concern.
“I don’t know really what to expect because we really don’t know any of those teams,” Coe said. “I know what we have, though, and our girls are up for the challenge.”