New coach set to lead Pine-Richland softball team

Sunday, March 20, 2022 | 10:58 AM

Sam Hartsberg has coached travel softball for close to a decade and always had an interest in coaching at the high school level. But first he wanted to watch his daughter, Leah, play at Pine-Richland.

When Leah graduated last year, he reached out to then Pine-Richland coach Gary Shepard about possibly joining his staff. That’s when Shepard informed him he was retiring.

So Hartsberg decided to apply for the Rams job, and he was hired.

Now he will lead a team that is coming off its best season in a quarter century and has plenty of talent returning.

“I know a lot of these kids and coached a lot of them when they were little,” Hartsberg said. “Some of them are seniors now, and it’s really cool to kind of come full circle. We have a good group of girls at both the varsity and JV, and we’re excited to see what we can do this year.”

Pine-Richland won a playoff game for the first time in 25 years by defeating Mt. Lebanon, 6-1, in the first round before falling to eventual WPIAL champ Bethel Park, 9-0, in the semifinals. They finished 9-9 overall and 6-4 in Section 2-6A.

“It was great to watch last year, because I know where those girls came from,” Hartsburg said. “I know the rough years and how tough it was for them to get to that point. I’m excited to build upon it and move forward.”

The Rams return ace pitcher Gabriella Aughton, a Boston College recruit. There’s also some depth in the pitching staff with Harley Aguglia, a Pitt-Greensburg commit.

“Both of them have been stepping up to lead the team through winter conditioning and workouts,” Hartsberg said. “We always talk about how this is a team. It’s not one person, but a whole team, and if we play that way, I like our chances.”

Alexia Brown, a Penn State Behrend recruit, returns at catcher. Mackenzie Gillis had a standout freshman season and will slot in at third base.

“Mackenzie is one of the girls I’ve known since she was little, and she’s all about softball,” Hartsberg said. “I know she wants to play in college. We had player meetings recently, and I talked with her about being a leader even if she is a sophomore because she works so hard and that rubs off on the other girls. She’s a power bat, and we’re looking forward to what she can bring for us.”

Other returning starters include Marissa DeLuca (shortstop), Ella Kasperowicz (second base), Jocelyn Langer (left field) and Natalie Zentz (right field).

Hartsberg said there are players battling for various positions, and he has a strong freshman class.

The Rams are in Section 2 again with defending section champ Norwin, perennial power Hempfield, North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Butler. Compared to most new coaches, Hartsberg had a unique opportunity to watch all of the Rams games from the stands last year, giving him a good look at each opponent they will face this season.

“I think 6A in general is pretty solid all around,” Hartsberg said. “Really everyone in our section is talented. I got to see everybody play last year, and I know each team had some graduates and new ones coming in. It’s going to be a fight. Even our nonsection games are not going to be easy. We scheduled, on purpose, the best teams we could play like North Catholic, Armstrong, Latrobe and Shaler. We wanted to challenge ourselves and get ready for section play.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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