New-look Deer Lakes softball team challenges itself

Wednesday, April 19, 2023 | 5:20 PM

The Deer Lakes softball team lost four starters to graduation from last year’s team, which finished runner-up to Avonworth in WPIAL Class 3A and made it the PIAA quarterfinals before falling to Bald Eagle Area.

The entire outfield is new with two first-year starters and veteran senior Delanie Kaiser moving from third base to anchor the trio in center field.

Sophomore Sophia Laurenza jumped in as starter at third, and senior Tira Waksmonski hopes to make a continued impact at first base.

The mix of the newcomers and the five returning starters, coach Rick Cerra said, created somewhat of a new look for the season. But, he said, it hasn’t changed the goals and expectations for a program back in the WPIAL spotlight, both in the regular season and in the playoffs.

“We have several young starters who didn’t experience that run last year, and the more experienced players have helped them understand what it will take to that level again,” Cerra said.

“The girls understand that it’s not going to just be handed to us. We have worked hard so far, and we still have work to do. I feel we have a target on our backs, as well we should. We succeeded last year. We need to face that and know that it is a tougher road. The section is very strong, and we wanted to make sure we are playing some challenging nonconference games.

“The goal is to at least accomplish what we accomplished last year, and, of course, we want to go further. We got a taste of it last year, and we’re not satisfied.”

Freshmen Siena Plummer (right field) and Laney Dineff (left field) join Kaiser in the outfield, and junior Avery Rethage has served as the team’s designated hitter. The returning core also features seniors Shayne Cerra (shortstop) and Anna Bokulich (second base) and juniors Tia Germanich (catcher) and Maddie Kee (pitcher).

“We’ve made a lot of progress since the practices before the season started, and we are still working to bring the younger and older players together,” Shayne Cerra said.

“We haven’t focused too much on what we had last year. Our focus has been on what we have now and what need to do to be ready for the playoffs. Our goal right now is to win the next game on our schedule.”

Deer Lakes finds itself 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Section 1 heading into Friday’s home section matchup against Freeport.

The Lancers suffered their first loss of the season last Wednesday in a 4-0 setback to Triblive HSSN No. 2 Avonworth (11-0, 5-0), now a section foe. But Deer Lakes trailed only 1-0 before the Antelopes scored three times in the top of the seventh to secure the win.

The Lancers were able to bounce back in section with a 5-0 shutout of Valley last Friday behind a solo home run from Waksmonski, two hits and three RBIs from Bokulich, and six strikeouts and just four hits given up by Kee, a Valley News Dispatch first-team all-star last year.

Coach Cerra said Friday won’t be easy. Deer Lakes topped Freeport, 6-3, on April 3 and had to rally from a 3-1 deficit. A five-run sixth propelled the Lancers to the win.

Deer Lakes collected six hits — four of them doubles — in the victory, and Kee finished with 12 strikeouts against two walks, four hits and three runs surrendered.

Freeport started 0-2 in the section — it also fell to Avonworth — but the Yellowjackets got right back into the mix with a 3-2 triumph over Burrell as junior pitcher Sydney Selker went toe-to-toe with Burrell standout Katie Armstrong.

Selker struck out 12 and gave up just four hits, and freshman first baseman Lauren Clark drove in two runs.

“Freeport is a solid, well-coached team, Coach Cerra said. “They’ve seen us before, and I’m sure they will have a good gameplan to try and beat us. We will try to do the same.

“There has been a lot of good softball played in this section, and I’m sure there will be more to come.”

Deer Lakes ran into a buzz saw Tuesday in defending Class 5A champion and PIAA runner-up Armstrong.

The River Hawks collected 13 hits off of Kee and Waksmonski.

“Armstrong is a really good team, and we wanted to face them again like we did last year,” Coach Cerra said.

“They might have had an axe to grind as we beat them last year. They jumped on us right away as their No. 1 and No. 2 hitters hit home runs, and they scored three runs in the first. That set the tone for the game, and we just weren’t able to recover from there.

“Honestly, I felt we should’ve played much better. We only had two hits (Kee, Cerra). But I am also looking at the caliber of the team we faced. We are a much better team than what we showed today. We saw some things offensively and defensively that we are working on in practice. The girls understand that. They’ll learn from that, and hopefully will be better for it. We just have to get back on track and play Deer Lakes softball.”

The Lancers also loaded their nonconference schedule with Trib Class 5A No. 1 Shaler (10-0), Class 5A Fox Chapel and Kiski Area and Class 4A Knoch. Those games come between the end of the section slate and the start of the playoffs.

“The girls don’t want to back down from any challenge,” Coach Cerra said. “Our overall schedule should definitely get us ready for the playoffs.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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