North Allegheny slow-pitch softball off to 2-1 start

Thursday, September 20, 2018 | 9:30 PM

Pondering where the ball needs to go provides North Allegheny senior left-center fielder Abby Birch options as the softball floats toward her. Birch, a member of the Tigers’ slow-pitch softball squad, wants to utilize the information she has to inflict the most damage.

“If you know a pitcher pitches outside, you can fix your stance and hit it to right field or to left field,” Birch said. “It also depends on their fielders. If they have a weak right-side of the field, you want to adjust to the pitches and target that weak fielder.”

For North Allegheny, which is off to a 2-1 start, the goal is to approach every situation within the game like a puzzle. Team success won’t be accomplished until all the pieces fit together properly.

“We’ll stop and say what are you thinking and what should you be doing,” said Dave Metzger, who is one of the Tigers’ co-head coaches along with Ryanne Tyler. “We’ll use a whiteboard and diagram it out. They learn by repeating, and they know there are 10 players on a team, and when a ball is hit 10 players should be involved in a play and everyone should be involved. No one should be standing around.”

Rain has left North Allegheny standing around for much of the early part of its schedule. The Tigers, who reached the second round of the playoffs last season, had a doubleheader against North Hills rained out last Wednesday.

“We’ve done really well,” sophomore catcher Carly Snyder said. “We’re so used to adjusting to the heat and different weather conditions it’s something we’re used to. We know how to adjust.”

North Allegheny opened the season with a pair of lopsided wins — taking down Hempfield by a combined score of 34-2 in a doubleheader — before losing to Seneca Valley, 12-9, on Sept. 12.

Junior left fielder Abby Birch, who tried fast-pitch as a freshman, enjoys the camaraderie among the team. There are 24 players out this season, split between varsity and junior varsity.

North Allegheny also has a middle-school squad of 17 players. “I’ve been playing for 10 years, and I’ve made some of my best friends on these teams,” Birch said. “I’ve made memories that are going to stay with me.”

Every team that participates in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Softball League qualifies for the postseason. There are 14 schools in the area which sponsor the sport, 13 of which have a varsity team.

North Allegheny hopes its intellectual approach will lead to postseason success. “They are smart,” Metzger said. “We don’t have any stars. We have a good core group. We have 12 kids on the varsity who play; it makes us hard for coaches. They think well.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.


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