Penn Hills softball has building blocks in place for possible playoff run

Friday, March 20, 2020 | 12:01 PM

Even though the Penn Hills softball program hasn’t reached the WPIAL playoffs in over a decade, the Indians remain optimistic that this year could end their 13-year playoff drought.

Penn Hills, which finished 5-10 overall and 5-9 in Section 2-5A action last season, will have a healthy mix of upperclassmen to complement some young talent.

Senior centerfielder and pitcher Yasmine Logan, a two-time first-team all-section selection, will look to build off her junior season.

An Ohio commit, Logan finished with a .667 batting average, four home runs, five doubles, two triples, 15 RBIs and 29 runs scored last season.

“She has been helping the younger girls, especially with their hitting,” coach Rich Burkhart said. “She has taken more of a leadership role. The maturity thing is the big thing with most of these girls. You can see a difference between last year and this year.”

Junior shortstop Irylynn Richardson returns and has also taken more of a leadership role this season. Richardson earned honorable mention all-section honors after her freshman season.

In Burkhart’s eyes, the biggest addition to the team is freshman pitcher Maura Wade.

The ability to stabilize the pitching allows the Indians to maximize their defense alignment as many players weren’t playing their main positions in the past.

“It really helps out having the girls in those positions where they were supposed to be,” Burkhart said. “I had Yasmine filling in at pitching, shortstop, second base. I took her out of her main position of center field. Not having her out there hurt us a little bit.

“Her attitude last year to help out wherever we needed to was great. She said even this year, if we have any issues on the mound, she would come in and pitch for us. I can’t really ask much more of these kids.”

Even though Burkhart is appreciative of Logan being a team player, he wants to put her and the rest of her teammates in a position to succeed as they can focus on set alignment in the field.

“I think it’s going to help (Logan) out,” Burkhart said. “When you don’t know what you’re going to do game to game, it messes with you mentally. Even though she did really well last year, I think she can take it to another level this year.”

Burkhart is looking for continued development from sophomore catcher Kiera Mack and sophomore Aaliyah Heasley.

Penn Hills will look to replace the production lost by the graduation of first baseman Makayla Delo, who received second-team all-section honors last season. Delo received honorable mention honors after her junior season.

The Indians haven’t made the WPIAL playoffs since 2007, but Burkhart believes he has the correct mix to break the drought.

Burkhart understands the Indians reside in a tough section that includes Hampton and Plum, who both went 13-1 in section play last season, as well as Shaler, which finished third in the section.

But the Indians’ attitude seems to be different this year, and it could guide them to grabbing one of the final playoff spots by getting victories over Gateway, Mars, Oakland Catholic and Woodland Hills.

“I think we can make the playoffs with the core group of girls I have and the pitching,” Burkhart said. “I think Hampton and Mars are going to be tough. Plum is always tough.

“We have an opportunity to make some noise this year. They are driven and it seems like they really want to do it this year. It just seems like the mentality is different.”


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