Penn-Trafford softball eyeing another PIAA championship

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021 | 7:24 PM


If the coronavirus didn’t shut down last season, there was a good chance Penn-Trafford softball would be looking at a three-peat.

After winning the 2019 PIAA Class 5A title, the Warriors (23-2, 14-0) returned seven starters including power hitters Brooke Cleland, Allie Prady and Emma Little along with pitchers Morgan Hilty and Mia Smith.

They were favorites to repeat.

Things haven’t changed in 2021; the Warriors return the nucleus of that squad — Cleland, Little, Prady and Smith.

Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little’s biggest concern is replacing the entire infield and getting back on the field. The coronavirus shut down Penn-Trafford athletics for a week before Little was able to get back with his team Wednesday.

“The infield is a question mark,” Little said. “We’re going to have a lot of competition for jobs.”

Senior Sarah Eisenhuth and freshman Erin Drotos are battling at first base. Little said Eisenhuth has been hitting well. Prady will handle third base, and sophomores Sarah Yamrick, Bri Pusateri and Kylee Piconi are battling for the middle infield spots.

The outfield should be solid with Cleland starting in center field and Lizzy Cermak in either left or right field. Julia Moorhead and Hannah Allen are battling for the other spot along with sophomore Julie Seruga.

Little has moved from right field to catcher, and Smith, a junior, from closer to starter. Junior McKenzie Rapp, sophomore Julie Lenart and Yamrick are also listed as pitchers on the roster. Maddy Rapp will back up Little at catcher.

“The important thing now is getting back on the field and figuring out who is going to play,” Little said. “We’ve had a few zoom meetings, but we encouraged to players, if they could, to throw and get to a batting cage.”

When an athletic program is shut down, athletes are prohibited from practicing on school property and coaches can’t meet with them in person.

“I’m sure some of our seniors were able to get work in,” Little said.

Penn-Trafford scrimmaged against Hempfield, and Little learned a lot about his hitters.

“We’re going to face a lot of pitchers who can throw,” Little said. “I saw that we just can’t depend on the long ball. We might have to use small ball to win games, and the players have to learn that.”

And Penn-Trafford’s schedule got a lot stronger with the addition of Thomas Jefferson, which moved up from Class 4A, and Gateway. The holdovers are Albert Gallatin, Connellsville and Latrobe.

“The section is solid,” Little said. “Albert Gallatin is tough, Connellsville is strong, Latrobe returns a great pitcher, Thomas Jefferson is a perennial playoff team and Gateway is improving. It’s going to be a challenge.”

One thing missing from Penn-Trafford’s resume is a WPIAL title. Little said winning that is a goal, but he’s prouder that Penn-Trafford is sending girls to play in college.

From this year’s squad, Cleland is going to Seton Hill, Little to Bloomsburg, Prady to Fairmont State and Eisenhuth to Westminster.

“We have a ton of girls in schools now,” Little said. “That’s my goal as a coach.”

As well as competing for another PIAA title.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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