Penn-Trafford softball looking for new leaders to emerge

Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Penn-Trafford softball coach Denny Little had his team back at work March 21 after a nonsection loss at Mt. Pleasant.

They were working on the fundamentals, especially defensive aspect of the game.

Despite the loss, Little said there were some good things he saw from the team.

“We play a tough nonsection schedule to prepare us for the tough section schedule,” Little said. “We’re still looking for that right combination.”

Penn-Trafford, which claimed the WPIAL Class 5A title in 2019, is coming off a season that saw them fall to Armstrong in the WPIAL finals and in the PIAA semifinals. Both were one-run losses.

Now the WPIAL finalists are in the same section as the Warriors along with Franklin Regional, Latrobe, Gateway and Kiski Area. The Warriors were Section 2 champions in 2022.

“I like the new section,” Little said. “It’s one of the strongest in the state. Iron sharpens iron. If you get into the playoffs, you can probably beat anyone.”

The Warriors (20-4, 9-1) graduated four starters from that squad — pitcher Mia Smith (Pitt-Johnstown), outfielder Hannah Allen (Washington & Jefferson) and the Rapp twins (Maddy and McKenzie, both at Geneva).

They will be without senior shortstop Kylee Piconi (Frostburg State), who is recovering from surgery on her right knee during basketball season.

Little says Piconi is like a coach. She attends every practice and is a leader on the bench.

The Warriors return 10 letter winners, including all-section players – sophomore third baseman Cameron Ponko, junior catcher Mackenzie Keenan, senior second baseman Bri Pusateri and senior centerfielder Caitlyn Schlegel.

Ponko is one of the candidates to replace Smith in the circle. The others are sophomore Jayden Pellis and freshmen Julia Salvadore, Allison Pokrant and Hailey Pokrant.

The other letter winners returning are senior third baseman Alexa Forsythe, senior outfielder Emma Hauck, junior first baseman Erin Drotos, sophomore shortstop Kylie Anthony, sophomore outfielder Rilie Moors, sophomore right fielder Olivia Popovich and sophomore outfielder Lorryn Sepe.

“We have a lot of injuries right now at some really key positions that haven’t been on the field yet,” Little said. “A third baseman and a utility player, both who usually do well with the bats, will be back.

“We lost Kylee. That hurts. It hurts the team because she’s not only a physical leader, she’s a leader mentally.”

Little said he’s looking for that leader to replace Piconi.

“We have kids that can fill in defensively,” Little said. “Replacing the bats lost won’t be easy.”

Little said he was pleased with his pitchers against Mt. Pleasant. Salvadore and Pellis pitched against the Vikings while Ponko comes back from a sore arm.

“I have two weeks to figure out our lineup,” Little said. “That’s why we play a tough nonsection schedule. Things will work out for us.”

This is Little’s fifth season as coach. His record is 88-20.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at


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