Pine-Richland softball focusing on pitching, defense in playoff bid

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Monday, April 2, 2018 | 1:01 AM


After missing out on the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs last season by one game, the Pine-Richland softball team is doing what it can to prevent that from happening again.

The Rams offense should be strong, coach Gary Shepard said. The team has put an emphasis on consistent pitching and stingy defense.

“I think they realize and believe that they have a good opportunity to make the playoffs if they do the things that they're capable of doing. I think it's really important for them to minimize mistakes,” Shepard said.

“Last year, we would get up in a game and then there would just be that one bad inning where we didn't pitch well or field well, and it would snowball from there. So we're trying to eliminate that inning where the other team puts that crooked number up there. We have to make the routine plays, so we've really been working on the fundamentals.”

The results have been mixed thus far, as the Rams are off to a 2-2 start in the Disney Tournament from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.

Shepard said he has been impressed with the team's pitching staff, which includes two dependable starters with varsity experience in Cameron Devinney and Morgan Hall. Both will work with catcher Julia Simpson, a junior who saw varsity time at the position as a freshman.

If Pine-Richland is going to succeed, much will hinge on its three captains: third baseman Anna Slebonick, first baseman Jackie Hansen and left fielder Kait Horrell. In addition to playing crucial positions, the trio will hit 3-4-5 in the lineup.

“Anna is our starting third baseman, and she had a really solid year last year. She played third base the entire season and made just two errors. I think we can really count on her to lead the way. Our other senior captain, Jackie Hansen, missed four games last season and still put up 18 RBIs in 12 games, so those two will hold down the corners for us,” Shepard said.

“And Kait Horrell, she's our other captain as a junior. She's moving from right to left field. She'll really be a solid presence at the plate for us. We're hoping she'll help clean up a lot of RBIs for us.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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