Power surge on Cougar Mountain boosts Yough softball team

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 | 9:01 AM

Yough plays its home games on Cougar Mountain in Sewickley Township.

But softball coach Dutch Harvey is lobbying to rename his team’s home address.

“It’s become Dinger City here,” Harvey said.

Yough isn’t traditionally a leave-the-yard kind of team, but the Cougars are developing a reputation that says otherwise as they push through a tough Section 2-4A schedule.

The Cougars (10-1, 8-1), ranked No. 2 in WPIAL Class 4A, No. 4 in the state and winners of seven in a row, had 12 home runs in 11 games as they prepared to take on Elizabeth Forward in a first-place clash earlier this week.

(That game was suspended in the fourth inning and will be made up Tuesday.)

Twelve may not seem like a big number, but it is to Yough.

“We’re hitting them out all over the place,” Harvey said. “Our No. 8 and 9 hitters are hitting dingers.”

Yough hit eight homers all of last season, in 17 games.

“It’s fun when we hit homers,” senior pitcher Emma Augustine said. “It gets everyone excited in the dugout.”

The sudden surge can be attributed to a number of things, the Cougars say.

“I don’t know, we never really hit dingers like this,” Harvey said. “We haven’t really changed anything. We work on approach angles and exit velocity, things like that. But our girls aren’t thinking about that when they’re at the plate and hit one out.”

Junior McKenzie Pritts said losing a year in 2020 because of the covid pandemic set the team back in offseason work. But the resurgence of normal activities this year has helped the Cougars’ overall hitting.

“We couldn’t prepare like we did before,” Pritts said. “That might have something to do with us hitting the way we are now.”

Harvey points out a number of blasts have sailed out of the park at Yough, which measures 210 feet to center field. He wonders if having three pitchers this season has helped to drive up homer totals.

“With three pitchers, they’re seeing more live pitching in practice,” Harvey said. “I am a big believer in tee work. We do a crossfire drill, too. It’s the little things.”

Augustine had not hit a home run — in high school or travel ball — until this season. But she has three on the year, while Pritts and Kaylin Ritenour had two each.

Freshman Adoria Waldier, who has made a splash in the lineup, also has three round-trippers.

Makayla Spoonhoward and Abbey Zuraw have one apiece.

Augustine, who has decided to attend cosmetology school in lieu of playing Division II college softball, went 5 for 5 with a homer, three doubles and a school-record eight RBIs in a 20-2 win over Ringgold.

“We have worked on our hitting more, even on our own,” she said. “Just hitting in general has been better. And it helps me when I am on the mound.

“I don’t know why I am hitting home runs all of the sudden. I used to be P.O. — pitcher only.”

In 10 games, Augustine had a 9-1 record with a 2.16 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 13 walks.

Yough is headed to the playoffs for the seventh straight time. Harvey has been to the WPIAL postseason enough to know that home runs become scarcer as teams move across the bracket. Small ball is often a team’s only way around the bases against top pitchers and air-tight defenses that are playing their best, in tandem, at the best times.

“When we used to play (Belle Vernon star) Bailey (Parshall), it was choke-and-poke,” Harvey said. “You’re just trying to make contact. You have to be disciplined. Big-hitting teams always run into good pitchers and they have to find ways to score runs. We’ll play smallies if we have to.”

Smallies at a neutral-site playoff game is one thing. But in Dinger City? You must have made a wrong turn.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.


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