Rapp twins overcome spinal fusion surgeries to help Penn-Trafford softball to WPIAL final

Tuesday, May 31, 2022 | 4:27 PM

Maddy Rapp thought she might cause a scene when she walked through the metal detectors at Heinz Field in November when she watched her hometown Penn-Trafford Warriors play for a WPIAL football championship.

Her fraternal twin sister, McKenzie, saw a similar outcome passing through the security arch.

They were surprised when the detector did not beep.

“With two steel rods and 16 screws in your back, you never know how things are going to go,” McKenzie Rapp said.

The softball siblings had spinal fusion surgery Sept. 23 at Children’s Hospital to repair gradually worsening scoliosis. Titanium rods and screws helped to realign their spinal columns and improve the curvature in each girl’s back.

“We didn’t want it to progress and get worse, especially with us going to college,” Maddy Rapp said. “They told us it would take six months to get back, but we came back in four. It was more of a mental thing.”

Back to form, the seniors have helped No. 2 seed Penn-Trafford (18-2) reach the WPIAL Class 5A championship game. The Lady Warriors, who will make their finals debut, will take on No. 1 Armstrong (19-4) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at California (Pa.)’s Lilley Field.

“They were doing physical therapy as soon as they were allowed out of bed,” Warriors senior pitcher Mia Smith said. “They bounced back quick.”

Maddy is the catcher, and McKenzie is a backup pitcher.

The Rapps will play together at Geneva.

Scoliosis is common, but not everybody has surgery for it. The girls were diagnosed with it around age 8 during a routine checkup.

“We were born two months premature, so maybe that had something to do with it,” McKenzie Rapp said. “High school ball really helped us come back because we were working every day.”

Neither girl has had issues since returning, whether it be throwing, batting or squatting behind the plate.

“My shoulder was out of place before but it’s more aligned now,” Maddy Rapp said. “Our mom (Christine) is a physical therapist, so that really helped.”

Warriors coach Denny Little values the twins’ leadership on and off the field.

“They’re like the mom girls,” Little said. “They’re the nagging mothers watching over the girls. They play extremely important roles on this team. It’s amazing to see them come back like they have. They had major surgery.”

During a practice this week, Maddy Rapp paused during an interview in the dugout to make sure a teammate was all right.

“I have to check on my girls,” she said.

Little remembers the Rapps hanging around a Harrison City Heat youth baseball team he coached.

“They were the little sisters hanging around, playing in the dirt,” Little said. “My daughter, Emma, was there, too. Later, we formed a Heat softball program, and they started playing in that. Their dad, Brian, said he was going to make one a pitcher and one a catcher.

“They all come back together in high school ball.”

Maddy Rapp is hitting .378 with four home runs and 12 RBIs.

“She’s on the same page with Mia,” Little said.

She also is the travel ball catcher for Smith.

“They are, as Justin Timberlake says, simpatico,” Little said. “Maddy bat is a bonus. She works extremely hard.”

Rapp pitched more last year but has accepted a bullpen role with the hard-throwing Smith, a Pitt-Johnstown commit, coming into her high school prime.

“With McKenzie, I know I can go to her,” Little said. “I know she will be ready.”

Little said the Rapps bicker like sisters are expected to do.

“I have to break them up sometimes,” he said. “It’s funny.”

Said McKenzie Rapp: “Sometimes when I am pitching, she will come out to the mound and put me in my place.”

While the Rapps were freshmen and earned medals in 2019 when Penn-Trafford won a PIAA championship, they are focused on doing their part to help the Warriors win their first WPIAL title.

“It’s about being focused when we walk in,” McKenzie Rapp said. “Both teams are good. The team that shows up that day will win.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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