Senior duo excited to lead young St. Joseph softball squad into battle

Thursday, April 1, 2021 | 6:43 PM

Seniors Kelsey DuVall and Kassandra O’Hara own varsity starting experience, and that experience, along with their leadership, is being called upon to help guide a group of eight freshman on a roster of 11 for the St. Joseph softball team this spring.

“We kind of know how each other works from playing together in basketball or volleyball, and (the freshmen) have taken the coaching and instruction well and are really coming along,” said DuVall, a catcher who led the team with a .375 average in 2019.

“From the first day of practice to now, we look like a different team, even with some of the simple things like throwing and hitting. It’s exciting to see how much this team can improve over the course of the season.”

A quartet of seniors moved on from last year’s team that had hopes of returning to the WPIAL playoffs after just missing the postseason in 2019. Those plans came to an end when the PIAA canceled all spring sports over concerns with the growing covid pandemic.

“Not having last season really hurt,” said DuVall, who was rounding into form at the start of the 2020 season after recovering from an ACL injury. “We had a good lineup of girls, and a number of them graduated and missed their final season. I really felt bad for them. But being able to come back and hopefully play a full season, it’s a great feeling.”

O’Hara has shown defensive versatility in past seasons and is at first base as the early season progresses.

There are 10 healthy players on the roster right now as junior Stella Swanson, a starter at shortstop as a freshman, is out of the lineup while dealing with a hip flexor injury.

Coach Al Swanson said she will be out for at least the next couple of weeks.

“Stella’s been battling this for a while,” he said. “With a hip flexor (injury), it’s 100 percent shutdown. You can’t swing, throw or run because you are pushing off the leg. She’s getting frustrated.”

Stella Swanson hit .364 as a freshman in 2019 and led the team in RBI, runs and walks.

Freshman Julie Spinelli is playing shortstop right now, but she also has worked in center field with fellow freshman Anna Kreinbrook.

“It is a full mixed bag among the freshman, from one girl who plays travel ball to three girls who had never played the sport before,” Swanson said.

“Most of them haven’t played in a number of years. It is a lot of explaining the basics and remembering how to coach the most simple aspects and rules of the game. There’s been a lot of teaching, but they are coming around really well and are learning a lot. I am impressed with the athletic ability of the group. They all played basketball or volleyball this year, and they are not afraid of trying new things. I am pleased.”

Other freshmen getting their feet wet at outfield positions are Maddie Gilkey, Emma Swierczewski and Amelia Wygonik.

The one player with travel softball experience is the team’s new pitcher, Jamie Noonan.

“She has some work still to do, but she has great potential,” Swanson said.

Ashley Vrscak (second base) and Kalyda O’Connor (third base) also are ready to contribute.

“We’ve moved things around a number of times to get a feel for what we have,” Swanson said. “We’ve had two scrimmages and a game, and we’re getting a better idea of where everybody fits.”

St. Joseph will play a Section 3-A schedule that includes games against Ellis, Leechburg, Northgate, Riverview and Springdale.

The Spartans are scheduled to return to action Monday at Greensburg Central Catholic.

“The No. 1 goal is to have fun. It is something we talk about after every game and every practice,” Swanson said. “If you’re not having fun, there is no use being there. All of the girls are eager. They are willing to listen and learn.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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