Signal Item softball preview: Teams hoping to improve on last season’s performance
Saturday, March 14, 2020 | 6:01 AM
As softball season nears, the three Carnegie-area teams are focused on making the playoffs.
Bishop Canevin returns nearly all of its starting lineup from a team that qualified in Class A last season. Carlynton also has a veteran lineup returning, and Chartiers Valley will be under the direction of a new coach as both teams come off seasons in which they missed the playoffs.
A look at each team:
As they did in 2018, the Crusaders won their playoff opener in Class A before losing in the quarterfinals. Last season, it was eventual champion West Greene that defeated Bishop Canevin, 6-2.
But, coach Karen Seitz-LaFianza said, the loss almost felt like a win, considering West Greene won in the semis and title game by a combined 25-0.
“We could compete with them,” Seitz-LaFianza said, “and with a young team, that was important to see.”
The Crusaders, who finished in third place in Section 1-A at 6-4 a year ago, figure to hit the ground running after Seitz-LaFianza spent a good portion of last season just figuring out where everyone fit. She enters 2020 with her lineup set.
Around the infield will be Bella Demark (1B), Meadow Lokaitis (2B), Taylor Lokaitis (SS) and Bre Bazeck (3B). Pitcher Alysha Cutri and catcher Hannah DeLisio form the battery, and Erin Jamison, Maddie Maziarz and Alyssa Pollice will play outfield.
Seitz-LaFianza said she expects to contend for the section title, with Union likely being the stiffest competition.
Coach Traci Melko believes this is the Cougars’ year. She returns most of her starters, and, after a 3-9 season in Section 1-2A, will settle for nothing less than the playoffs.
“We have been so close the past couple of years,” she said. “I told them I expect to be playing in June, and I hope they expect the same thing.”
The Cougars should be deeper with the biggest roster (18) in Melko’s tenure. Freshmen Tanner Kephart, Taylor Zaletski and Lily Barber are expected to bolster a veteran group.
The returning starters are pitcher Jaelyn Melko, catcher Madison Ciabattoni, outfielder Haley Williams and utility players Genevieve Beyer, Mary Duffy and Maddie Albert. The return of Emma Weiland also is expected to provide a lift. Weiland didn’t play last season because of injuries but is healthy and can play multiple positions.
Traci Melko also has a couple of other players, including Weiland, working on pitching to spell her daughter.
“They are really meshing together,” Traci Melko said. “I have a lot of seasoned players and a lot of good players coming in.”
The Colts are under the direction of coach Chris Lloyd, who is new to the team but not new to the program. He has coached the CV middle school team for the past three years and has a good grasp on each player’s capabilities.
“I feel we have a good connection,” he said. “We’re trying to get them to learn how to win. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.”
Lloyd expects pitcher Jenna Boneysteele to be improved in her second year as the Colts’ primary starter. Sarah Verducci and Mia Welsh provide senior leadership. Marie Kinchington was all-conference as a designated player last season, and Gianna Welsh also brings experience.
The Colts have only three seniors, so the development of seven freshmen will be instrumental in how the team performs. Lloyd expects Madison Crump, Mackenzie Maga and Rylee Prosperi to contribute right away.
The last time the Colts made the playoffs, the current seniors were freshmen, and it has been longer than that since the team won a playoff game. Lloyd is hoping to change that.
“Our motto is ‘2020 vision,’ changing the whole vision of the program,” Lloyd said. “We don’t want to just make the playoffs. We want to make noise in the playoffs.”
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