Thomas Jefferson softball recovers from mini-skid to win 3 straight

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Friday, April 26, 2019 | 6:50 PM


Thomas Jefferson’s softball team experienced a blip on their midseason radar, losing two games in section play.

But the Jaguars recovered and logged a 9-2 overall record into the second half of their Section 2-4A schedule.

A WPIAL finalist and PIAA semifinalist last season, Thomas Jefferson opened the year with six straight wins, averaging 13 runs per game, before dropping back-to-back decisions to rivals Elizabeth Forward and Ringgold.

The Jaguars, hitting .365 with a .553 slugging percentage, bounced back with victories over West Mifflin, McKeesport and South Park.

Junior hurler Bella Bucy, a third-year starter, returned to the lineup recently after recovering from arm/elbow soreness earlier in the season.

Senior catcher Haleigh Karcher pitching in Bucy’s absence. A pair of freshmen, Bree Kibe and Jessica Lee, and junior Tyler Turk also did some pitching for the Jaguars.

“Bella is finally getting back to herself slowly but surely,” TJ coach Heidi Karcher said. “Lucky we had Haleigh, who could pitch until Bella got healthy. Bella’s last two games were great.

The Jaguars went into the Easter break riding the three-game winning streak, which included a 5-0 victory April 18 at home against Class 3A South Park.

Bucy tossed the seven-inning shutout, striking out 14, allowing two hits and issuing three walks.

“I’m doing better,” said the lefty following the game. “I was a little sore from pitching the previous day, but I’m doing OK>

Mackenzie Zang, a junior third baseman, and Haleigh Karcher had two RBIs apiece against the Eagles. Zang drilled a long two-run homer over the left-center field fence.

“Mackenzie’s having a great season,” Bucy said, “and was moved up to lead-off.”

Bucy’s batterymate, Karcher, has been a team leader both offensively and defensively since her freshman season. She has maintained that status this spring.

Through 11 games, Karcher was batting .400 with a .725 slugging percentage. She led the club in RBIs with 23, and also had four doubles and three home runs.

“It feels good to have Bella finally back fully,” said Karcher, a West Chester recruit. “We have been working on coming together and bonding more since our two bad games (versus EF and Ringgold).”

Zang, meanwhile, has been sensational offensively, hitting a lofty .514 with a .771 slugging percentage. She had 12 singles, four doubles, a triple and a HR, scored 18 runs and collected 20 RBIs.

And when Karcher pitched, Zang took her position behind the plate.

“Mackenzie is the epitome of what a team player is,” said coach Karcher. “She can play anywhere other than pitcher, and so far she has played three positions for me this season. She caught when Haleigh pitched, played in left field, and now we moved her to third base.

Other top hitters include shortstop Abby Chalovich, with a .467 batting average, .600 slugging percentage and 18 runs scored, first baseman Lily Rockwell (.385, .795), left fielder Bella Regna (.381, .571), second baseman Paige Truax (.370, .481) and right fielder Graci Fairman (.324, .471).

And a unique feature of the Jaguars’ lineup is that Bucy, Truax, Claire Whalen, Fairman and Burich all bat left-handed.

Turning to the pitching department, TJ’s nine wins were attained by Bucy (3-1), Karcher (3-1), Kibe (2-0) and Lee (1-0).

“I feel like we are really coming together as a team and picking each other up,” said Bucy, who played an outfield position as a freshman. “We had some big shoes to fill this season, being the WPIAL runner-up in 5A and moving down to 4A. People have been coming for us.

“I’m proud of what we have accomplished so far, halfway through the season.”

The Jaguars were ranked fifth in Class 4A by TribHSSN for the week of April 21, behind Mt. Pleasant, Yough, Knoch and EF.

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