Thomas Jefferson softball team aiming high after reaching state semifinals

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Saturday, March 23, 2019 | 9:14 AM


High expectations.

After finishing as the WPIAL Class 5A runner-up and reaching the PIAA final four last season, that’s what the Thomas Jefferson softball team has for 2019.

The Jaguars have dropped to 4A this season and lost only one starter to graduation.

“Our expectations are always to reach the playoffs and make a run in the WPIAL,” coach Heidi Karcher said. “We have the majority of our starters back and are looking for a couple new players to step up and fill some vacant spots.

“Having a veteran squad helps with the competitive atmosphere of the team and having that desire to succeed. However, coming back after such a successful season is hard to repeat. Kids sometimes forget how much time and hard work they put in, and they think it was easy.”

TJ’s starting lineup last spring consisted of one senior, one junior, four sophomores and three freshmen.

The batting order in the PIAA semifinal round was Paige Truax (2B), Claire Whalen (OF), Haleigh Karcher (C), Bella Bucy (P), Lily Rockwell (3B), Alana Cleary (OF), then-senior Liz Brock (1B), Abby Chalovich (SS) and Mackenzie Zang (OF).

Karcher is a senior and fourth-year starter. Bucy, Cleary, Chalovich and Zang are juniors. Truax, Whalen and Rockwell, who has moved to first base, are sophomores.

Karcher, Heidi’s daughter, said the Jaguars will be stronger in 2019.

“I’m hoping to go farther than we did last year, but I’m more so looking forward to seeing everyone’s hard work pay off,” she said. “Over the preseason months, we did boxing and crossfit (training) in addition to practicing three days a week, and the strength gained is definitely noticeable. I’m extremely excited for what this season has to bring.

Senior outfielder Mackenzie Alava is a returning letter winner who has been battling injuries for two years. She and Karcher will serve as co-captains. They are the only seniors on the squad.

“Both Mackenzie and I cannot believe how fast the time has flown,” Karcher said. “Senior season seems so unrealistic, honestly. We have been working almost every day to do things that benefit the team.”

The nine returning players are joined by a talented group of athletes eager to crack the lineup. They are juniors Bella Regna (3B), Jackie Burich (OF), Tyler Turk (P/1B), Jenna Kisner (OF) and Haley Woods (OF); plus sophomores Jordan Snyder (IF) and Hannah Singo (IF).

Top freshman prospects include Bree Kibe (P/OF), Emma Stock (3B), Savannah Mallozzi (IF), Graci Fairman (UTIL) and Julia Rayman (IF).

Bucy and Karcher, a West Chester recruit, proved to be one of the area’s most dynamic tandems.

Karcher led the club with a .461 batting average, .488 on-base percentage and .579 slugging percentage. She also had a team-high 27 RBIs.

Bucy compiled a 12-7 record and 1.74 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 12823 innings and had five shutouts. She also hit .389 with a .597 slugging percentage.

“This team means the world to us, and we couldn’t be happier with all the talent we have this year,” Haleigh Karcher said.

Other top offensive contributors in 2018 included Rockwell (.400 average), Truax (.358), Zang (.333) and Chalovich (.304).

Thomas Jefferson is a member of Section 2-4A with Belle Vernon, Carrick, Elizabeth Forward, McKeesport, Ringgold and West Mifflin.

BV successfully defended its WPIAL Class 4A title last season and finished 22-4 overall. EF (19-5) was the WPIAL runner-up in 4A last year.

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