Trib HSSN Softball State Championship Player of the Week for June 19, 2023

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Monday, June 19, 2023 | 9:24 PM


The end came quickly, and it hurt.

While a season-ending loss in the PIAA Class A softball championship game may be a lesson and a stepping stone for a young Union team, for the lone senior starter, it was the end of a golden journey capped off with a silver lining.

“It was pretty sad,” Union senior third baseman Ella Casalandra said. “When I got on the bus, I told everyone, ‘I’m not crying because we lost. It’s just the fact I’ll never get to play with my group of friends anymore.’ I still would have reacted the same if we would have won.”

The Scotties became known as the comeback kids. They came back twice in the PIAA semifinals to beat Claysburg-Kimmel, but one comeback was not enough in the 6-3 PIAA title game loss to Tri Valley.

Union trailed Clayburg-Kimmel 3-1 after four inning when the Scotties struck for four runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead.

The Bulldogs answered with a run in their half of the fifth inning, then four runs in the bottom of the sixth to take an 8-5 lead into the seventh inning.

With one run in for Union and two on and two outs, Bella Cameron came to the plate with Casalandra on deck.

Cameron lofted a high fly ball to the Bulldogs left fielder who appeared to catch it, only to have to ball pop out, allowing the Scotties to tie the game, 8-8.

“If you watch (the video stream), the ball clearly goes into the web of her glove. It doesn’t hit her palm. It doesn’t hit anything. It just goes into the web of her glove, which is the perfect situation that you want to happen in the field,” Casalandra said. “It just bounces right out. When I was standing there with the ball in the air, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my season’s over. That’s a routine fly ball. I’m done.’ I was kind of getting sad, and then once she dropped it, I was freaking out.”

Some keen advice from assistant coach Fred Settle settled down the nervous senior.

“Once in the box, I’m gone,” Casalandra said about her focus in the box. “But something was weighing heavy on me that at-bat. Coach told me I put the last four years of my life into this team, and I should put it all into this at-bat. After I got the hit, they zoomed in on me at first base, and I had the biggest smile on my face.”

Casalandra, who had been on base twice earlier, singled home the go-ahead run then later scored an insurance run in the Scotties’ 10-8 win.

In the state title game, Union again fell behind, 2-0 after one inning and 3-1 after two innings. The Scotties battled to tie the game with single runs in the third and fourth innings.

The Bulldogs changed the script though, scoring three times in the bottom of the sixth inning and holding on for the win.

Union finished the season with a second straight district crown and a first PIAA runner-up trophy.

Not bad for a team that starts nine underclassmen.

“The freshmen this year were different,” Casalandra said. “They’ve all been playing their whole lives. They came in, and they’ve seen the pitching and seen the hitting. They’ve seen everything already in their travel ball. I knew they were nervous and kind of freaking out because it was the first time they had been in this situation and they didn’t want to disappoint the rest of the team. I feel these freshmen have been fun and I love them.”

The Scotties will have a void at third base next season and in leadership, where the vocal leadership of Casalandra won’t easily be replaced.

“I feel like for both of my sports this year (volleyball and softball), everyone was like, ‘Ella, what do we do?’” Casalandra said. “It was great because at the beginning of the year, we had the most hope of any of the three years I played.”

While she sadly bids farewell to her high school career, she looks forward to her college days starting soon as nearby Westminster.

“Last year, the coach came to one of my games recruiting the others team’s pitcher, and she came up to my parents after the game and said she wanted to talk to me because they were going to need a third baseman coming up, so I talked to her,” Casalandra said. “She’s a nice coach, and she’s close to her team. So I went up to Westminster and looked around, and I liked it up there.”

2023 Trib HSSN Softball Players of the Week:

Week 10 – Mia Preuhs, Union

Week 9 – Alivia Lantzy, Avonworth

Week 8 – Kaitlyn Molitoris, Montour

Week 7 – Bethany Rodman, Shaler

Week 6 – Lexie Hames, Seneca Valley

Week 5 – Caroline Malandra, Serra Catholic

Week 4 Shelby Telegdy , Elizabeth Forward

Week 3 – Ella Richey, Chartiers-Houston

Week 2 – Shaylyn Shall, Western Beaver

Week 1 – Olivia Zimmerman, Indiana

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