Trib HSSN Softball State Championship Team of the Week for June 21, 2023

Wednesday, June 21, 2023 | 9:19 PM

At some point in the near future, members of the Montour softball team will look back at the spring of 2023 with great memories of an 18-win season and reaching both the district and state championship games.

However, the pain of coming up just short in one-run losses to Belle Vernon in the WPIAL 4A title game and Blue Mountain in the PIAA finals is still a bit fresh.

“We always have out team goals; obviously they include a WPIAL title and a state title,” Montour coach Ken Kutchman said. “As a school, we’ve been fortunate enough to win a few — four WPIAL titles and we had been to one state title game previously and ended up losing that. In the end, coming up one run short in each game, it’s not all that bad.”

The Spartans lost a heartbreaker in the 4A district finals to Belle Vernon, 8-7, when the tying run for Montour was thrown out at the plate to end a chaotic title game.

“It’s been a motivated group all year for the past year and a half,” Kutchman said. “Losing in the fashion that we lost left a horrible taste in their mouth. In fact, the day we came back, I gave them the day off the day after the WPIAL championships. That first practice, I walked into the dugout and a silver medal was hanging in the dugout. They came in, they looked at it and went back to work. I didn’t have to say much.”

Wins in the PIAA playoffs over District 6 champion Bellefonte and District 12 winner Archbishop Wood put Montour in the state semifinals against Elizabeth Forward.

The Spartans jumped on top in the first inning, scored two more in the fifth and added one in the seventh inning to win, 4-1.

Seniors Kaitlyn Molitoris and Mia Arndt led the way. Molitoris allowed only three hits while Arndt had two hits, including a double, with a run scored and RBI.

“That Elizabeth Forward team is a great team with a great pitcher,” Kutchman said. “We were lucky enough to jump out early and add a little bit to it. Kaitlyn pitched a heck of a game with Mia coming through when she did. “

That set the stage for the PIAA 4A title game between Montour and District 11 champion Blue Mountain.

Junior pitcher Marla Freiwald had three shutout victories for the Eagles in the PIAA postseason.

“Their pitcher was good. She was very good,” Kutchman said. “I thought we could get to her. Defensively, they were solid, and they ran a lot with some decent hitting. We took the lead in the fifth with two runs and had the bases loaded with one out, and we couldn’t push any more across. If we get one or two more there, it would have definitely turned out differently.”

Instead, Blue Mountain answered in the sixth inning with three runs that proved to be the difference in the 3-2 victory.

It was the first state championship for the Eagles, and it ended the Montour careers of their three senior starters: Molitoris, Arndt and Avrie Polo.

“That’s what upset me the most is those three went out the way they did,” Kutchman said. “They had their opportunities, but things didn’t go our way. They were three kids that gave their heart and soul for four years. They were the three best kids you can ask for as for as leaders, workers and motivators. That’s what hurt me more than anything.”

The Spartans will be one of the favorites in 4A in 2024 thanks to the return of starters such as juniors Gia LaBrie and Jana Hess, sophomores Shania Cope, who had two hits in the PIAA finals, and Danielle Terpack, and freshman Hailey Staub, who also had two hits, Delaney Barto and Ava Bartel.

“Getting to both the WPIAL championship and state championship games is special,” Kutchman said. “The girls don’t really feel that way as far as the results that occurred. In due time, they’ll figure that out. It took a lot of good things to happen and a lot of work on their part to get that far.”

2023 Trib HSSN Softball Teams of the Week:

Week 10 – Shaler Titans

Week 9 – Hempfield Spartans

Week 8 – Belle Vernon Leopards

Week 7 – South Fayette Lions

Week 6 – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Chargers

Week 5 – West Mifflin Titans

Week 4 – Neshannock Lancers

Week 3 – Trinity Hillers

Week 2 – Charleroi Cougars

Week 1 – Carmichaels Mighty Mikes


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