Trib HSSN softball team of the week for May 21, 2023

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Sunday, May 21, 2023 | 7:41 PM


Athletes will tell you that before the game starts, some have to find unique ways to get rid of the butterflies and jittery nerves.

In the case of a bunch of young cubs playing for the South Fayette softball team, all it took was one pitch for the nerves to disappear, as well as the softball.

In the first playoff game for half of the starters, Lions sophomore Maddie Cavanaugh deposited the first pitch of the game over the right-center field fence at Montour as the nerves left and the confidence ballooned.

“Maddie is kind if a big personality and is very loud on the bench and on the field,” South Fayette coach Olet Stasko said. “So it being her added to the fuel for us that we were ready to go and ready to hit the ball.”

After losing its last three Section 3-5A games of the season top drop into a three-way tie for second place, South Fayette added to its lead in the fourth inning on a two run homer by freshman Liv Bonacci.

When North Hills tied the score 3-3 in the fifth inning,the young Lions had an answer with three runs in the top of the sixth inning, with Rylee Rohbeck scoring on a wild pitch, Bonacci coming home on a sac fly by Addie Vierra and Emma Smith scoring on a Charlotte Dziki groundout.

“They’ve always battled back this entire season,” Stasko said. “They’ve never given up on a game, and they’ve always tried their best and that’s all we can ask for as a coaching staff. The energy in the dugout makes a big difference, and them coming out and stringing some hits together helped seal the win.”

South Fayette’s 6-5 win eliminated the No. 5-seed from the Class 5A tournament and set the stage for a quarterfinals game against No. 4 West Allegheny.

This was an Indians team that beat the Lions twice in the regular season by a combined score of 27-9 and a West A team that finished five games ahead of South Fayette in the standings.

“The girls knew they could do it,” Stasko said. “The moment we won the North Hills game, they were ready to go. They stayed relaxed. They were their relaxed, positive selves that knew they could handle the ball and hit. I know West Allegheny is a very tough team, so the game plan was to try to keep it close and try to keep them off the base paths.”

Rohbeck had three hits to lead the Lions offense, and freshman pitcher Emma Earley was sensational, holding an Indians offense that had scored 18 runs with four homers in a first-round win over Fox Chapel to three runs while striking out 13.

“In the beginning of the season we had two pitchers, but Emma has kind of stepped in and taken control on the mound,” Stasko said. “She’s just getting her confidence and her footing, and it’s all we can ask of our pitcher, especially a freshman. We know we’re throwing a lot at her at once.”

Early is part of a special young group of young Lions who are making waves in the district jungle. South Fayette starts five freshmen, three sophomores and two juniors.

Now this young brash gang in green faces its toughest challenge. On Wednesday at Gateway in the 5A semifinals, South Fayette wil challenge the top-seed and defending champion Armstrong.

“We know they’re great. We know they can hit,” Stasko said. “They have pitching. She’s crafty and can go inside and outside, so we know what we have to do. We have to stay patient at the plate. Our coaching staff is trying to figure out what we can better, what we can improve on. We faced them two years ago in the first round of the playoffs. We did lose, but we know they are a tough team. As returning champs, they have something to prove, too.”

2023 Trib HSSN Softball Teams of the Week:

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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