Trib HSSN softball team of the week for May 28, 2023

Sunday, May 28, 2023 | 9:35 PM

Veteran Belle Vernon softball coach Tom Rodriguez was actually happy his team didn’t listen to him at Wednesday’s WPIAL Class 4A semifinal softball game.

All week, Rodriguez had his team preparing to play undefeated Elizabeth Forward by practicing small ball in an effort to scratch home a couple of runs.

Instead the Leopards played long ball in stunning the top-seeded Warriors, 10-1.

“The first time we played (Elizabeth Forward), we had three hits,” Rodriguez said. “Then the second time we played, they 10-runned us in the fifth inning and we had one hit. So we practiced and we were going to do some hard bunts and we were going to doing some slapping from the left side, and we talked about it and they were all in on it. We have to find a way to score some runs.

“Well, it so happens we were hitting the ball hard to start, so I just let them go and, after a while, I didn’t have to resort to all of that.”

The gameplan changed from bunting and slapping to a good old-fashioned game of home run derby.

Senior Lexi Daniels, junior Ava Zubovic and senior Maren Metikosh all hit home runs at West Mifflin as the Leopards ended up cruising past the Warriors.

The first blow came in a scoreless game when Daniels crushed a two-run shot that put Belle Vernon up for good.

“Lexi was excited,” Rodriguez said. “She told me Mr. Rod, we’ve got this, and I was thinking, two runs is nice, but they 10-runned us last time, two is not enough.”

So Zubovic added a three-run homer in a four-run fifth inning, and the icing on the cake came in the top of the seventh inning when Metikosh smacked a grand slam.

“It wasn’t until after Merin’s at-bat that took the wind out of EF and put the wind back in me,” Rodriguez said. “I felt a lot better at that point.”

The Warriors’ best chance to make a game of it came in the bottom of the third inning. Trailing 2-0, EF had runners on first and third following a Belle Vernon throwing error, but junior pitcher Talia Ross pitched out of the jam without allowing a run to score thanks to a great catch in shallow left field by Daniels.

“I can’t believe she made that catch there,” Rodriguez admitted. “She’s a tough kid. When she first started, she was my catcher and was really good. Then I put her at second base, then this year, she said Mr. Rod, I’ll go anywhere you want. I needed an outfielder so that’s where I put her.”

Belle Vernon has been blessed with two strong pitchers all season in Ross and senior Olivia Kolowitz.

Kolowitz started the first game the Leopards lost to the Warriors, 5-2. Ross started and was relieved by Kolowitz in the second loss to EF, 11-1. Why the decision to go with Ross?

“They’re two different pitchers,” Rodriguez said. “Olivia throws really hard. Talia has a lot more spin on the ball and her pitches move a lot. EF is a really good hitting team. We just felt Talia had the best shot at this point.”

The victory was career win No. 301 for Rodriguez, who knows win No. 302 in the 4A finals against Montour on Wednesday won’t be easy.

“We faced Montour in the fall in a tournament and they were winning 6-5 and they brought (Spartans starter Kaitlyn Molitoris) in and she struck out all three of our batters,” Rodriguez said. “She has a really good changeup. We’ll do some scouting on them and pass it along to our players to help them prepare.”

2023 Trib HSSN Softball Teams of the Week

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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