Trib HSSN Softball Team of the Week: May 17, 2021

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Sunday, May 16, 2021 | 9:01 PM


After the merger of the Kittanning and Ford City school districts to form Armstrong before the 2015-16 school year, the softball program went 18-54 over four years.

However, the River Hawks finished 12-4 this season and are headed to the WPIAL softball playoffs for the first time.

“The girls and staff can feel the excitement,” Armstrong second-year coach Doug Flanders said. “The school and communities are very supportive. We keep moving forward trying to take positive steps every day.”

Armstrong didn’t just earn a playoff berth, it was in the hunt for the Section 1-5A championship until the very end.

“Very sweet,” Flanders said. “We knew we had a good team, but there was so much unknown since we didn’t play last season. We felt early on that we could compete with any team in the WPIAL.”

The River Hawks won four of their last five, including both section games last week.

On Tuesday, Armstrong traveled to last-place Penn Hills and took care of business against the Indians.

“We try to not look ahead, and we just focus on the next opportunity that presents itself,” Flanders said. “We worry more about how we are playing, not what the other team is doing. Our 16 hits and Mackenzie Egley’s two home runs and seven RBIs definitely helped.”

With Egley producing half of her team’s runs, the River Hawks coasted to a 14-5 victory.

The next day, Armstrong concluded the regular season with a home game against playoff-bound Indiana.

“Indiana has a great pitcher,” Flanders said. “On this particular day, we jumped on them early and often. We had 14 hits and three home runs. The bats are heating up more and more with the weather.”

Victory No. 10 in the section and 12 overall was a 9-4 River Hawks win over the Little Indians.

Two standouts for Armstrong in the wins were junior Egley, who was 7 for 9 with three home runs and 11 RBIs, and freshman Emma Paul, who was 5 for 9 with a home run and four RBIs.

“I have confidence in our hitting,” Flanders said. “We can put up runs and have 28 home runs on the season. My concern is the unknown as we get our first taste of playoff competition. I hope we can relax and play to our abilities.”

So what was the biggest difference between this season and Flanders’ first year in 2019, when the team finished 3-16?

“The biggest change is the dedication of the players. These girls play travel, fall, and have come up through our junior high program. Softball is now a big priority for Armstrong.”

The top priority for Armstrong this upcoming week is a Class 5A first-round playoff game as the No. 7-seed River Hawks face No. 10 South Fayette.

“Every team in the bracket is good,” Flanders said. “South Fayette will present a tough challenge. We are excited and want to continue to put Armstrong softball on the WPIAL map.”

2021 Trib HSSN Softball Teams of the Week:

Week 6 — Laurel Spartans

Week 5 — Avonworth Antelopes

Week 4 — Montour Spartans

Week 3 — Central Valley Warriors

Week 2 — North Hills Indians

Week 1 — Norwin Knights

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