Waywood, Yough softball dreaming of success in postseason

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 | 7:14 PM

Kierra Waywood was the starting center fielder when Yough won the PIAA Class 3A softball title in 2016.

Now, three years later, the Cougars’ ace pitcher hopes to lead her team back to the big game in June.

Yough was one bad inning away from returning to the PIAA playoffs in 2018.

The Cougars were leading section rival Elizabeth Forward, a team it had already defeated twice in the regular season, 2-0 in the WPIAL semifinals.

But a couple costly mistakes led to the bad inning and Elizabeth Forward capitalized and went on to defeat Yough, 7-2. The Cougars then dropped a 3-0 decision to Mt. Pleasant in the third-place game and saw their season end.

“Having been in the state tournament a few times, it’s a disappointing season when you don’t make it,” Yough coach Art “Dutch” Harvey said. “The girls have been working hard to get back in the tournament. The thing I like about these girls is they are very competitive, even in the weight room.”

Yough and Mt. Pleasant are the favorites in Section 1-4A. In fact, the teams also are the top-ranked squads in Class 4A, with Mt. Pleasant grabbing the top spot in the Trib HSSN preseason poll.

“It’s going to come down to pitching,” Harvey said. “Kierra (Haywood) had an earned run average of 1.20, and she struck out 110 in 2018.”

Haywood, who is committed to Cal (Pa.), was 14-4 and hitters batted a measly .181 against her. She has four career no-hitters, including one when she outpitched Belle Vernon’s Bailey Parshall, whose now at Penn State.

“Playing good defense and getting timely hitting will decide the top teams,” Harvey said. “These girls are excited to get started.”

Yough returns seven starters from a team that finished 12-0 in Section 2 and 16-5 overall.

“We need to work more as a team,” Waywood said. “More dedication and hard work all together, and we’ll be all right. We have to trust each other like sisters that we are.

“When we get a bond going and everyone playing well together and you have to trust and everything flows together better. We know what each other can do.”

Also back are sophomore shortstop Kaylyn Odelli, who started at catcher in 2018; sophomore infielder Sammi McGhee; first baseman Corrin Parquette, who will play first base; sophomore center fielder Savannah Manns; senior right fielder Katelyn Chilzer; and junior catcher Hannah Christner, who served as the designated player.

Harvey said Odelli could have started at shortstop last year, but she was better served as the catcher for the team.

Freshmen Neveah Chopp and Emma Augustine, both pitchers, will probably see time in the infield and outfield. The Sleith sisters, junior left fielder Haldey and freshman first baseman Marin, could also see action.

“Our Disney trip helps us grow as a team,” Parquette said. “We develop a friendship with each other and become a family.”

The Cougars, who have already scrimmaged Latrobe and Hempfield, open the season Friday at the Disney Complex in Orlando against Parkland, which lost the Class 6A title to Hempfield. The Cougars will play four games in Florida and then return home to battle Norwin and Derry.

“We’re going to be battle-tested, that’s for sure,” Harvey said. “We have a lot of experience and Kierra has good control. You can’t defend walks and the long ball, so Kierra does a nice job keeping the ball low and away.”

Haywood said she still has vivid memories of winning the state title as a freshman. She wouldn’t mind another shot his season. She pitched Yough to the state semifinals as a sophomore.

“Looking back at my freshman season, I know we can do it again if we work hard,” Waywood said.

Which should make Yough a dangerous team.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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