Westmoreland County athletes of the week: Southmoreland’s Amarah McCutcheon and Hempfield’s Peyton Murray

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Saturday, April 8, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Amarah McCutcheon

School: Southmoreland

Sport: Softball

Class: Junior

Claim to fame: The standout shortstop came through in the clutch for the Scotties in a pitchers’ duel against Ligonier Valley. She hit a two-run, walk-off home run to beat the Rams, 2-0, for what she said was the most thrilling moment in her career.

Ligonier Valley pitcher Cheyenne Piper had 20 strikeouts in the game.

McCutcheon, a Division I college prospect who has 18 career homers, added a pair of hits in a 2-0 win over Mt. Pleasant.

Her mother, Ashley, an assistant coach for Southmoreland, was a good softball player at Geibel and Cal (Pa.).

What was going through your head when the ball left the bat Monday?

Honestly, nothing. I was just hoping that I would get a hit and bring Brooke (McBeth) in, or someone on the team would hit me in. I had a feeling that our bats were going to come around, and that was going to be our inning.

What made Cheyenne Piper so tough to hit that day?

She had spin that you do not see very often in high school ball. She was also very good at placing her ball within the strike zone.

You gave the game ball to coach Todd Bunner?

Yes. Someone had given him the ball that I hit, and usually I give the balls back because we can use them at practice. He said to me that someone was watching from above on that hit, and I said to him that my pap and his dad were working together up there to make it happen.

How has the team rallied around coach Bunner after he lost his father?

It seems almost as if we have grown closer. Coach Todd means a lot to all of us. He tells us all of the time that we are like his daughters. He wants the best for all of us. So, in return, we go out there every game, every practice, and we give it our all. That’s all he’s ever asked of us, and that’s what we do.

What are your impressions of the season so far?

I feel that we can do whatever gets put in front of us. Many people have doubted our team, but that’s something that helps our drive to want to win. We are a very close team, and we are there for each other always. That’s something not a lot of teams have. We have a bond that can’t be taught. It’s just natural.

How impressed have you been with Maddie Brown since she returned from a back injury?

Maddie Brown is just Maddie Brown. The way she came back from her injury, and the way she is pitching now is incredible. I couldn’t be more proud of Maddie. Sky’s the limit for MB.

What are the most travel games you have played one day?

Probably my 12U year at nationals when we played eight games to get to the semis.

Before I step to the plate I have to …

Rub dirt on my hands and my bat. I usually spin my bat a few times to where it says “ghost” on it. Then, I will draw an initial in the dirt as my good luck charm. After that, I take a deep breath and get ready to hit.

What initial?

The letter D. One of my former teammates said we have a lucky charm. So, in the beginning of last year, we claimed that mine was the D, which is my boyfriend’s first initial. Ever since then, I’ve always put that in my batting routine.

What other sports do you play?

I play volleyball. I used to do gymnastics. I love to flip.

What kind of music do you like?

Definitely country.

The rumor is you have a knack for baking?

Yes, I love to bake. Baking is my other hobby besides sports. It’s almost like a stress reliever.

What is your favorite thing to bake?

I would have to say cupcakes, oatmeal raisin cookies and sugar cookies, only because they are all family favorite baked goods.

Did you know your mom was a good player?

Yes. My mom was very good. She played at the collegiate level and has taught me everything I know. If it wasn’t for her driving me to be the best I can be, I wouldn’t be anywhere. She taught me to play and love the game.

When do you think you will make a college decision?

Most likely after high school season, early travel ball season.

Who is your favorite pro athlete?

Odicci Alexander.

Who was you favorite Southmoreland athlete growing up?

I actually went to Connellsville when I was younger and moved to Southmoreland in sixth grade. So, when I came to Southmoreland, the only two girls I knew of on the high school team were Bethany and Briana Bunner.

Have you ever met a famous person?

Yes, I met Peyton Ackerman from Dance Moms.

Who is your favorite Twitter follow?

Probably anyone who has anything softball related to their account.

This season will be a success if Southmoreland?

Does what we do best. Go out there and play our hearts out. Everything comes into place when it needs to.

Do you still get an Easter basket or look for eggs?

Kind of . … My brother is only 3 and my sister is 5, so when my older cousins and I help out siblings, we are usually very competitive about the eggs.

Peyton Murray

School: Hempfield

Sport: Track and field

Class: Junior

Claim to fame: The Spartans junior currently has the No. 1 discus throw in the state with a toss of 171 feet, 9 inches, which occurred April 4. The returning WPIAL Class 3A champion had a winning throw of 162-6.

He placed third in the PIAA with a throw of 161-8.

He was the only top six finisher that was an underclassman. His best throw as a sophomore was 164-1.

He also throws the shot put.

What’s it mean to have the best throw in the state so far this season?

I knew the throw was far, but I feel I have more in me. I do feel I think I can do better.

What’s your ultimate goal distance wise this season?

I’m not really sure about the distance. I definitely would like to hit 185 this season and maybe 190, but 185 is the first goal and of course winning the state title.

How about the shot put. What’s the goal?

I’d like to reach 56 feet, and I don’t care when I hit it. My best throw was 54-2 during the indoor season. I want to see how the season goes. I don’t know if there is anyone out there capable of hitting 57 in Class 3A. I’d like to win the shot put, too.

Talk about the relationship between you and your coach, who happens to be your dad (Dave Murray).

We try to separate the two. He’s a coach at the track and a dad at home. We will do stuff at home in the driveway or the circle that he built. It’s a good relationship.

Talk about the tradition that has been built at Hempfield with all the excellent throwers?

I’ve definitely wanted to be on the wall in the fieldhouse with all the state champions for a long time, and that’s been the goal. I’ve been looking up to all of his throwers for years since I started in seventh grade.

How special would it be to be on the wall of state champions?

It should be the goal of all the athletes. That’s my goal.

When did you get started throwing?

I picked it up for fun when I was 4 years old. But I got serious about it in seventh grade.

You were slowed by an injury your sophomore season. How much did it affect you?

I missed the first five weeks of the season with a hip injury. The goal was to win a state championship last year, and I missed it by 10 feet. If I would have had four more weeks, I think I would have got it. The injury really held me back in the shot put.

When you train with your dad, is it more about technique or more about strength?

We focus on technique when we throw, and then we head to the weight room and add strength. We are always working speed. We try to do everything fast. In the offseason, we work on strength more.

Who do you idolize as a thrower?

Definitely Olympian Ryan Crouser and all the other shot putters. I look up to a lot of shot putters. For some reason, I don’t know many discus throwers by name other than Ryan Whiting. I follow shot putters the most.

Do you want to throw in college?

Because I’m a junior, I’m keeping my options open. I don’t have a favorite, but I have a few in mind. I’m just looking ahead to the season right now.

How would you celebrate if you won states?

I don’t know. I’d be pretty happy is all I know. I’d probably just practice the next day and try to get better.

What would your dream ride be?

I have a 2008 Mustang. Probably a really old Mustang. I don’t know.

What is your go-to snack when you are at home?

I like protein bars and Met-RX bars. They are my favorites. They have a lot of calories. I eat those a lot.

Where do you and your friends go for a snack after practice or a meet?

I like Chipotle or Chick-Fil-A. That’s what we get.

What’s your favorite meal that your mom makes?

I like her salmon and Mac and Cheese.

What’s the last movie you saw?

I saw “Creed 3.” It was cool, a good movie.

If someone would play you in a movie, who would it be and what would it be about?

I don’t know who it would be, but it would be about my throwing career.

What type of music do you listen too?

I like old rock bands like Whitesnake. That’s what I listen to when I’m lifting or throwing: old rock.

What’s your favorite class in school?

I like math.

What do you want to major in at college?

Probably business.

Who is your favorite pro team in Pittsburgh?

The Steelers.

With the NFL draft coming up, what are their needs?

They need more offensive linemen and defensive backs.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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