Westmoreland County high school athletes of the week: Belle Vernon’s Talia Ross, Hempfield’s Ethan Minerva

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Saturday, April 6, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Talia Ross

School: Belle Vernon

Class: Senior

Sport: Softball

Claim to fame: A hard-throwing southpaw, Ross put her name in the Belle Vernon record book with an impressive performance against Latrobe last weekend. Ross stuck out 20 batters, including the first 19 she faced, as Belle Vernon won 7-0 in steady rain.

The total tied former Leopards star Bailey Parshall’s seven-inning school record for Ks in a game. The 19 consecutive Ks are a program record.

Ross, a Lock Haven commit, is dealing with an Achilles injury she suffered at practice. The severity of the injury will be revealed in a doctor visit this week.

Were you counting strikeouts in your head when you played Latrobe?

No, I actually didn’t even realize until coach (John) Christner told me at the bottom of the sixth inning.

What was working well for you in that game?

My curveball and my rise.

What was the most strikeouts you had in a game before that one?

I know I had a decent amount in our playoff game against Burrell my sophomore year, but I think it was only 17 or 18.

What did you do in the offseason to improve your pitching?

I spend a lot of time with my pitching instructor at 412 Fastpitch and a lot in the gym to get stronger. I have a net in my garage I throw into by myself as well.

How well do you know Bailey Parshall, and what does it mean to be mentioned alongside her in the record book?

I worked with Bailey when I first started back in fifth or sixth grade, and we’ve always stayed in contact. A record was a big goal of mine, and I’m glad I got to achieve it.

You have a similar delivery to Parshall’s, correct?

We are both left-handed, but I feel every pitcher is different and has their own (form).

This team doesn’t look like it has skipped a beat after last season. Is it just as good, or better?

It’s really just a matter of younger girls stepping up. I think they’ve done well with it so far. We lost some effective players, but we are a family and families pick up after each other.

What made you choose Lock Haven?

I knew I wanted to play as much as I could. I didn’t want to go to a big school and have to redshirt or sit my first year, so I went somewhere that felt comfortable and at home. The coaches are incredible and very welcoming. It’s not too far so I can still see my family often, and my dad will get to watch me play.

What is your nickname?

I have a few. My teammates usually call me TR or T-Boss. My dad has always called me T.

How fast can you throw?

I range between 58-62 (mph) depending on the pitch.

How frustrating has all of this wet weather been?

All of the rescheduling and cancellations have been really frustrating because we are all eager to get on the field. While playing, I try my best to just keep my hand and the ball dry, and everything is fine.

If you could change one rule in WPIAL softball, what would it be?

The eye-black rule. My teammates love to do silly eye-black or add glitter, but we are only allowed a plain straight line.

Have you dealt with any adversity in sports?

Well, right now is probably the worst thing I can imagine. I just do my best to stand firm in faith and trust that God has a plan.

Who or what is your greatest inspiration?

My dad (Scott Ross) has always pushed me to be the best version of myself. Without him, I wouldn’t be the athlete or person I am.

Any vacation plans for the summer?

For travel ball, my family and I like to go a few days early or stay longer to spend extra time, so fingers crossed, I get to travel with my team.

What would be your dream ideal NIL deal?

I really like the Alani Nu (energy) drinks and snacks, so I think that would be really cool.

I can’t take the circle for a game unless I …?

Pray first.

Did your team get WPIAL championship rings?

Yes, they are super nice and we are all very grateful.

What is coach Tom Rodriguez’s best advice?

To try to find good in everything.

Are you going to the Belle Vernon football championship parade Sunday?

Hopefully, it’s not too far from my house so I should be able to go. Maybe with some of my teammates. I was coach (Matt) Humbert’s teaching assistant for the first semester of the year, so I got to be on the sidelines for every game. It was a really great and unique experience.

Ethan Minerva

School: Hempfield

Class: Senior

Sport: Baseball

Claim to fame: Minerva had a big week for the unbeaten Spartans. In wins against Central Catholic, the Spartans’ leadoff hitter went 5 for 9 with a double, triple, four runs scored and four RBIs. He also walked four times, was hit by a pitch and swiped four bases. Hempfield opened Section 2-6A action by defeating Central Catholic, 13-2, 6-4 and 5-3.

What is your job as a lead-off hitter?

I work the count until I get my pitch. I try to get on base anyway I can and help us get off on the right foot.

What has the key to the team’s fast start?

This team is so much different from previous teams. There are 15 seniors on the roster, and we’ve all been playing together since we were 10. My dad (Dean) and Jim Biondi have been our summer coaches. We’re like a big family. We’re all friends, and we have great chemistry. We all pull for each other and play for each other.

Why did you choose Cal (Pa.) to continue your education?

Partly because my dad and mom (Randi) went there, and my mom works there. Coach (Michael) Conte invited me down and after talking to him, I was convinced that was the place for me. I believe California is the right fit for me.

What is the goal this season?

The goal is to win the WPIAL title and reach the PIAAs and hopefully win a state title. But the focus is on our next game, and so far, we’ve done well. We’re ready for any challenge.

What has been your most memorable or best game?

My best game was probably the game against Pittsburgh Central Catholic on Monday. The most memorable game was last year’s playoff game. We were down nine runs early, but we never quit and ended up losing 14-12. The game showed us we could compete with anyone.

Do you have a nickname?

It is “Ener.” It used to be “E-Minerva” but someone mispronounced it and everyone laughed and it stuck. I don’t care, I’m OK with it.

What position do you play?

I used to catch like my dad. Now I play center field.

Who is your favorite baseball player?

Yadier Molina. He was a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, and I used to watch him. Now it is Harrison Bader. I like to pattern my game after him.

Who is your favorite Pirate?

It has to be “Cutch.” I like how Andrew McCutchen plays the game. I also like Bryan Reynolds.

If you were the Steelers’ GM, who would you pick in the first round of the upcoming draft?

I’d tried to trade up and draft Marvin Harrison Jr. If not, I’d pick center Jackson Powers-Johnson.

What type of music do you listen to?

Before a game I like to listen to rap.

Do you do anything special before a game?

I like to lie on the ground, breath and visualize the game.

Where do you go for a snack after a game or practice?

We go to Dino’s for sweet and hot wings.

If your dad was making you your favorite dinner, what would it be?

I like his pasta.

Who would play you in a baseball movie?

Leonardo DiCaprio.

What is your favorite baseball movie?

“Field of Dreams.”

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

I love Hilton Head, S.C.

Is there a place you’d like to visit?

I’d like to go to Omaha for the College World Series. I also would like to go back to Cancun, Mexico.

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and what would you talk about?

My grandfather (Stanley Katz). He was an outfielder when he was young, and we’d talk baseball.

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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