Westmoreland H.S. athletes of the week: Latrobe’s Josie Straigis and Yough’s Jack Sampson

Saturday, March 25, 2023 | 8:09 PM

Josie Straigis

School: Latrobe

Class: Senior

Sport: Softball

Claim to fame: Straigis helped power Latrobe to a 3-0 start with her bat and her arm. She delivered a walk-off home run to beat Norwin, 9-8, in the opener. In that game, she went 4 for 4 and hit for the cycle, driving in four runs and scoring four.

She added two hits in a 9-1 win over Mt. Pleasant, and she was the winning pitcher as the Wildcats downed Pine-Richland, 10-3.

Also a starter for the basketball team, she had a career-high 30 points in the Wildcats’ 68-61 loss to Trinity in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

You had a big opening week. Did this surprise you?

I was a little surprised coming off a long basketball season, but it’s good to know the time I have been putting in on softball is paying off.

What was it like hitting a game-winning home run?

It was awesome being put into the position where I was able to come through for my team with a home run to win the game.

Is it tough to pitch and hit your team to victory? A lot of local players have been doing this lately.

It can be difficult at times trying to focus on pitching and hitting, but it can also be an advantage because as a pitcher I know where the ump is calling his strike zone the most.

You also play basketball and field hockey. What is your favorite sport to play?

I love all my sports, but softball is my favorite because when I’m on the mound it’s like I control the game, and when I’m at shortstop I get to play loose and have fun doing what I love.

What sport do you think you’d be good at that you have not played competitively?

I’ve always had a special spot in my heart for football since my dad played professionally in Europe, but realistically I think I could have been a good volleyball player because of my size, speed and hand-eye coordination.

What is your natural position in softball?

I think my natural position in softball is shortstop because I can really show off my athletic ability by being able to get balls that most cannot and be the best I can to support my pitcher.

Where are you hitting in the lineup and why?

The last couple games I have been fifth, and I think that’s because we have our slappers and runners in the top of the lineup for me and Kayla Williams to hit them in.

What did you like most about Bloomsburg, and what position will you play there?

Bloomsburg is close to where I grew up and where my family is, so I loved that and the campus is beautiful. I plan on continuing to pitch and play shortstop at college but I will play wherever my coach needs me.

How good is this year’s Latrobe team?

I believe we have had great teams the past couple years, but I think this year we have a group of girls that can beat whoever we play if we leave it all out there every game.

Why do you wear No. 11?

A couple years ago, my mother passed away from breast cancer and she always wore number 11. She was my biggest role model, and I will forever look up to her, and in honor of that, I wear number 11.

If Latrobe teams were not called the Wildcats, what mascot would you prefer instead?

Since my nickname is “Straig Dog” my mascot would have to be a dog because I love barking when I cheer.

How fast have you been clocked pitching?

The fastest I have been clocked pitching was 64 mph.

What do you like most about your home field?

Being on your home field just brings comfort because you know it feels familiar since you have practiced so much on it. It makes me feel relaxed while I play, and also being able to play in front of friends and family.

Who has the best ponytail on the team?

I’m going have to say coach Bob (Kovalcin) on this one. We have lots of girls who love doing their bubbles or braids, but coach Bob takes the top with his little blonde ponytail.

Who is the best hitter you have pitched against?

I’ve faced a lot of great hitters, but Jenna Tallman always made me a little nervous when she got up to the plate in travel ball or even at practice.

You’re down a run in the bottom of the seventh. Who do you want at the plate besides yourself (Latrobe or travel ball)?

I would, hands down, want Ava Blake from my travel team up at the plate. She owns the plate when she gets in the batter’s box.

How do you think the girls basketball team did after losing Emma Blair early in the season?

Losing Emma was a very difficult setback, but we didn’t give up. We wanted to go as far as we could for her and for ourselves. The first couple games were rough, but we settled in to try and fill her role best we could as a team.

What will you remember most about girls basketball coach Mark Burkhardt, who resigned?

I will forever miss how hard he pushed every single one of his players to be the best they could be. For me, he always believed I could be better than I was, and helped me believe that for myself.

Jack Sampson

School: Yough

Class: Senior

Sport: Baseball

Claim to fame: Sampson went 8 of 9 with five runs, 10 RBIs, three doubles and a triple during a weekend trip to Savannah, Ga. He also walked once. He has helped Yough to a 3-1 start.

What are your strengths as a catcher?

I think I’m good at framing pitches and blocking pitches in the dirt. When you’re good at that, you gain the trust of your pitcher.

Where did you learn how to frame pitches?

My favorite player is J.T. Realmuto of the Phillies. I like to watch him call games.

What is your most memorable high school moment?

When we defeated Mt. Pleasant in the WPIAL playoffs last year. We were down 6-1 and rallied for the win.

Are you planning to play baseball in college?

I’m going to play at Washington & Jefferson and earn a Business Administration degree. I really like the coaches, the facility and the school. The plan is to help at my dad’s business: Basic Carbide.

What is your favorite snack?

I like donuts.

Is there a special place you and your teammates go to for a snack after practice?

We go to Buffalo Wild Wings. I love the Teriyaki wings.

What is your favorite meal that your mom makes?

I like her crab legs and any pizza she makes.

What’s the best pizza in the Yough School District?

I like the West Newton Pizza House pepperoni pie.

What would your dream ride be?

A Ford Rafter.

What type of music do you listen to, and who is your favorite band or artist?

I like country, and I listen to Morgan Wallen.

Is there a place you’d like to visit again that baseball has taken you?

I’d like to go back to Savannah. It has a lot of nice places.

Do you have a favorite vacation spot”

My family goes to Destin, Fla., and the Bahamas. I like where it is warm.

Is there one famous person you’d like to have lunch with, and what would you talk about?

Adam Sandler, and we’d talk about all his movies. My favorite movie is “Happy Gilmore.”

How do you think the Pirates will do this season?

I’m hoping they have an exciting season and do well. I think they’ll be improved.

How will the Yough Cougars be this season?

I think we’re capable of making a nice run. The pitching has been great, and the hitting has been unbelievable. I hope we continue to play well.

What’s special about being a Yough Cougar?

We’re a group that will battle you to the end. There is no quit in a Cougar.

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


More High School Other

Golf, football success leads Peters Township to Class 5A Trib Cup title
Neshannock captures 3rd straight Class 2A Trib Cup title
Westmoreland County high school notebook: Hempfield football assembles eclectic coaching staff
Hampton leads Class 4A standings to claim school’s 3rd Trib Cup
The Southern Columbia rule? Teams winning consecutive state titles would be moved into higher class under PIAA proposal