Westmoreland high school athletes of the week: Southmoreland’s Makayla Etling, Franklin Regional’s Max Bernadowski

Saturday, May 11, 2024 | 8:42 PM

Makayla Etling

School: Southmoreland

Class: Junior

Sport: Softball

Claim to fame: Etling, a catcher for the playoff-bound Scotties (14-2), has been on an offensive tear as the team’s leadoff hitter. Over a four-game stretch, she is 13 for 17 with four doubles, two triples, four home runs and 13 RBIs.

Etling, who said she does not pay attention to her statistics, missed the cycle by one hit in two of those games. She doubled, tripled and homered in an 8-6 win over Belle Vernon.

She is a UNC Pembroke commit.

Why are you so locked in at the plate?

When I’m up to hit I don’t ever think about whether I will strike out or not. I have confidence in my ability to hit. I just go out there and try my best.

Have you become a more dangerous hitter in the leadoff spot (than No. 2)?

I’m not sure. I don’t know my stats from this year or even from when I hit in the 2 spot, so I can’t really compare the two. I also don’t think that my spot in the line up affects how I hit the ball.

Have you changed your approach in the batter’s box?

The only thing different from last year, hitting wise, is that I stand more in the front of the box. Everything else is the same.

Does being a catcher help you as a hitter?

Not really, but you would think that it would. I think it does with bunting, though, because my eyes are behind my bat like they would be behind my glove if I were catching.

Did your future college coach come to a recent game?

Yes. Coach Graz (Stephanie Graziani) and coach (Lauren) Hawley were at my game against Belle Vernon last Monday. I was so glad they could come watch me play.

What do you like most about this Southmoreland team?

I love how resilient my team is and how we never give up. I also love that I get to play with my closest friends that I learned the game with. They have been my teammates for as long as I can remember.

What will it take to win a WPIAL title?

Hard work, determination and focus.

Do you have any pregame rituals or good-luck charms?

We have the same warm-up before each game, but that’s it.

What are you most looking forward to about the playoffs?

The competition.

Who is the best pitcher you have ever faced?

I’d have to say my travel teammate, Alivia Lantzy. She pitches hard and has very good spin.

You seem to have such a positive attitude. Where does that come from?

God. He keeps me from worrying and doubting.

Are you becoming more of a power hitter (seven home runs)?

I suppose, but I usually only hit home runs when they’re needed.

Have you been to any Pirates games yet? Do you think they will turn it around?

Not yet, but I might with my school’s student council. I hope they can turn it around.

What is the best sporting event you have ever been to?

I’m not sure. I don’t usually have time to go to any because of sports, work and school.

Who is the team “mom,” bookworm, and comedian?

Amarah is our team mom, Gwen is our bookworm and Taylor and Amarah are our comedians.

What travel team will you play for this summer?

I play for Steel City Athletics Lantzy.

Max Bernadowski

School: Franklin Regional

Class: Senior

Sport: Baseball

Claim to fame: Bernadowski had a big week for the Panthers, helping his team defeat rival Penn-Trafford and create a four-way tie for the Section 1-5A title. On Monday, Bernadowski went 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI. On Tuesday, he tossed a four-hit shutout and struck out four. He threw 88 pitches, 51 for strikes. His college plan is to attend Slippery Rock.

What are you more proud of about defeating Penn-Trafford, your hitting on Monday or pitching on Tuesday?

It was definitely my pitching performance. I was supposed to pitch Monday, but because of an illness, I was pushed to Tuesday. It came down to the wire, and being on the mound was special.

You pitched a gem Tuesday, but describe your thoughts about the game-saving catch by Cole Brinker?

It was amazing. He’s been playing right field all season, and we put him in center field because of injuries. To see him make that catch was unbelievable. It was the best.

When you don’t pitch, where do you play?

I play shortstop.

What does the sweep of Penn-Trafford mean to the team?

We have a chip on our shoulder coming off last year’s disappointment when we lost our last four games. We had to build up our confidence by beating them. They’re a very good team. It showed we can play against anyone.

What are the goals of the team?

Competing for the WPIAL Class 5A championship and qualifying for the state tournament. We checked off the section title, but the job is not finished.

What is special about this Franklin Regional team?

It’s our bond. We are friends, and we’re close. We pick each other up, and we have your back.

Do you feel the difficult section will help teams in the playoffs?

The strength of our section should definitely help us for sure. We saw a lot great arms and so much talent in our section. The top four teams were so balanced. We have one of the most competitive sections in 5A. We’ll have the edge in close games against other teams.

What will it take to win a WPIAL title?

It’s going to take everyone playing their best. We have to give Coach Saddler our best for seven innings, and we have to play our game.

What are you most looking forward to about the playoffs?

I’m looking forward to competing and the experience of playing in the playoffs. It was cut short as a sophomore. We have the talent, and we can go far into this run and make a name for ourselves.

Who is the best pitcher/player you have ever faced?

The best player I’ve faced is probably Tyler Pitzer of South Fayette. He was nasty. He’s a freshman at South Carolina.

What does it take to be a leader?

Coming from someone who is not outgoing, you have to lead by example. You pick someone back up if they are having a bad day. Back them up. Actions mean a lot. A head down could bring everyone down.

Who did you look up to growing up?

I looked up to my dad (Brian). He brought me into the baseball world. Being the first child, I brought baseball into the house. Baseball is my life.

Who is your favorite player?

Andrew McCutchen. Watching him play the game stuck with me. I’m glad they brought him back.

Were you excited to see Pirates’ No. 1 pick Paul Skenes finally get to pitch?

I am. We have a banquet Saturday, so I know we’ll be watching on our phones.

Have you been to any Pirates games yet? Do you think they will turn it around?

My first game this season was Wednesday’s game against the Angels. It’s going to take a few more draft picks. They don’t play with that confidence right now.

What is the best sporting event you have ever been to?

It has to be the 2021 WPIAL championship game that we won. I remember watching Brian Pirone pitch a gem. I thought to myself that I could be in this position the next year.

Who is the team’s comedian?

Josh Hudak. He has that funny outgoing, personality.

Where do you and your teammates head to for a snack after a game or practice?

We go to Chipotle, and I get a chicken bowl.

Sheetz or Get-Go?

Sheetz, but I like both.

Moe’s or Chipotle?

Chipotle, but I love Moe’s, too. It’s very close.

Your favorite meal your mom or dad makes you?

I like my dad’s tacos. I eat them a lot.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

Hilton Head, S.C.

Do you have a dream vacation spot you want to visit?

Some place in Europe

What is your favorite baseball or sports movie?

“The Sandlot”

What is the last TV show that you watched?

“Young Sheldon”

What would be your walk-up song when hitting?

“Many Men” by 21 Savage

If you could have dinner or lunch with someone famous, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you talk about?


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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