With star freshman playing in sister’s memory, Jeannette softball off to brilliant start

Wednesday, April 5, 2023 | 6:05 PM

Asked what her late sister, Scarlett, would think about the Jeannette softball team winning again, Grace Stein paused and allowed a subtle grin to curl up on her face.

“She would be so proud,” she said. “She was determined and never gave up.”

Jeannette hangs Scarlett’s red Jayhawks’ game jersey on the fence in front of the dugout at home games.

The No. 11 she wore is not retired. If it were, Grace would not be wearing it proudly each game. She has dedicated her play to her big sister.

“We wish she was still here to see us now,” said Tubby Stein, the girls’ father and Jeannette’s coach. “She would be happy to see us winning, but she would be telling her sister what she could be doing better.”

Scarlett Stein died of cardiac arrest in 2016. Like Grace, she was a pitcher and key hitter for the Jayhawks.

“We know she’s still here with us,” Tubby Stein said, his voice shaky.

With Grace Stein leading the way in her first varsity season, Jeannette won its first four games, equaling the team’s best start since 2007.

The Jayhawks broke a 25-game section losing streak when they routed Springdale, 15-0.

“The girls are improved because a lot of them came to the volunteer practices in the summer,” said Tubby Stein, who has coached local recreation and travel softball. “We have two travel players now, which helps a lot. Our seniors have been great leaders. We’re trying to get more younger ones to play. We only have one 13-15 youth team. Numbers are down in softball and baseball here. Kids need to put down their phones and do something.”

Grace Stein, a six-year travel player who suited up for Team Pennsylvania, could he a program-changing player.

She pitched a full-game no-hitter, striking out 11 in a 6-0 win over Monessen. That came after she held Springdale hitless in three innings of a mercy-rule win.

Stein also homered against Springdale and went 5 for 5 with a double and five RBIs in a 14-8 win over California.

Freshman Abby Shaw, who doubled twice against California, also shows promise. She also played travel softball.

Frankie Crosby, one of five seniors, is another offensive contributor. Seniors Autumn LaVella and Savannah Lock and juniors Addasyn Stout, Mackenzie Lewis and Mia Sarpolis are returning starters.

Stout, who is developing into a leader behind the plate, caught both of Stein’s no-hitters. Sarpolis was the top pitcher and hitter last season.

Jeannette moved down to Class A for this two-year enrollment cycle.

“We’re hitting the ball well, which is nice to see,” Tubby Stein said. “I have had a lot of people call and text me when they saw what we’re doing in the paper.”

A 17-1 win over St. Joseph on Tuesday came with more offensive firepower. Shaw went 3 for 3 with two doubles and three RBIs. Stout drove in three, LaVella was 3 for 3 with two doubles and Lock doubled, tripled and drove in three.

Stein fanned nine and allowed two hits.

Jeannette last made the WPIAL playoffs in 2019 and fell to Leechburg in the quarterfinals. That team also played in Class A.

The following year, the PIAA canceled the spring sports season because of the covid outbreak, leaving Jeannette fans wondering what a talented group of returnees might have done.

This team hopes to pick up the slack.

“I saw people fielding better and hitting better in practice, so that showed we might be a good team,” Grace Stein said.

The Stein family has come to grips with the concept that there would not be happiness without sadness. They soldier on, using the game they know best not only to provide a therapeutic escape but also to honor their daughter’s memory.

“We just don’t want her to be forgotten,” Tubby Stein said.

Dody Stein, Tubby’s wife and assistant coach, said softball has been a big part of their lives.

“It’s what we know,” she said. “We just kept going with it. It’s all positive here.”

Now, the team wants to keep going.

“You don’t want to get too high on the pedestal,” Tubby Stein said. “You don’t want to start taking teams lightly.”

Stacey Walling, a former Hempfield and Pitt-Johnstown player, is helping the staff as a volunteer assistant.

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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