With youth and experience, Valley softball is looking to break its playoff hiatus
Friday, March 20, 2020 | 4:38 PM
The Valley softball team hasn’t made the WPIAL playoffs in eight years, but the seven returning seniors are hoping to end that streak.
“It’s very important for us,” senior Casey Gatto said about getting back to the playoffs. “It’s our last chance, really, and we are hoping to do that.”
The Vikings won three games last year and haven’t had a winning season since 2014, when they went 8-7 overall but missed the playoffs as Deer Lakes, Freeport and Burrell won at least 10 section games each. But before the season was postponed because of health concerns surrounding the spread of the coronavirus, the Vikings were showing promise.
“We were actually pretty excited about everything until the coronavirus put a halt to everything,” Valley coach Carol Perroz said. “But I’m trying to keep in touch with the girls and let them know when, and if, we’re able to start back up, hopefully, we’ll be able to get right back into where we had left off and be ready to go right from the get go.”
With a balance of seniors who are motivated to break the playoff drought and an incoming class of eight freshmen, the Vikings are poised to improve their standing.
Perroz returns the Gatto triplets, Madison, Rylee and Casey. While Madison will continue the duties behind the plate, Rylee will play first, and Casey will return to her starting position at shortstop.
“They’ve all started since their freshmen year,” Perroz said. “So I’ll definitely be leaning on the three of them.”
Other seniors returning to the lineup include Domenica Wolfe at second base, Aimee Johnson in center field, and Danielle Yaworski and Ashley Banks also will see time in the outfield.
Although the seniors haven’t been to the playoffs, Casey believes the experience they bring will help them take their next step.
“We have a good team this year, and I believe in them 100%,” Casey said. “The seven seniors, we all want to get this season in because this might be the last time that we all get to play together.”
While the seniors will play a crucial role, Perroz believes the freshmen and four returning sophomores will be just as important. It starts with Morgan Dunkel in the circle.
The freshman hurler will be leaned on to excel. But Perroz thinks a few other things will come into play as well.
“If she (Dunkel) can go into the circle and be solid there, that will be a start,” Perroz said. “Some timely hitting will be important as well because we didn’t score enough last year.”
Sophomore pitcher Eden Richey also was working hard throughout the preseason and could see innings as well.
The freshmen and sophomores will bolster roster numbers for the Vikings, but they also provide a competitive push for the older players, which Perroz believes will help them improve throughout the season.
“We have a lot of experience and a lot of youth,” Perroz said. “The younger kids are bringing life into the program, and they are putting pressure on the seniors. So they know the starting positions aren’t theirs without having to work for it, so that’s definitely been a good thing.”
It hasn’t been decided whether WPIAL spring sports will continue, but if they do, Perroz and her players are hoping to send their seniors out on a wave of success.
“Even though they are seniors, none of them have that type of experience,” Perroz said. “I’m hoping, though, with what we have coming back and the freshmen that are coming in, we can make the playoffs this year and let the seniors go out with an experience that they haven’t had yet.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
More High School Softball• Senior spotlight: West Allegheny outfielder not ready to hang up spikes
• Senior spotlight: West Allegheny catcher misses camaraderie on softball diamond
• Pine-Richland softball focused on adding punch at the plate
• Local ballplayers trying to stay sharp during coronavirus’ spring shutdown
• Yough softball returns 7 starters, expects championship-caliber season