Yough softball hitting all the right spots in early going

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021 | 10:56 PM


Yough softball coaches and players often talk about their pitchers “hitting spots.”

By design, the concept is meant to produce groundouts, pop flies and strikeouts up and down the opponents’ batting order.

It is a staple of coach Art “Dutch” Harvey.

When a pitch sign is given, the players listen. And teams find themselves at the mercy of the Cougars’ hitter-by-hitter scouting report.

Early season execution, sharp and purposeful so far, has Yough hitting its spots in a number of ways.

The Cougars (5-1), whose only loss to Section 2 leader and top-ranked Elizabeth Forward, 1-0, recently knocked off Class 5A No. 1 Penn-Trafford, 5-2.

It also clipped Class 6A No. 2 Canon-McMillan, 2-1. Those wins can be filed under “S,” for signature.

Yough has one of the youngest lineups around, with five freshmen in the starting nine and flex spot.

Harvey said he played a lot of underclassmen in the fall and those girls had plenty of positive moments, so he was anxious to see how they would do in the spring alongside some seasoned varsity players.

“I knew I would have solid pitching and infield with the players coming back and knew I would be solid in center field,” Harvey said. “I knew I would be able to count on the seniors.”

Three seniors are fourth-year starters in Kaylyn Odelli (C), Sam McGhee (3B) and Savannah Manns (CF). Sophomore McKenzie Pritts, a soccer talent, is playing well at shortstop and another key cog in a solid defense that backs junior pitcher Emma Augustine.

Augustine was 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA and 41 strikeouts against only five walks. Yough has produced a number of talented pitchers over the years and Augustine fits the mold.

She was a freshman backup to former standout Kierra Waywood a couple of years ago.

“Emma has worked hard to get better at hitting her spots and knows that if she puts the ball where we call the pitch, we will have our defense in position to field it,” Harvey said. “These girls that have pitched here work hard, they know the program and they know that you don’t have to blow the ball by anyone if you work locations with spin and motion on the ball and mix your speeds. That’s always been the way we do it here, and we have been very fortunate to have great pitchers who work hard.”

Augustine did not allow an extra-base hit against Penn-Trafford, and held Canon-McMillan to three hits.

“Our team includes a very talented group of ladies,” Augustine said. “I’ve been developing as a pitcher since I started when I was 10. I didn’t get much experience last year because of covid but freshman year I learned a lot from Kierra.”

Harvey believes pitching and defense can take the Cougars a long way. Why? Because it has in the past.

“I fully expect Emma to have a great season and if she does,” Harvey said, “we will be in the playoffs looking to add some hardware to the school.”

Through five games, Odelli was leading the team with a .357 average, three home runs and seven RBIs. Augustine (.353) and Pritts (.353) also were hitting above .350. Manns and McGhee also have provided offense, while No. 9 hitter Kaylyn Ritenour has been effective “turning the order over,” Harvey said.

“A lot of our success relates to working together,” Odelli said. “I’m working great with (Augustine), and she’s doing fantastic with hitting her spots and pushing through from start to finish. The defense behind her continues to get stronger the more we work together, too.”

Harvey resigned in June 2019 after six seasons, but his time away was brief. After the situation with his replacement fell through, Harvey came back six months later to steady the program.

Yough won a PIAA title in ‘16.

“I tell every one of our teams that we have built something here and that we should all be proud it — every player that has ever played on Cougar Mountain,” Harvey said. “Since 2015, we have set goals, met goals, exceeded goals in some cases, and this year I fully expect to contend no matter how many freshmen we play. The more we play, the more these ladies adjust to the game and the better they get.”

Yough is scheduled to play 4A No. 1 Mt. Pleasant Thursday, while another clash with Penn-Trafford and games against 3A No 2. Southmoreland and 6A Norwin loom later in the season.

“Our nonconference schedule is better than anyone else’s in 4A and that was designed to get my team ready for the playoffs and build their confidence,” Harvey said. “We have been doing that since 2015 and now plenty of other teams do the same. I just wish that when the seeding is done, the softball committee would place a little more emphasis on that strength of schedule.”

And teams that hit their spots on those schedules.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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