Young Jeannette softball team ready to turn the corner
By: Shawn Annarelli
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | 7:56 PM
Jeannette softball won’t field a senior this season, but coach Zac Karas said the team has plenty of leaders.
Several juniors will be three-year starters.
“I’m not worried about our leadership,” Karas said. “I’ve talked to some of our players individually about having the unique opportunity to be leaders as juniors. They’re all receptive to that, and I believe they’re up for it.”
The team’s juniors have endured two losing seasons to start their high school careers. This spring could be a turning point for a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2014.
“We have a good opportunity to make a playoff push,” Karas said. “We had our ups and downs last year, but I come into the season fully expecting to make the playoffs with good pitching and fielding, especially up the middle. We should get enough wins to get into the playoffs.”
The key player to Jeannette’s fortunes will be Faith Johnston, the team’s ace. She pitched every inning for the Jayhawks last season, struck out 84 batters and walked 12.
The team is more confident going into this season than it ever has been, according to Johnston.
“I’m so excited to play, and all of my friends are excited, too,” Johnston said. “We feel like this is our year to make the playoffs. We feel really prepared for this season.”
Johnston is a power pitcher who leans on her fastball to go after batters.
“I have focused a lot on my consistency,” Johnston said. “At times, I know I was a little wild last year. I know I can hit my spots more. I’ll work on always getting on top of the count, so the batters don’t have better opportunities to get hits and to keep the score low.”
Fielding was Jeannette’s glaring weakness in 2018. The Jayhawks allowed 93 runs, but only 34 were earned runs.
“Faith pitched well in almost every game last year and usually had strikeouts in the double digits,” Karas said. “We also have to play better defense around her. We can’t let one error turn into a lot of errors in one or two innings.”
Johnston was one of Jeannette’s hottest batters last season and was second on the team in hits (11) and RBIs (13).
Sophomore Taylor-Lynn Finken led the team with 14 hits and 14 RBIs.
Karas expects juniors Abby Mortimore, Haley Kulha and Grace Johnston to have breakout years. The team also has added several new players who have performed well in practice.
“I feel we all have a good relationship,” Faith Johnston said. “We can all bring each other up. If anyone makes a mistake, I don’t think we’ll dwell on it this season. Whether you’ve been on the team or you’re new, I think we’ll keep improving.”
The team could have its first scrimmage Thursday if the field is playable.
“You never know how good you are until you play an opponent,” Karas said. “I just want them to stick to the motto of getting better at something every day whether you’ve been here three years or you’re new to the team. If we can do that, we can have a good season.”