New Castle News


July 1, 2013

Girls Softball All-Stars: Furst, Shaffer named co-MVPs

NEW CASTLE — Being the best of the best is easier said than done.

It requires the combination of the right attitude, talent, drive and a little bit of luck along the way.

When it comes to all those criteria, Rayanna Furst and Madison Shaffer have all of their bases covered.

There wasn’t a more dominant duo in high school softball this spring. Whether it was Furst’s hitting or Shaffer’s pitching, the Neshannock High pair deserved that distinguished label— the best of the best.

The Lady Lancers, last year’s PIAA Class AA champions, needed every bit of what Furst and Shaffer had to offer in order to make it back to the state title game at Penn State University — and the two delivered.

Although the team fell short of a second consecutive state crown, this time in a 13-0 defeat to Williams Valley, Furst and Shaffer answered the call and delivered for their squad all season long.

For that reason, the two have earned Lawrence County’s softball co-MVP honors, as voted on by the New Castle News sports department.


Furst had no troubles getting to first this season, owning the best softball batting average in the county (.568), which included 39 trips to the base on singles. Neshannock’s leadoff hitter, she also scored a county-best 40 runs, feeding her teammates run-scoring opportunities with frequent appearances on base.

The senior used her combination of speed and bunting ability to get most of those hits. Despite the opposition knowing what was coming, they still couldn’t beat her to the base.

“She’s naturally one of our faster players here,” Lady Lancers coach Tracy Kimmel said. “She doesn’t look like she’s running that fast at times, but she’s getting around the bases.”

Furst further developed her speed this past offseason with a combination of workouts and jump stretches to build up her leg strength. However, her origins as a speedster began at an earlier age — with a classic game of cat and mouse.

 “I know in the backyard playing with my dad and stuff, he used to always chase me around my house,” Furst said. “There’s a circle around my house. Inside there is one wall, then a circle,” Furst laughed. “He said I used to run a complete circle, like the bases almost is what he called it, and he chased after me  when I was little. He probably helped me with my speed around my house.”

While her bunting and slap-hitting style were always above average, Furst also displayed unrealized power when she was asked to swing away. She even managed to hit her first home run over the fence in the WPIAL Class A semifinals against Frazier, a 9-1 victory.

Neshannock advanced to win the WPIAL title after that game, a 10-4 decision over Carmichaels. The district crown was a first in program history.  

“In the offseason, I had to improve more on my swing instead of my bunt and slap,” Furst said. “My bunt-slapping started when I was really young, like sixth grade, so I was more comfortable with that instead of swinging away. In the cages during the winter, I just focused more on swinging away left-handed and improved that.”

Acknowledging her greatest improvement this season was swinging the bat, she added, “It was not a shock to me, but it was so new to me the last couple of years. Especially that one home run, I didn’t think about ever hitting one during the season; I didn’t get my hopes up. Then I did that, and I was like, all right, maybe coach Kimmel was right. I should have a little more confidence in my swing.”

Furst’s development at the plate jumped her .485 average last year nearly .100 points this past season. She collected 13 additional hits, leading the county with 46, and finished with a team-high two home runs, one of which was inside the park. Furst also tied for fifth in the county with 24 RBIs.

Though she may have developed a more dangerous repertoire with added power potential, Furst still was best suited as a prototypical leadoff hitter for Kimmel’s Lady Lancers.

“Last year, I tried to make a number three hitter out of her, but I found out in time that wasn’t Ray,” he said. “She’s geared to more getting on base rather than a run producer. She can do a lot of things with the bat and the good speed. She’s really the ideal leadoff hitter. She can hitter for power, too. When she wants to, she can ride the ball.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Author.tiff Arthur the author: Children’s writer/illustrator visits Neshannock Elementary

    A story about a grandmother and her granddaughter flying over a city grew from the vivid imagination of children’s author Arthur Dorros. “Abuela” also spurred the creativity of students at Neshannock Memorial Elementary School who had eagerly awaited a visit from Dorros yesterday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • school.jpg Neshannock approves resignation, agreement, related legal fees

    The Neshannock school board accepted the resignation of business manager and board secretary Melissa Morosky Thursday. Morosky’s resignation is effective Wednesday.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Serg.tiff Athlete of the Week: Meet Neshannock’s Rich Serignese

    Rich Serignese is no stranger to pressure on the baseball field. The Neshannock High sophomore twice defeated WPIAL Class AA champion and PIAA runner-up Beaver a year ago, so facing a team that put up eye-popping numbers the night before was a piece of cake.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Intermediate unit hosting 5-K in Neshannock

    The Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV is hosting the second annual Let Me Win 5-K Run/Walk. Runners and walkers of all ages may participate in the April 26 event at Neshannock High School’s John Thompson Memorial Trail, 3834 Mitchell Road.

    April 2, 2014

  • Neshannock kindergarten make-up day scheduled

    Neshannock elementary has set a make-up day for kindergarten registration.

    March 27, 2014

  • neshplay01.jpg Photos, Preview, Cast List: ‘Pajama Game’ returns to Neshannock

    At Neshannock High School, drama is serious business. The spring musical is one of THE events of the year at Neshannock, and this weekend’s production of “The Pajama Game” will be no exception.

    March 27, 2014 11 Photos

  • school.jpg Neshannock superintendent gets more responsibilities

    With less than three months remaining before her retirement, Neshannock’s superintendent of schools is filling two job vacancies. The board this week appointed Dr. Mary Todora as acting business manager and school treasurer.

    March 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • emma.tiff Happy homecoming: Septic shock left Neshannock girl in a battle for her life

    Emma Hanaway turned 10 last week. It was a birthday that almost didn’t happen.  A month ago, health professionals couldn’t assure Michael and Cheryl Hanaway that their only child would make it.

    March 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg Neshannock sets tax hike limit

    The Neshannock school board does not expect to raise taxes this year. But members are prepared if the need arises. The board adopted a resolution setting a limit for any property tax increase it could impose for next year.

    February 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSCF5964.JPG Fund set up for victims of fire

    A bank account has been established to help the Neshannock Township family whose house burned Wednesday morning. Donations may be made at ESB Bank to help the family of Jennifer Bees and her children, James Cross, 16, Jessica McAllister, 11, and Jolene Bees, 6, of 1245 Kings Chapel Road.

    February 14, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

House Ads

Beginning tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL playoffs. So, who ya got? And in how many games?

Penguins, in five games or fewer. Too much firepower for the Blue Jackets, especially if Evgeni Malkin is ready to go.
Penguins, in six or seven games. It’s a pretty even matchup on defense, but Pittsburgh will grind it out.
Blue Jackets, in five games or fewer. Sergei Bobrovsky in goal for the Blue Jackets spells trouble for the Pens.
Blue Jackets, in six or seven games. Bobrovsky gives Columbus the edge, but it won’t be easy.
     View Results