NEW CASTLE —
Softball has always been a pitcher’s game.
And, Neshannock High’s Madison Shaffer has shown over the past two seasons that she’s one of the best hurlers around.
“She’s a great pitcher — one of the better ones in western Pennsylvania if not the state,” Neshannock coach Tracy Kimmel said. “She keeps us in games and that’s all you can ask out of her. As far as pitching goes, I thought she was just as good this year as she was last year.
“She deserves all the accolades she gets. She’s a hard worker. She works hard at pitching and at hitting. She puts a lot of time into this. There’s no one in the area that compares to her. She can do a lot with the bat. She’s one of the ones you want up there when you want to start something — or finish something.”
Shaffer was dominant in the circle in 2014, leading the county in strikeouts (105) and ERA (1.35) in the regular season, while finishing second with a 15-2 record. The Lady Lancers ace pitched just 80 innings on the season.
She posted a .333 batting average (15 for 45) with 14 RBIs and 18 runs scored at the plate, while legging out a triple and belting grand slam to break a scoreless battle in the first Burgettstown playoff game.
“I worked a lot on my changeup and curveball throughout the winter,” Shaffer said. “I really didn’t have that effective of a changeup until this winter when I worked with my pitching coach and a lot on my own. I wanted to make sure that I could throw it at any moment that I needed to.
“I really focused on hitting this year. We needed to be a good-hitting team this year. We worked a lot on batting and on hitting location pitches — driving inside pitches to the right side of the field or hitting outside pitches to the left side of the field. We were making sure we made contact.”
For her efforts, Shaffer was named Lawrence County’s softball MVP as voted on by the New Castle News sports staff.
“It’s a great honor,” she said. “I thought I did well. A lot of that is reflected back on my teammates, because they make me look good. My catcher (Marissa Kirkwood) makes me look good. She calls the pitches and I just throw. My teammates get outs and make it look easy out there.
“Overall as a team, I thought we had a great year. We won our section. We won the WPIAL title and we advanced far enough in the state playoffs that we should be proud of the season we had together.”
The Neshannock junior shared the award last year with then-teammate Rayanna Furst.
“She’s been a good player for us,” Kimmel said of his star pitcher. “She does everything she needs to do to be successful. She’s doing something every day geared towards pitching. I’m sure she’s not pitching every day, but I’m sure she’s doing something to get better. She’s in the weight room lifting and working on her legs to get them stronger.”