New Castle News

Sports

June 4, 2014

Athletes of the Week: Wilmington girls softball team

NEW CASTLE — The Wilmington High softball team has stared adversity right in the face four times this postseason.

The Lady Greyhounds have trailed in three of those games and were tied twice in the fourth game during their run to the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.

Each time, Wilmington has battled through each obstacle placed in its path and emerged victorious.

“These girls never quit,” Lady Greyhounds coach Tom Reed said. “It’s just experience. I have eight seniors. (Alexis) Donati is a junior, but she’s been starting since she was a freshman, so they all have the experience. Once it happens once, they start to expect to come back every time we’re down. With that mindset, we’re in every game.”

Wilmington battled back from an early 3-0 deficit to bounce Cambridge Springs from the District 10 playoffs with a 13-7 win in the quarterfinals at Allegheny College’s Robertson Athletic Complex.

Two days later back at Allegheny College, the Lady Greyhounds were tied twice with Titusville and had to withstand a furious Lady Rockets rally in the seventh inning to post a 6-4 victory in the D-10 semifinals.

In the district championship game on Memorial Day at Penn State Behrend, Wilmington again found itself staring at a 3-0 deficit in the third inning and retaliated by batting around and plating five runs before emerging with an 8-3 win and the District 10 crown.

By earning their first District 10 softball championship since 2010, the Lady Greyhounds (17-3) earned Lawrence County Co-Athletes of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.

“It’s nice when all the hard work pays off,” Reed said. “These kids put in the hard work. It’s very satisfying.

“I think it was a total team effort. Everybody played a part in it. We all hit well (in the District 10 championship) game — one through nine.”

Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Northwestern in the opening round of the 2013 playoffs, Reed knew he had a solid squad returning with seven three-year starters in his lineup.

He just wasn’t sure if senior Kayleigh Shenker was up to the task of replacing graduated pitcher Abby Sotter in the circle.

“After the early exit last year and having so many girls back, winning the district championship was definitely our goal,” Reed said. “Coming into the year, our only question mark was if Kayleigh would hold up on the mound. She’s been our rock all year. She never gets excited. She just goes about her business.”

Reed admitted Shenker has been a calming influence to her teammates on the field.

“With the way she goes about her business on mound, it helps the other girls,” he said. “I’ve seen other teams where the pitcher gets erratic and it trickles down to the other girls. She stays solid.”

It also helps to have six seniors — Shenker, Courtney Cohen, Ashley Houk, Chelsea Rogel, Alanna Elliott and Cassidy Marett — in the starting line-up and two other 12th-graders on the squad.

“They’re focused,” Reed said. “They want to keep this thing going. For the eight seniors, they know this will be their last time playing together as a group.”

The Lady ’Hounds have benefited from a solid offense — from top to bottom — that has picked each other up.

“The top of the order has struggled at various times and the bottom of the order stepped up,” Reed said. “We have power. These last few games, we’ve just been hitting singles. Everybody has stepped up offensively at some point for us.”

Wilmington will face District 6 champion Bald Eagle Area in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Slippery Rock University.

The winner will advance to the Western Regional finals and face either WPIAL champion Beaver or District 6 runner-up Phillipsburg-Osceola on Monday at a time and site to be determined.

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