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SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Wyoming Valley Conference Littered With Strong Programs

March 23, 2019
SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Wyoming Valley Conference Littered With Strong Programs

One could argue that Wyoming Valley Conference softball is in its best shape ever.

The league is producing college athletes, as well as state championship contenders, on a yearly basis.

The 2019 season will be no different.

Here’s a rundown of what to watch for in the new season.

Tigers’ titles

Tunkhannock enters this season with a pair of titles to defend, in both WVC Division 2 and District 2 Class 4A.

Tunkhannock is more than capable of successfully defending its No. 1 standing, especially since right-handed seniors Hope Jones and Kendra Schultz give the Tigers one of the best pitching tandems in the entire state.

Speaking of the state, a PIAA championship is practically the only thing Tunkhannock hasn’t won in the past few years.

This will be the last go-around for a senior class that has five college commits — Hope and Faith Jones (IUP), Jena Simmons (Misericordia), Erin Dunn (Keystone), Hailey Farr (Lock Haven) — and a Division I-caliber player in Schultz.

It’s reigning

In addition to Tunkhannock, Hazleton Area (WVC Division 1, D2 Class 6A), Holy Redeemer (WVC Division 3, D2 Class 3A) and Pittston Area (D2 Class 5A) are also reigning champions.

Hazleton Area is loaded with many familiar names, including Tiana Treon (.600 batting average, 34 RBIs in 2018) and Marissa Trivelpiece (.448, nine home runs). The Cougars have a new head coach, Bob Bertoni, who formerly coached at Crestwood.

Meanwhile, Redeemer will likely take a step back — it’s just a matter of how far back that step will be.

Ace Morgan Bienkowski is away at NCAA DI Binghamton and slugger Tiana Wren has transferred to rival Wyoming Seminary, leaving Redeemer more vulnerable than it had been in recent years.

Hanover Area, Lake-Lehman, Sem and Northwest were all better than .500 last season and will pose a threat to Redeemer’s WVC Division 3 title defense.

Pittston Area has a solid core in place, led by seniors Alexa McHugh and Lexi Felinski, who have helped Pittston Area produce some of its greatest teams in program history.

Keep the streak

This could be the fifth year in a row that the WVC has a softball team playing for a state championship.

In 2015 and ’16, Holy Redeemer won back-to-back titles.

The WVC is 0-3 since, with Hazleton Area and Tunkhannock losing in 2017, and Redeemer losing in the state final last season.

Power ratings for all

From Class 6A down to single-A, every team in District 2 will be seeded in the playoffs by a power rating.

The power rating comes from a formula that takes into account winning percentage, as well as opponent’s winning percentage. In other words, wins against good teams count more than wins against subpar teams.

Previously, Class 5A used power ratings, but only because it was in a subregional tournament with District 4. Now, the power ratings are universal.

Also, District 2 previously seeded teams based only on their record in league play. Now, league and non-league games count toward a power rating, so every game matters.

Division 1

Coughlin

Coach: Kaiden Hayward

2018 results: 1-13, lost to No. 6 Berwick, 13-0, in the D2 Class 4A first round.

Players to watch: Seniors — Ashley Tomeo, SS; Alexa Berecin, 1b; Stacy Balent, 3b. Juniors — Jordan Pugh, P; Morgan Gayton, C.

Coach’s outlook: “With the loss of key production from last year’s graduating class, the Crusaders are hopeful that the underclassmen will rise to the challenge to fill the holes left in the lineup. The Crusaders hope to heavily compete in the division this year. As the final season of Crusader softball approaches, the ladies are determined to make it a memorable one by building off the successes from last season.”

Crestwood

Coach: David Koptcho

2018 results: 4-10, lost to No. 8 Honesdale, 10-0, in the D2 Class 4A first round.

Players to watch: Seniors — Haley Naperkowski, SS; Cameron O’Neill, C.

Coach’s outlook: “The girls have worked very hard in the last couple weeks for the upcoming season. Our goal is to compete and stay confident throughout the season.”

Hazleton Area

Coach: Bob Bertoni

2018 results: 15-2, beat No. 2 Williamsport, 10-6, for the D2/4 Class 6A championship; lost to Neshaminy, 15-4, in PIAA quarterfinals.

Players to watch: Juniors — Marissa Trivelpiece, SS/P; Tiana Treon, 3b/P; Aleah Kost, P/OF; Kyra Antolick, OF. Sophomores — Julia Mrochko, 2b/OF; Julia Mooney, C/1b; Olivia Wolk, C/OF; Caitlyn Katchur, P/IF.

Coach’s outlook: “Pitching staff has been working really hard over the winter and I expect that to pay off. Our defense and offense should remain as one of the best in the valley and if pitching does what I think it will, we can have a successful year. This is an outstanding group of players — maybe the best I’ve ever had to work with.”

Pittston Area

Coach: Vito Quaglia

2018 results: 11-6, beat No. 1 Abington Heights, 13-2, for D2 Class 5A championship; lost to Solanco, 1-0, in PIAA quarterfinals.

Players to watch: Seniors — Alexa McHugh, P/IF; Lexi Felinski, IF. Juniors — Gabby Para, OF; Madisyn Antal, IF.

Coach’s outlook: “Seniors Felinski, (Bailey) Loyack and McHugh have started since freshman year. We have some talented athletes in our softball program, for sure. We need to compete daily, in games and at practice, to ensure that we are constantly pushing ourselves to improve. Remember, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Valley West

Coach: Jessica Ras

2018 results: 2-11, missed playoffs.

Players to watch: Senior — Andi Blaski, OF. Junior — Julia Franks, 2b. Sophomore — Sara Hoskins, SS/P.

Coach’s outlook: “This year, we have a determined and hard-working group of players. Along with key seniors, we have a strong sophomore and junior class. All have been working hard in the offseason in hopes of having a championship year.”

Division 2

Berwick

Coach: Emily Johnson

2018 results: 8-7, lost to No. 3 Nanticoke Area, 11-6, in D2 Class 4A quarterfinals.

Players to watch: Senior — Emma Stoker, P/IF. Juniors — Sarah Dent, IF/C; Kelsey Caladie, IF. Sophomores — Emily Novicki, P/IF; Katie Starr, OF.

Coach’s outlook: “I am confident in the attitude and work ethic this team has shown so far. We should have a solid, competitive team this season.”

Dallas

Coach: Joyce Tinner

2018 results: 7-8, lost to No. 2 Valley View, 6-1, in D2 Class 4A quarterfinals.

Players to watch: Seniors — Samantha Kern, OF; Mia Dixon, OF; Christina Schappert, 3b; Gianna Spaciano, 2b. Juniors — Sydney Hornlein, P/IF; Lyndsey Hornlein, 1b; Madison Porasky, IF.

Coach’s outlook: “We are a young, experienced team. We were in every game last year. Just need to find a way to win the close ones. We have two pitchers and both received a lot of experience last year. Sydney was our anchor. Abby Jayne gave us quality innings as a freshman. Our four returning starters — seniors Sammy, Gianna, Christina and Mia — will be our leaders on the field. We have depth at many key positions, which will help us push one another for playing time. We have some very talented freshmen that are working hard for playing time. The sooner we can get them contributing, the better we will be. We have high expectations for this group. We believe in one another and that will be the difference.”

Nanticoke Area

Coach: Leanne Harvey

2018 results: 12-7, lost to No. 1 Tunkhannock, 2-1, in D2 Class 4A championship; lost to Bethlehem Catholic, 11-0, in PIAA semifinals.

Players to watch: Seniors — Brinley Sobeck, P/2b; Katie King, C; Liz Redenski, OF; Jilann Baron, 1b. Juniors — Jennifer Kurkowski, OF; Gabby Rakowski, SS. Sophomore — Olivia Nice, OF.

Coach’s outlook: “We are focusing on fundamentals and having fun.”

Tunkhannock

Coach: Bob Hegedty

2018 results: 14-4, beat No. 3 Nanticoke Area, 2-1, for D2 Class 4A championship; lost to Bethlehem Catholic, 4-1, in PIAA quarterfinals.

Players to watch: Seniors — Hope Jones, P/IF/OF; Faith Jones, SS; Kendra Schultz, P/OF; Hailey Farr, C/OF; Jena Simmons, 3b; Erin Dunn, OF. Sophomore — Nicole Howell, OF. Freshman — Emily Schultz, P/2b.

Coach’s outlook: “Looking to make a deep postseason run behind our two all-state pitchers, strong defense, and timely hitting.”

Wyoming Area

Coach: John McNeil

2018 results: 8-7, lost to No. 1 Tunkhannock, 1-0, in D2 Class 4A semifinals.

Players to watch: Senior — Kayla Taddei, RF. Juniors — Kari Melberger, LF/3b; Nicole Silinskie, 2b/OF/C; Tinsley Sarnak, 1b/3b/P; Evan Freeman, 1b/OF; Bri Pizzano, SS/2b; Jess Skladzien, IF/OF/P.

Coach’s outlook: “We have a good nucleus returning, but losing six seniors is the task at hand. My hope is that we mature early, and battle in each game.”

Division 3

GAR

Coach: Wally Peck

2018 results: 1-14, lost to No. 7 Dunmore, 11-0, in D2 Class 3A first round.

Players to watch: Olivia Prato, SS; Chloe Sromovski, P; Skylar Elmy, CF; Sarah Youkoski, 1b; Sabrina Nunez, 3b; Mikayla Andrzejewski, RF; Erin Leonard, C.

Coach’s outlook: “We are very optimistic about our upcoming season. We have every one of our starters returning from last season and their skill levels have all greatly increased. I think we will surprise quite a few teams this final year of GAR softball.”

Hanover Area

Coach: Kathy Healey

2018 results: 9-6, lost to No. 3 Mid Valley, 1-0, in D2 Class 3A quarterfinals.

Players to watch: Seniors — Sara Whitesell, OF; Emilee Bobos, 3b. Juniors — Sarah Tuzinski, P/SS; Alessia Mangan, OF; Lindsey Mendygral, 1b. Sophomores — Kasidy Slusser, P/SS; Mollie Corbett, 2b/C.

Coach’s outlook: “We have everyone returning from last year’s team. We are looking forward to a great year.”

Holy Redeemer

Coach: Jerry Paulukonis

2018 results: 20-1, beat No. 1 Montrose, 8-0, for D2 Class 3A championship; lost to Philipsburg-Osceola, 8-3, in PIAA championship.

Players to watch: Seniors — Taylor Josefowicz, 1b; Allyson Laiuvara, OF; McKenna Dolan, 2b/SS. Sophomores — Lynzie Skoronski, C/3b; Olivia Murray, OF.

Coach’s outlook: “Young but determined team. They know the program and they expect the success to continue. The underclassmen will look to the seniors for their leadership.”

Lake-Lehman

Coach: Nicole Chipego

2018 results: 11-4, lost to No. 5 Lakeland, 5-4, in D2 Class 3A quarterfinals.

Players to watch: Seniors — Corinna Scoblick; Hunter Kline; Savannah Purdy; Jacey Kleintob. Juniors — Emily Smith; Hayley Evans.

Coach’s outlook: “Our Lady Knights have great team chemistry this season, bringing depth and versatility to our defense along with power and speed on offense. We are looking forward to a successful season.”

Meyers

Coach: Nicole Hoskins

2018 results: 4-11, lost to No. 9 Carbondale Area, 11-7, in D2 Class 3A first round.

Players to watch: Seniors — Ashley Bruno; Dakota Zyskowski.

Coach’s outlook: “The Lady Mohawks are in a great position to win a lot of games this year. Returning seniors Ashley Bruno and Dakota Zyskowski will lead the Meyers program to its final softball games in school history. We have some new players added to our roster who can contribute at the plate and play defense. The Lady Mohawks will work hard and take each opponent one game at a time. The key to this season is being able to outscore our opponents and play solid defense.”

MMI Prep

Coach: Michael Witner

2018 results: 1-13, missed playoffs.

Players to watch: Sophomores — Irene Altmiller, C; Alexis Dalesandro, 1b. Freshmen — Grace Warner, SS; Kaylee Witner, P.

Coach’s outlook: “We will be starting five sophomores and four freshman players, but some of these girls have travel ball experience. Even with such a young team, I am sure we will surprise some teams this year.”

Northwest

Coach: Kevin Harvey

2018 results: 9-7, lost to No. 1 Holy Cross, 7-3, in D2 Class 2A semifinals.

Players to watch: Seniors — Nicole Cragle, P/1b; Courtney Cragle, C/1b; Trista Babcock, SS/P; Brenna Babcock, OF/SS; Emily Culver, OF.

Coach’s outlook: “With five returning seniors and a good group of younger players, we should be able to compete for conference and district championships. As always, the conference has many talented teams, so we should have tough games throughout the season, which should prepare us for district playoffs.”

Wyoming Seminary

Coach: Steve Mytych

2018 results: 8-7, lost to No. 4 Northwest, 6-5, in D2 Class 2A quarterfinals.

Players to watch: Seniors — Tiana Wren, CF/SS; Aubrey Mytych, C/CF; Lauren Fletcher, OF; Halle Kehl, 1b; Alexus Dunn, 3b. Juniors — Delaney Romanchick, P/3b; Emma Bean, OF; Kylee Kolbicka, OF. Sophomore — Campbell Kelly, IF/C. Freshman — Akira Kopec, 2b/SS.

Coach’s outlook: “The softball program is up and running. We will be very competitive, competing for a district title and state playoff run.”

Contact the writer: mbufano@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2060; @CVBufano on Twitter