WVC Softball: Teams Look To Continue Success On State Level
Over the last three seasons, four softball teams from the Wyoming Valley Conference have played for state championships.
Holy Redeemer ended the 2015 and 2016 seasons on a high note with back-to-back titles, while Hazleton Area and Tunkhannock settled for silver medals a year ago.
Now, compare that with the prior three-year cycle from 2012 to 2014 when the WVC was shut out of the state championships.
The three years before that weren’t much better, with only one state finalist, the 2010 Class 2A champions of Nanticoke Area.
Will the WVC’s hot streak continue into 2018? Below is a breakdown of the what to watch in each division.
Favorite: Hazleton Area. The Class 6A Cougars always play at a high level in league play and districts. Last year, they even made a great run in states. It’ll be tough to repeat all that, though, without a few players who have graduated.
Dark horse: Pittston Area. Anchored by senior Nina Cencetti, the Patriots have three reliable pitchers, as well as a veteran lineup. The Class 5A Patriots are 5-2 with two district silver medals in the last two postseasons.
Notable: Valley West was division runner-up last year to Hazleton Area. ... Like Valley West, Crestwood has a strong group of returning starters. ... Kaiden Hayward is taking over as the first-year head coach at Coughlin.
Favorite: Tunkhannock. The Class 4A Tigers hit their stride at the end of last season. Junior right-handers Hope Jones and Kendra Schultz form a lethal one-two punch, while the Tigers have a good offense to back them up, too.
Dark horse: Wyoming Area. The Warriors may have been a year ahead of schedule in 2017, when they made the Class 4A state tournament but lost in the first round. With everyone back from last year, though, WA is ready for prime time.
Notable: Nanticoke Area may have been the WVC’s best team a year ago, but a heartbreaking loss to Wyoming Area denied the Trojanettes a spot in the Class 4A state tournament. Will senior Miranda Bohn & Co. be driven by that bitter end? ... Next to WA and Lake-Lehman, Dallas had the WVC’s youngest lineup a year ago. That’ll bode well this season. ... Berwick is back with a nice roster. The Bulldogs suffered some tough losses last year and were better than their record.
Favorite: Holy Redeemer. The Royals haven’t lost a regular season WVC game since 2012. Morgan Bienkowski and Tiana Wren are two of the best players in the state. Biggest obstacle may be making it out of a loaded District 2 playoff field in Class 3A.
Dark horse: Lake-Lehman. The Black Knights have every starter back from last year, when they beat each team in this division except for Redeemer.
Notable: Northwest was on the up and up last season, but ended 2017 with a frustrating 10-run loss in the playoffs against Wyoming Seminary. ... From 2-11 to 7-6 to 9-7, Sem has improved its record each of the past three years. ... Coming off yet another winning season, Hanover Area is one of the WVC’s youngest teams. ... Meyers took a step in the right direction last year, improving from 4-9 to 7-9. ... MMI’s only wins last year were against GAR. ... GAR is headed by a new coach, Wally Peck.
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Coach: Kaiden Hayward
2017 results: 0-14. Lost to No. 6 Scranton Prep, 3-0, in the first round of the District 2 Class 4A playoffs.
Players to watch: Seniors — Taylor Pawlush, IF; Molly Poray, OF; Montana Raggi, P/3b. Juniors — Ashley Tomeo, SS; Alexa Berecin, C.
Coach’s outlook: “This year, the Crusaders have a new coaching staff with high expectations. The team is young, but the talent is not lacking. With our seniors leading the charge, we believe that this season can be a great stepping stone for what is to come for Coughlin softball.”
Coach: Adrienne Bannon
2017 results: 4-10. Lost to No. 9 Berwick, 7-5, in the first round of the District 2 Class 4A playoffs.
Players to watch: Seniors — Sarah Macko, SS; Sydney Sobolewski, C; Kayla Kulp, CF; Morghan Murphy, 3b. Juniors — Haley Naperkowski, 2b; Katie Thomas, P/OF. Sophomore — Abby Waite, P.
Coach’s outlook: “With most players returning from last season, we have a very enthusiastic, determined team that is improving each day while having fun. In moving forward with the Crestwood Comet softball program, we look to progress in all aspects of the game to develop into a well-rounded team with solid pitching, timely hitting, and an errorless defense. With four returning senior starters, we will look to our skilled underclassmen to add experience in the lineup and fervent freshmen to improve upon last year’s performance and be a competitive team in the WVC and District 2.”
Coach: Heather Natt
2017 results: 17-2. Beat No. 3 Williamsport, 6-2, for the District 2/4 Class 6A subregional championship. Lost to Hempfield, 5-3, in the state title game.
Players to watch: Seniors — Taylor Kaschak, 2b; Rebecca Rossi, CF; Erika Book, P. Sophomores — Kyra Antolick, LF; Marissa Trivelpiece, SS; Tiana Treon, 3b.
Coach’s outlook: “With six returning starters, we are eager to begin the season. We have three crucial spots to fill from last season. The new, young talent is working hard to step in and be a part of our lineup. Our team goal is to clinch the WVC and district title. We also plan to make some noise in this year’s 6A state tournament.”
Coach: Vito Quaglia
2017 results: 8-8. Lost to No. 1 Abington Heights, 2-1, in the District 2/11 Class 5A subregional final.
Players to watch: Senior — Nina Cencetti, P/IF. Juniors — Lexi Felinski, IF; Bailey Loyack, C; Alexa McHugh, P/IF; Shayla Williams, OF. Sophomores — Madisyn Antal, IF; Kaehler Kivler, OF; Gabby Para, OF.
Coach’s outlook: “Nina Cencetti will be playing at the University of the Sciences next year, so she looks to have a successful senior year. Juniors Felinski, 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.”
Coach: Jessica Ras
2017 results: 8-7. Lost to No. 7 Pittston Area, 6-4, in the District 2/11 Class 5A subregional semifinals.
Players to watch: Seniors — Jaden Belles, SS; Morgan Klosko, 3b; Katlyn Rincavage, RF; Mandi Zawadzki, 1b.
Coach’s outlook: “This year we have an experienced senior class who make up a key part of our lineup, as well as a strong freshman class. We also have some sophomores who will step up into leadership roles. The team has been working hard in the offseason in hopes of a title. I am confident in the team’s ability and I am looking forward to a winning season.”
Coach: Emily Johnson
2017 results: 3-12. Lost to No. 1 Nanticoke Area, 7-2, in the District 2 Class 4A quarterfinals.
Players to watch: Seniors — Kylie Levan, P/IF; Brooke Stout, C; Sammi Starr, SS. Junior — Emma Stoker, P/IF. Sophomore — Sarah Dent, IF/C.
Coach’s outlook: “Our team has a core group of seniors with a lot of varsity experience. Our strengths will come from that game experience. However, as a team, we need to improve upon our hitting and overall run production from last season. We are excited to see how some of the underclassmen can fill these roles and are looking forward to competing in each and every game this season.”
Coach: Joyce Tinner
2017 results: 7-9. Lost to No. 3 Tunkhannock, 3-0, in the District 2 Class 4A semifinals.
Players to watch: Seniors — Kendra Saba, SS; Olivia Johnson, 1b; Peyton Ross, C. Juniors — Samantha Kern, OF; Mia Dixon, OF; Christina Schappert, 3b; Gianna Spaciano, 2b; Hailey Chamberlin, OF.
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 the luxury of having three pitchers. Our three seniors — Kendra, Peyton and Olivia — will be our leaders. We have depth where we didn’t last year. We have some very talented sophomores and 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.”
Coach: Ryan Stetz
2017 results: 14-1. Lost to No. 4 Wyoming Area, 6-5 in 10 innings, in the District 2 Class 4A semifinals.
Players to watch: Seniors — Miranda Bohn, P; Megan Murphy, OF. Junior - Brinley Sobeck, 2b. Sophomores — Gabby Rakowski, SS; Jessica Skladzien, 3b. Freshmen — Olivia Nice, OF.
Coach’s outlook: “The 2018 Nanticoke softball team will be an exciting team with great pitching, steady defense, and an aggressive, fast-paced offense. The team is motivated to prove itself as a legitimate championship contender and looks forward to continuing the proud softball tradition in Nanticoke. They also excel in the classroom and value representing their school and community.”
Coach: Bob Hegedty
2017 results: 15-5. Beat No. 4 Wyoming Area, 3-0, for the District 2 Class 4A championship. Lost the state championship game, 5-3, against Mount Pleasant.
Players to watch: Juniors — Hope Jones, P/2b; Faith Jones, SS; Kendra Schultz, P/2b; Jena Simmons, 1b; Hailey Farr, CF.
Coach’s outlook: “We expect to stay competitive with strong pitching and hitting, and to keep working hard on our defense. We look forward to the great competition in WVC and the challenges to try and get back to the state tournament.”
Coach: John McNeil
2017 results: 9-8. Lost to No. 3 Tunkhannock, 3-0, in the District 2 Class 4A championship. Eliminated by Bangor, 9-4, in the first round of the state tournament.
Players to watch: All players are returning, including college-bound seniors Gwen Glatz (Swathmore), Kristi Skok and Jess Parente (King’s) and Cassidy Graham (TBA).
Coach’s outlook: “Our lineup has four-year starters, three-year starters and returning starters. With this combination, we look to be in every game. Our goal is to become better as each game is played, and to peak at the end of the season.”
Coach: Wally Peck
2017 results: 0-15. Lost to No. 7 Meyers, 16-6, in the first round of the District 2 Class 3A playoffs.
Players to watch: Juniors — Olivia Prato, SS; Sarah Youkoski, 1b; Sabrina Nunez, 3b. Sophomore — Chloe Sromovski, P. Freshman - Erin Leonard, C.
Coach’s outlook: “As new to the program, I have been given the opportunity to change the perception of our program. We have taken great strides in instilling discipline and accountability in our athletes. The girls have worked very hard and are committed to the game. We have some outstanding athletes in the our program and I am looking forward to making GAR a contender in 2018.”
Coach: Kathy Healey
2017 results: 8-7. Lost to No. 4 Lake-Lehman, 8-1, in the District 2 Class 3A quarterfinals.
Players to watch: Juniors — Emilee Bobos, IF; Sara Whitesell, OF. Sophomores — Sarah Tuzinski, P/IF; Alessia Mangan, OF/C; Lindsey Mendygral, IF. Freshmen — Mollie Corbett, IF; Kasidy Slusser, P.
Coach’s outlook: “We are young with two really good pitchers. We have been inside a lot, so our defense has to prove themselves. Emilee and Sara have taken on the responsibility of making sure everyone is focused and game ready.”
Coach: Jerry Paulukonis
2017 results: 16-1. Lost to No. 2 Mid Valley, 6-4 in eight innings, in the District 2 Class 3A championship.
Players to watch: Seniors — Morgan Bienkowski, P/Util., Sam Rajza, SS/OF. Juniors — Tiana Wren, C/OF; Taylor Josefowicz, 1b; Allyson Laiuvara, OF.
Coach’s outlook: “We’re younger, that’s for sure. It’s going to be determined by how well our younger players step up and fill in their roles that were lost from last year.”
Coach: Nicole Chipego
2017 results: 10-6. Lost to No. 1 Holy Redeemer, 2-0, in the District 2 Class 3A semifinals.
Players to watch: Seniors — Abbey Hogan, P; Kelsey Butco, Util.; Cassie Konopki, SS; Chloe VanGorder, C. Juniors — Corinna Scoblick, OF; Savannah Purdy, P/2b.
Coach’s outlook: “We return all starters from last season along with a group of talented underclassmen. With that being said, it’s a new year and we need to go into each game with full intensity focusing on one game at a time.”
Coach: Nicole Hoskins
2017 results: 7-9. Lost to No. 2 Mid Valley, 8-1, in the District 2 Class 3A quarterfinals.
Players to watch: Seniors — Erin Morris, SS; Alexis Bruno, P/IF. Juniors — Ashley Bruno, OF; Sara Morris, OF; Dakota Zyskowski, IF; Jenay Zelinka, IF/OF.
Coach’s outlook: “We have great potential moving forward with eight returning players, each bringing a variety of assets that will contribute to our daily success. The team will rely on those returners, all of which have starting experience and versatility to cover more than one spot on the field. The team will rely heavily on senior Alexis Bruno, who will bear the bulk of the pitching duties, and Erin Morris, who will lead the team on offense and defense. Junior Ashley Bruno will return with her speed in the outfield, along with Jenay Zelinka returning from an ACL injury last season. A pair of sophomores gained experience as starters in their rookie seasons. Abbi Sattof started at shortstop last year, providing a strong glove and consistent bat. Sara Morris returns to the outfield, where she displayed leadership and athleticism.”
Coach: Dave Marchetti
2017 results: 2-12. Did not qualify for District 2-11 Class A subregional tournament.
Players to watch: Seniors — Abby Paul, C/1b; Caelyn McGran, C/3b; Gabby Kupsho, P/C/2b; Julia Snyder, P/OF. Sophomore — Katharine Pinto, OF. Freshman — Alexis Dalesandro, P/OF.
Coach’s outlook: “We lost a few starters from last year and need to have some freshmen step up. Finding the right chemistry will be key. Depth will be an issue. The team is working hard to improve on last year.”
Coach: Kevin Harvey
2017 results: 9-6. Lost to No. 5 Wyoming Seminary, 11-1, in the District 2 Class 2A quarterfinals.
Players to watch: Seniors — Brooke Harvey, OF/P; Payge Wufsus, OF. Juniors — Nicole Cragle, P/1b; Courtney Cragle, C; Brenna Babcock, 3b/C; Trista Babcock, SS.
Coach’s outlook: “We only graduated one starter from last year’s team, therefore, we expect to be in the running for a conference championship in an incredibly difficult WVC Division 3. Hopefully our difficult conference schedule will prepare us for a deep run in the postseason.”
Coach: Steve Mytych
2017 results: 9-7. Lost to No. 1 Holy Cross, 5-3, in the District 2 Class 2A semifinals.
Players to watch: Senior — Alicia Carr, 2b/C. Juniors — Halle Kehl, 1b; Aubrey Mytych, C/CF; Lauren Fletcher, OF. Sophomores — Delaney Romanchik, P/3b; Alexus Dunn, 3b; Emma Bean, OF; Julia Iskra, Util. Freshman — Sommer Zier-Norris, SS.
Coach’s outlook: “We will continue to build the softball program, as we have only lost a key senior, Melinda Holena, from a year ago. We are young and talented. We will be a very scrappy team and will continue to be based on hustle and effort as our team traits.”