PAHS 2009 softball preview

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
April 9, 2009

As the 2009 high school softball season begins, fifth-year Port Allegany head coach Dave Roae hopes to improve on last year’s 5-14 record, but he expects some growing pains along the way.

“We need to replace five starters from last year’s team. We lost our pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, and left fielder. We had quite a few seniors last year, and we lost quite a bit of talent. So it’s a young team, but I think we can play and I think we can win,” he said.

Finding a good pitcher is at the top of Roae’s list, because the position is critically important in fast-pitch softball.

“Pitching is key. It’s the main focus of the game,” he said. “We have a young pitcher this year, Sara Brodhun. She’s a tenth-grader, and she throws the ball hard. Now we’re working with her to get some other pitches – you can throw the ball a hundred miles an hour, but if you don’t have a changeup, don’t have some other off-speed stuff, eventually they’ll catch up with you.”

Roae also lauded Brodhun’s play in the field, saying, “I’ve never had a pitcher get off the mound the way she does to cover bunts and play defense.”

The team may be young, but the Gators do return five players with some starting experience.

“We have a young core group of very athletic girls,” Roae said. “We’ve got a group of four juniors and three sophomores who are going to play together all this year and all next year. It’s nice that this group is going to play together for several years here. The four juniors – shortstop Shanel Halle, center fielder Kaitlyn Kio, third baseman Amarae Reinard, and catcher Brittany Drabert – all play the same sports. You see them all over the place, and they play together very well, and I’m glad I have them … the sky’s the limit for them.”

Those four, plus sophomores Kyley Mickle (second base) and Cora Bova (outfield), will be key contributors for a team Roae and assistant coach Dave Morey hope can contend for a playoff berth.

“Our record last year wasn’t representative of our talent,” Roae said. “We threw a couple of games away that we should have won, and a couple of things happened here and there … We should have been a better team last year.”

He continued, “I think realistically, if we play at our potential, we can be a .500 team, and that’s what we need to go to the playoffs. I think if we beat the teams we’re supposed to beat, and play a little bit better, that’s a realistic goal.”

However, that playoff push got off to a bumpy start last week with losses against two of the better teams in the newly-formed North Tier Division.

Otto-Eldred pitcher Taylor Thomas quieted the Gator bats in the season opener last Tuesday afternoon, a 12-0 Terrors victory at the Port High field on Edison Bates Drive. The junior righthander carried a perfect game into the bottom of the fifth inning before allowing a two-out walk to Kaitlyn Kio, then notched her ninth strikeout to complete the no-hitter.

“She pitched a really nice game,” Roae said, “and we didn’t hit to our potential. Not much else to say about that, except that they played a great game.”

O-E catcher Jordan Beckwith provided all the offense the Terrors would need in the top of the first inning, crushing a two-run homer to right-center; the junior slugger would finish the game 3-for-3 with 5 RBI. Up 3-0 after three innings, the visitors pushed across nine runs in the next two frames to invoke the 10-run rule.

“We definitely had some first-game jitters there, and seven errors don’t help,” Roae said.

The story was much the same in Ulysses on Thursday, with Kristin Potter’s first-inning home run and more Port fielding errors staking Northern Potter to an 11-3 win. The Gators dropped to 0-2 on the season despite managing 12 hits, including a double by Bova and a 3-for-4 performance by Shelby Gleason, against Panthers pitching.

Depending on the weather, Port has three chances to get on the winning track this week, with games scheduled at Austin (Monday), Cameron County (Wednesday), and Bradford (Thursday). Their next home game is slated for Apr. 14 against Oswayo Valley.