2012 Progressland High School Softball All-Stars announced|
Friday, June 29, 2012
By Jon Christoff Sports Writer
The bar for each softball season has been set remarkably high in Progressland over the past five years.
Since 2007, local teams have made five appearances in the state championship game and have returned three times as the best in their class across the entire Commonwealth.
While the 2012 edition of Progressland softball might not have met the lofty expectations set forth by those teams, it was still a highly successful one in its own right.
Philipsburg-Osceola, winners of two of three state finals appearances, was the only team to advance beyond its first game in the district playoffs, as the Lady Mounties claimed their third straight District 6 Class AA crown.
P-O's bid for a third straight championship game appearance was derailed in the first round of the PIAA tournament in eight innings by eventual state champion Neshannock.
The Lady Mounties should continue their D-6 dominance next season, as eight of their 10 starters return.
While its season came to a close in the District 9 quarterfinals for the third straight season since claiming the second of their state titles in 2009, Curwensville had a record-setting campaign the likes of which have never been seen in Progressland - including the state championship winning squads of yesteryear.
Allen Leigey's 2012 Lady Tide squad set a Progressland record for team batting average, as eight of their nine starters hit .380 or better to set the team mark for batting average at .399.
Moshannon Valley was second in team average nearly 100 points behind at .307.
Clearfield flirted with a .500 record again this season, but the Lady Bisons' defeat in the District 9 Class AAA semifinals to St. Marys gave them their first losing season since 2009.
The Damsels missed out on the playoffs for the second consecutive campaign, but like the Lady Mounties and Lady Tide before them, 2013 promises to be one where Mo Valley gets back on track with a majority of its starters this season being sophomores.
Like the Damsels, West Branch's youthful roster had its share of ups-and-downs in missing the postseason for the first time since 2006. The Lady Warriors should improve next season under head coach Dave Breon, who has a pair of state championships under his belt as well.
Glendale and Purchase Line also had some success this season and have some promising returnees for the 2013 season.
Jim Gonder's Lady Mountie squad struggled in the early season, but once the cohesion was there so, too, were the results. For his effort in guiding his squad back to the PIAA playoffs, Gonder has earned his third straight Coach of the Year honor and his 12th since the all-star team's inception in 1995.
The Lady Mounties' effort was fueled by the effort of 2012 first-teamer Kate Burge, who made a strong case for Player of the Year honors.
Burge, who was the top local pitcher, was the closest to knocking Clearfield's B.J. Bowman off the POY pedestal, but the Lady Bisons' dominance was too much to overlook.
Bowman almost single-handedly willed Clearfield back to the D-9 finals, as arguably the area's only five-tool player in 2012.
Burge joins Bowman on the first team, as does the Lady Bisons' Rachel Hoffman (pitcher), Curwensville's Tiffany Carter (catcher), Molly Demchak (third base), Taylor Goodman (middle infield), Cheyenne Pentz (infield) and Madison Peterman (outfield), Moshannon Valley's Tayia Swoope (designated player), P-O's Kenzie Burge (first base), Carly Gonder (catcher), Aisha Goss (outfield) and Abby Showers (middle infield) and West Branch's Leann Bell (middle infield) and Janene Couteret (outfield).
The team was selected based on observations by the sports department, in addition to various league all-star teams and statistics against quality opponents.
Harmony did not report all of its games, rendering Lady Owl players ineligible for the team.
Without waiting any longer, here is how this year's squad shapes up:
Coach of the Year: Jim Gonder, Philipsburg-Osceola: Over the course of the past decade, a spot in the state championship contest has gone through District 6 Class AA with Gonder's Lady Mounties and Bald Eagle Area, formerly coached by Breon.
This season was no different, as the Lady Mounties' district crown set them up for another run only to lose to the eventual state champs in the first round.
Gonder's squad featured just two starters returning from their positions on last year's state title winning team, but the long-time Lady Mountie coach worked his magic and the results were, once again, undeniable.
P-O's 20 wins ran its streak to nine straight years of recording at least 15 wins.
Gonder, who has been at the helm since 1983, has a career mark of 533-127 for a winning percentage of 80.8.
Player of the Year: B.J. Bowman, Sr., Clearfield: She can hit for average. She can hit for power. She can field. She can throw. She can run.
Bowman has all the tools needed to be successful at any level and, for whatever reason, opposing pitchers opted to throw to her time and time again.
And, time and time again, she made them pay for it.
Despite starting the season out 0-for-her-first-11, Bowman roared back with a vengeance to become the Lady Bisons' first Player of the Year since Lindsey Rowles in 2005. The Clearfield senior finished the year with a .419 average, eight doubles, a triple and a Progressland-best six home runs.
After her slump to begin the season, Bowman ended her senior season 26-for-51 (.510) over the course of the last 16 games. Bowman drove in 21 runs and scored 17 times.
Like her early season woes in the batter's box, Bowman struggled defensively but, like her bat, it came around with a vengeance.
Manning center field, there wasn't a ball she couldn't track down and all four of her errors came in the first six games of the season.
Bowman concluded her career with 18 home runs, which is second on the all-time Progressland list behind West Branch's Sloan Sample (23). Bowman, who missed a majority of her freshman season with an injury, ended her career with a .462 average (84-for-182) with 61 runs, 58 RBIs, 13 doubles and four triples.
Pitcher: Kate Burge, Jr., Philipsburg-Osceola: If The Progress had a Cy Young Award, Burge would have been a unanimous selection.
The junior right-hander carved up the opposition game in and game out in the always competitive Mountain League, as she led the area in all pitching categories.
Burge was one of two pitchers to go over 100 strikeouts for the season. Her 179 K's were 78 more than the nearest hurler, and her seven shutouts accounted for 38.8 percent of the goose eggs tossed by local pitchers this season.
In 153 innings of work, Burge issued just 44 walks and held the opposition to five or fewer hits in 14 of 24 outings.
Burge was just as efficient in the batter's box, where she compiled a .355 average to go along with four doubles, two homers, 23 runs scored and 22 RBIs.
Pitcher: Rachel Hoffman, So., Clearfield: Hoffman made the first team as a freshman with her bat, but this time around it was her arm that proved to be her ticket to a return spot on the team.
After going 6-2 on the mound a year ago, Hoffman again proved that her arsenal is pretty tough to hit when she's on. Hoffman compiled a 7-3 mark with a 1.93 earned run average, which was second only to P-O's Kate Burge, and fanned 88 batters in just 69 innings of work.
Hoffman, who split appearances with teammate Heather Picard, only allowed an unearned run in her final 21 innings this season, which saw her strike out 26 and walk just four.
At the plate, Hoffman complemented B.J. Bowman very well, giving the Lady Bisons the most feared Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the area.
Hoffman, who finished the year at .397 in the box, followed up an 8-home run freshman campaign by smacking two more en route to a 29-hit season. The Clearfield sophomore had eight multi-hit contests, drove in 18 and had eight doubles.
Catcher: Carly Gonder, Jr., Philipsburg-Osceola: One year after calling pitches for a Division I pitcher, Gonder was back at it again in her second full season behind the plate for the Lady Mounties.
Gonder, who was also a first-teamer a year ago, didn't pose the same amount of offense she did as a sophomore, but her work behind the plate was probably more impressive.
The P-O junior has started every game for the Lady Mounties each of the last two years, and this year's effort led to Lady Mountie pitchers fanning 190 hitters in 162 2/3 innings of work to go along with seven shutouts.
Gonder's numbers at the plate weren't anything to sneeze at by any stretch, as she hit .330 for the year with nine doubles - which was second-most in Progressland - a pair of triples, 25 runs scored and 15 RBIs.
Her 29 hits tied her with two other players for the top number in the area this season.
Catcher: Tiffany Carter, Jr., Curwensville: With each passing year, Carter just keeps getting stronger and stronger for head coach Allen Leigey.
After taking some lumps as a freshman, Carter improved dramatically as a sophomore and then just as much in her third year behind the plate.
Carter led a potent Lady Tide offense with 21 RBIs and her 24 runs scored was good enough for second. The Curwensville junior belted a pair of home runs to go along with five doubles and a triple.
Carter's biggest offensive outbursts came against Johnsonburg and Harmony, as she finished the two contests a combined 5-for-5 with 10 RBIs and five runs scored.
Defensively, Carter was a rock for pitcher Tierra Shope and finished the year with just three errors.
First Base: Kenzie Burge, Fr., Philipsburg-Osceola: Despite her youth and inexperience, Burge became one of the Lady Mounties' go-to players from the onset, and her freshman campaign set the stage potentially for a big career.
Slotted in the No. 4 spot in the lineup from Day 1, the sure-handed Burge did her most damage when Jim Gonder moved her up two spots in the lineup for the playoffs.
Burge finished the year with a .400 average and ended her first varsity season with a 12-game hitting streak. Burge was as lethal a hitter as any for P-O in the postseason, where she went 9-for-15 (.600) with eight RBIs, seven runs scored and a pair of doubles.
Defensively, Burge was a rock at first base all season, scooping anything and everything thrown her way. She ended the season without committing an error.
Burge finished the season with 28 hits, 25 runs and 21 RBIs to go along with five doubles, a triple and two home runs.
Middle Infield: Leann Bell, Sr., West Branch: Aside from Bowman, no other hitter was more feared throughout Progressland than Bell, who earned her third first-team selection.
Bell went over the 100-hit mark for her career early in the Lady Warriors' season, and the hits didn't stop coming until her final game against Williamsburg - a 2-for-3 effort with a double and a triple.
Following a standout junior campaign, Bell carried over the momentum and was 4-for-4 in the season opener with a double.
Bell ended the year with seven doubles to her credit, which included four in her first five games of 2012. Bell had 27 hits in 19 games, and had 10 multi-hit games.
Bell finished the season with three homers, which tied for second in the area, 20 runs scored and 18 RBIs.
Middle Infield: Taylor Goodman, Jr., Curwensville: Goodman has been a mainstay atop the Lady Tide's lineup with her ability to get on or hit one out of the park, which made her the most productive leadoff hitter in the area once more.
Making her second trip on the first team, Goodman proved she could hit for power as well as average, as she was one of seven Curwensville hitters to hit .400 or better. Goodman's three homers tied her for second in the area.
Goodman had a season-high four hits in a win over Moshannon Valley, and notched a pair of 3-hit efforts in two other contests.
The Lady Tide second baseman scored a career-high five runs in a victory over Kane, while driving in multiple runs in five contests.
Goodman, who stole eight bases, had 26 runs and 26 hits to accompany 18 RBIs and three triples.
Defensively, Goodman committed three errors this season.
Middle Infield: Abby Showers, Fr., Philipsburg-Osceola: The shortstop position has been a strength of the Lady Mounties defense for their recent success, and Showers showed from early on that will hold true over the course of the next three seasons.
Like classmate Kenzie Burge, Showers put her best foot forward late in the season in the batter's box.
After struggling to a .125 average through her first eight varsity contests, Showers finished the year by hitting safely in 15 of her last 17 games - including a 13-for-25 effort in her final eight games.
Showers ended the year with a .347 average, 24 runs scored, 16 RBIs, five doubles and two triples.
The Lady Mounties shortstop also swiped 10 bases.
Third Base: Molly Demchak, Sr., Curwensville: As one of just two seniors who played for the 2009 state championship team, Demchak's leadership bolstered another youth-filled Lady Tide squad.
Demchak, who was the starting designated player in the '09 championship game, got it done yet again from her No. 4 spot.
The Curwensville third baseman hit .443 for the season, and drove in 17 runs in a seven-game span.
In that time, Demchak went 16-for-23 with eight runs scored. Demchak ended the year with 19 RBIs and 12 runs scored.
Defensively, Demchak was stout at the hot corner, where she had six errors.
Infield: Cheyenne Pentz, Jr., Curwensville: There was nothing flashy about Pentz's game, but her ability to come up with a clutch hit or to make the play on a tough groundball cannot be denied.
Pentz tied for the area lead with 29 hits from her No. 5 spot in the record-breaking Curwensville lineup, which she led with her team-high .453 average.
The Curwensville junior was also tops among local everyday infielders, as she committed an area-low four errors from her position at shortstop.
Pentz had a season-high four hits in a win over Brockway, while adding three in contests against Ridgway and Sheffield.
Outfield: Janene Couteret, Jr., West Branch: When it comes to speed, Couteret has more than her fair share to burn. Whether on the basepaths or tracking down line drives to the gap, the Lady Warrior junior was more than up to the task.
A second-team pick last year, Couteret followed up a solid sophomore campaign after posting a .370 average with 18 runs scored.
Couteret, who swiped 10 bases, was a first-team Inter-County Conference all-star, and her torrid start to the season was a big reason why - she was 15-for-28 (.536) in her first eight games of the season.
Couteret scored four runs against Glendale and added multi-run contests on five other occasions for West Branch, which fell one win shy of qualifying for the postseason according to school rules.
Outfield: Aisha Goss, Jr., Philipsburg-Osceola: It's no coincidence that P-O's strong second half was directly related to Goss, who played the first half of the year as the Lady Mounties' designated player.
Goss moved to left field midway through the second half, and the result was P-O winning 11 of its last 13 contests.
Hitting in the No. 5 spot, Goss connected on a pair of home runs and three doubles en route to hitting .375 for the season.
A threat to hit the ball out of the park each time at the plate, Goss drove in 21 runs and crossed the plate on 17 occasions.
Known more for her bat, Goss committed just a pair of miscues in the field.
Outfield: Madison Peterman, Sr., Curwensville: Whenever head coach Allen Leigey was looking for consistency, he needed to look no further than his No. 2 hitter.
Peterman, a first-teamer in 2011, began the season with a 4-hit, 5-RBI effort in a win over DuBois Central Catholic, and didn't stop hitting until the Lady Tide's season came to a close in a loss at Coudersport.
The Curwensville senior hit safely in 11 straight games to start the year and led the area with five 3-hit-plus performances. Peterman had three hits in three straight contests and added another seven in a three-game stretch later in the season.
Peterman, who hit .429 for the season, scored 23 runs to go along with her 27 hits with five doubles and a triple.
Defensively, Peterman split time between third base and a pair of positions in the outfield. Peterman ended the season with four errors.
Designated Player: Tayia Swoope, Jr., Moshannon Valley: With a lot of fast players in front of her, Swoope gave opposing pitchers an imposing presence in the middle of the Damsels' lineup.
More often than not, Swoope made them pay.
The Mo Valley junior finished the year with the second highest average in Progressland (.460), trailing only West Branch's Leann Bell. Swoope smacked an area-best 10 doubles, including a pair against Juniata Valley and the Lady Warriors.
Swoope had team-highs in hits (23), runs (16) and RBIs (14), and tied for the team lead in triples and home runs.
Defensively, Swoope was also as reliable as they come behind the plate, where she had just four errors this season - two of which came in one game.
Selected to the second team were Curwensville's Megan Barrett (designated player), Abby Johnson (outfield), Tierra Shope (pitcher) and Sarah Wriglesworth (outfield), Mo Valley's Lucy Baker (outfield), Laura Harris (pitcher) and Kelsey Kitko (middle infield), P-O's Haley Frank (third base), Purchase Line's Cassie Brocious (outfield), Amy Elling (designated player) and Karli Rorabaugh (catcher), and West Branch's MeLesha Ahlberg (catcher) and Madison McCracken (middle infield).
Rounding out the team at honorable mention were the Lady Bisons' Andrea Butler (middle infield), Lucy Kovalick (catcher) and Heather Picard (pitcher), Glendale's Katelyn Matthews (middle infield) and Kelli McGarvey (catcher), the Damsels' Kristen Gallagher (middle infield), the Lady Mounties' Katie Carpin (outfield) and Morgan Williamson (designated player), the Lady Dragons' Kira Smith (pitcher), and the Lady Warriors' MeKayla Ahlberg (first base) and Morgan Rackish (pitcher).