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Bombers, Tigers look to build on playoff success

Palmerton returns a wealth of talent from a team that won a Colonial League title last season and will be looking for more this spring. Northwestern, which qualified for states as a district runner-up a year ago and advanced to the semifinals, returns a number of key contributors from a squad that was also a league runner-up and features a new coach in Kate Farber, who comes over from Northern Lehigh.



… New coach Kathy Levins is looking to guide the Olympians to improve upon a two-win season from a year ago. She believes that a combination of experience, athleticism, and versatility will result in better success for a program that has struggled in recent years.


… Thorpe will feature three starters who will be counted on heavily to lead the team to good fortune. Senior and Susquehanna commit Melina Schwartz returns to lead the charge from multiple positions. Her speed at the plate and in center field, her range at shortstop, and her strong arm in the circle give Levins options for both offensive and defensive strategies with the abilities that Schwartz possesses. Senior Olexsa McAndrew will play second or first base. “Lexie brings experience and a calming lead-by-example to our team,” said Levins. “She will contribute in the infield and with a strong bat at the plate.” The third senior is Megan Rohrman, who also can play multiple positions. She finished the second half of last season with improved hitting, and will be counted on to help the Olympians score more runs.


… Experience and speed in the outfield should help the Olympians keep the opposition from having big innings. Sophomore Hannah Zacharias can play the outfield, where her quickness will help track balls hit into the gaps. She’s also expected to be a force at the plate. Junior Isabella Lloyd will man one of the corner outfield spots, and Madison Lordi, a contact hitter, “tracks the ball well,” from the other corner, said Levins.


… JT’s lineup will feature a few big bangers. Junior outfielder Kaylyn Costello is expected to add some pop, as will junior Mara Levins. “Mara will be a big part of our pitching staff and bring power to the plate,” Levins said.


… Levins has put forth a plan to have the Olympians be more competitive this season. “Our biggest strengths is the camaraderie this group of players has and they are extremely hard working,” she said. “We’re looking to improve with bigger bats, stronger pitching, and more consistent fielding.”



… With a roster of 21, first-year coach Tara Cashney will rely on their experience and athleticism to point her team toward a playoff run this season.


… The Tribe will feature a lineup laden with seniors. Team captain Madyson Bergdahl heads the list at the catching position. “She’s really good at communication with our defense,” said Cashney. “She’ll bat cleanup with some pop in her bat.” Maggie Pagotto, a four-year starter, will play shortstop and handle the leadoff spot with speed and knowledge. The outfield will be patrolled by Makayla Gaston in center, Isabel Warner in left, and Mallory Valentine in right. All three can cover ground and track balls in the gaps.

TALENT SHOW… The lineup is stacked with power hitters, according to Cashney. Sophomore second baseman Morgan Myers will hit in the two-hole and can swing to the gaps. Junior Eryn Mertz plays third or catches. “She can really play anywhere,” said Cashney, “and will be our No. 3 hitter.” Freshman designated player Ava Trach bats fifth behind Bergdahl. Freshman Bryn Mrics will be in the outfield platoon. Junior Makenna Snyder can save bad throws with her prowess at first base.


… The Tribe will have junior Aliyah Nothstein as their number one pitcher. “She has really good drop curve and moves the ball nicely around the plate,” said Cashney.


… Cashney and her staff are focused on the individual talents of each player to improve on last season’s record. “We can identify strengths offensively and defensively for each member of our team. We think now that are strength is in our power hitting and in our infield defense,” she said. “Our outfield is getting better, but still a work in progress. We’re not stressing our record. Play one game at a time and get better. Then we can talk about the playoffs once we get there.”



... Marian has a stable of veterans back after a solid run in 2023. There are nine positions on the field, and the Fillies return eight starters from a team that carved out a 16-7 overall record, and Schuylkill League Division III championship going 9-4.


... Like all sports on the diamond, pitching is the dominating theme. Pitching with an ace means a good bet to win most of the time. All-state returnee Morgan Kelly is right in that mold. Kelly is now a senior who racked up impressive numbers last spring; 15-6 overall, with a scintillating 1.50 ERA.


... Marian can swing the bats and throw leather at you in the field. Kelly is not just a pitcher, but a kid that can swing the bat, with her glowing .557 average and also a long-ball threat with four homers a spring ago. There’s superb battery mate Anna Grabosky behind the plate with her solid .316 average and 15 RBIs. A trio of veterans return to roam the outfield in Gracie Gallagher (Sr.), Zoe Katona (Jr.) and Katie Barron (Jr.). Slick sophomore shortstop Malina Letcher brings with her a hefty batting average of .349, with two home runs and 24 RBIs. Junior first baseman Danica Karlick returns, as well, while sophomore Maggie Turrano adds depth.


... The names may be familiar with two players coming over from the hardwood, including fiery freshman DeAnna Pugh, who may nail down the middle infield spot at second, and at the hot corner finds junior Carly Hasara. Don’t overlook three potential players who give coach Joe DeAngelo some cannon fodder. They’re all rookies; center-field candidate Emily Upanavage, outfielder Gracie Sandatch and utility Kayla Birrer.


... Manager DeAngelo has deep roots in the program. He’s now a dozen seasons into coaching and has guided the Fillies to success year-in-and-year-out. The skipper brings with him a record of 146-88, and a season ago his teams ran up against eventual state champions Blue Mountain in the league Schuylkill League playoffs, and to eventual District 11 champion Tri-Valley in the finals of the Class A tournament.


... DeAngelo is a positive thinker and emits that to his squad. He has eight letter-winners in the fold and is excited to watch the season unfold. “With a nice combination of experience, including second team All-State pitcher Morgan Kelly and her four-year battery mate Anna Grabosky, as well as other significant contributors who competed against the state’s best in the postseason, along with some promising newcomers, we are extremely excited to begin the season and look forward to seeing where it leads (us).”



… Daniel Caruso takes over as head coach of the Lady Bulldogs. Caruso has hopes of improving on last season’s 15-win team with a solid group of returning players on his 17-name roster that includes five starting seniors.


… The Dawgs have plenty to bark about, beginning with senior Arabella Heintzelman at the shortstop position. “She’s committed to play next year at DeSales. She has great defensive range, and will be a solid bat in the top half of our lineup,” said Caruso. Senior Haylie Fenstermaker, another college commit, “catches everything” in centerfield, is very fast and slaps the ball in every direction when at the plate. A third commit to play at the next level is catcher Kaitlyn Stock. “She has great power, and will bat cleanup. Behind the plate, she is excellent at blocking balls in the dirt, and has a very strong arm.”


… Three year pitcher Emma Smith, who just registered her 100th-career strikeout, will toe the rubber. Lilly Watt, a “strike thrower”, will relieve when needed.


… The lineup features a bevy of good contact hitters with big bangers in between. Junior Grace Bauer plays a “fearless third base” and will be a tough out at the plate. Second baseman Marissa Maehrer is a good bunter and will factor into the Bulldog small ball game. Junior Skyelar Horack plays the bag at first and is expected to bring gap power to the middle of the lineup. Sophomore Caralena Lewis will play left in the third hole, and Caruso believes she can attain superstar status with more training and experience. Sophomore Kylee Snyder will see time in the outfield and be utilized as a designated player.


… Caruso believes the talent and experience around the diamond will result in some postseason achievements. “We also have depth at each position. We are setting goals to win our league and win the districts after that.”



... Kate Farber spent several years developing the softball program at Northern Lehigh, her alma mater. It’s unusual to see a coach leave a position like that but when the job at Northwestern Lehigh opened, she was ready to make the move. So, why would Farber leave what some may consider a dream position to come to Northwestern? The answer comes down to family. Farber lives in Germansville, and has active kids who play sports in the Northwestern Lehigh youth program. Coaching at Northwestern Lehigh will make family life easier, plus, it’s a good program that she can take over and add her touch to. Of course, she is on the other side of the Tigers and Bulldogs rivalry.

“There’s a healthy rivalry there, and it makes for some good sports moments,” she said. “I’m sure the girls over there will be just fine, and it sounds like the program is in good hands.”


… Northwestern graduated four seniors, including Marissa Christman, Quinn Conrey, Jocelynn Wambold, and Josie Wehr. Farber has most of the holes filled, but is keeping an open mind at a couple of key spots. “The biggest challenge right now is going to be figuring out a third base, left field combination. We don’t have that ironed out yet, but I’m not worried about that because we’re solid defensively no matter what combination we come up with,” she said. “We’re solid in the circle, so there are no concerns there. To be honest, our biggest concern is going to be generating some runs offensively, and we have to be more aggressive at the plate.” Sage Toman started the first couple games at third and Emily Diehl was in left. For Toman, her softball career has seen her play catcher, outfield, and third base.


… Emily Diehl is getting her chance to play in the outfield, and Lizzy Diehl, a sophomore, is playing second base. Through the first two games, Lizzy Diehl is hitting .500 (3-for-6) with three RBIs, while her sister Emily was 2-for-4 (.500) with two RBIs and three runs scored. “We have some talented freshmen that I believe will be able to contribute in one way or another,” predicted Farber. “We have a new outfielder, Ella Bressi, who didn’t play last year, and I think she is going to contribute to our team this year. We also have Lizzy Diehl, who was on the team last year, but I think she is going to have more of an opportunity this year, so I expect some great things from her as well. The fans are going to see some familiar names, but they are also going to see some new ones.” Bressi was batting .600 (3-for-5) through the first two games.


… Farber and her players faced down her old team this week on a brutally cold day. The first game in the Northwestern and Northern rivalry went decisively to the Tigers, 17-2. The game was heavily affected by the wind, rain, and cold weather. The teams will match up again April 26 at Northern Lehigh, hopefully under more suitable weather conditions.



… The Lady Bombers will carry just 13 players this season, but 11-year veteran coach Robert Hock’s team is high on talent that looks to produce another league title and a possible deep run through the playoffs.


… Four-year starter and last season’s Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Softball Player of the Year, senior pitcher Carly Gaffney, takes the ball and loves to put the game in her hands. “Carly is very competitive. She hates to lose,” said Hock. “She works hard at fine-tuning her pitches. She’ll bat cleanup for us with gap-to-gap power. Last year, she was an RBI leader and batted over .450.”


… Behind Gaffney, the Bombers will run out five experienced seniors. Shortstop/centerfielder Sydney Frantz possesses good range between the bases and can out run fly balls into the outfield gaps. While batting from the leadoff spot, she hit over .400 a year ago. Megan Matsko plays the hot corner and makes all the plays. “Last year, Megan caught a fly ball bunt. She anticipates where the ball is going.” At the plate, she can put the barrel to the ball. First baseman Cadee Munjone has a “great eye” at the plate, evidenced by a high on-base percentage from last year. Versatile Emily Christopher has good speed on the bases, and a good glove from the infield and outfield positions she plays. Madison Green rounds out the strong senior forces. “Madison plays a solid second base,” said Hock. “She knows the game very well, and she’s our only lefty hitter and can take the ball the opposite way.”


… The talent for this year’s Blue and White is at every position. Junior Mikayla Pengelly is one of the best centerfielders around, according to Hock. Junior catcher Hailey Delgado is strong behind the plate with the pitchers, and adds to the hit parade in the lineup. Sophomore Hailey Barry can play short or pitch. Hock said that she has knowledge and knows the game, and added 38 hits for his offense last season.


… The Bombers are primed for another great season with aspirations to go beyond last year’s accomplishments. “We feel we can compete to win the league title again, and this time make a longer district playoff run,” said Hock. “Our veteran players are used to performing in pressure situations. If all the pieces of the puzzle come together, we certainly can accomplish those goals.”



… Coach Tara Yurichek starts her third year with a lot of excitement about her Panthers. With all starters returning from an eight-win season in 2023, she believes this group has a good chance to be a very special team heading into the spring.


… PV will feature a lineup loaded with power and base hitters. First team All State catcher Mikayla Yurichek carries over a .672 BA with 21 extra base hits and 36 RBIs from her junior year. “She’s looking to play at the next level, but has not yet committed,” said Tara Yuricheck, Mikayla’s coach and proud mom. Senior Lucy Greco plays a strong first base and hit .429 for the Panthers last season. Newcomer to the team, Maddison Maynard, comes off the hardwood to help with extra offense and outfield defense. Junior Morgan O’Brien takes her .489 batting average, with a bat that barrels up to the plate. Sophomore Morgan Orsulak will lead off after hitting .438 a year ago and play shortstop. Another sophomore, Caroline Breslin, will hit ninth. “She’s like another leadoff hitter. I like to call her my little surprise,” said Yurichek.


… The Panthers will have defensive specialists with senior Kandace Krapf, who is the “anchor” in centerfield. Brenna McAndrew will flash the leather at second base. Pitching for PV will be sophomore Ava Alabovitz, who begins her second year in the circle. “She’s got great control, and lets her defense make plays,” said the coach.


… Yurichek believes three freshmen can push to play at the varsity level. Brooklyn Mika can play anywhere in the infield, while possessing a great arm and attitude. Janessa Prudente is a pitching option, and can provide defensive help in multiple spots. Megan O’Brien is a good outfielder, and has shown signs of being a productive hitter.


… Yurichek says this year’s team has depth and versatility that has been lacking in the past. “Our freshmen give us lots of options like using a flex player, something we’ve not done in the last two years,” she said. “I think we are going to surprise a few teams this year, and finishing above .500 and doing well in Districts are certainly achievable goals.”



… Coach Steve Caffrey begins his 31st season at the helm of the Lady Bears softball program with every player returning from last year’s 10-win team roster.


… Four-year starter and team captain Danica Getz carries her .345 batting average and long-ball potential with every swing she takes when she steps into the batter’s box. She’ll catch or play infield. Inside the circle will be her sister and three-year starter, Kailyn Getz, who brings savvy and experience each time she winds up.


… The Bears will feature a potent lineup with several .300 hitters from last season. Junior Jovie Valenzuela plays middle infield and can bang the ball at the plate. Senior Holly Krock, a four-year starter, can play multiple positions and will lead off for the Bears. Junior Brianica Pridham hit .355 and is expected to improve her power. Junior Samantha Ratti brings her four years behind the plate and can also play powerball. Senior Esmeralda Telles will add extra punch at the plate.


… To complement the Getz girls, junior sisters Allison and Lydia Borger will man the outfield with reliable gloves and strong throwing arms.


… The Bears play in the very competitive Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Caffrey will rely heavily on his team’s overall experience. “With everyone back from last year, we have to make the commitment to get better every day and have the mindset to make adjustments where needed.”



... Tony Zancofsky enters his second season at the helm for the Blue Raiders. This program has always found a way to be in contention in the tough Schuylkill League and District 11.


... Zancofsky is hoping to turn the corner in 2024 after a down season, going 7-13. The second-year skipper says his team is young, with only one senior returning in outfielder Emma Koch. Five juniors make up the heart of the team, sprinkled with two sophomores and two incoming freshmen.


... Koch, at the head of the class as a senior, will be surrounded by five junior veterans. Shortstop Leah Crawly returns, and can also move to the outfield. Addison Krall is another experienced player at third and can catch. Veronica Soctt is capable of playing in the field as well as catcher, while Megan Linkhorst is a returning pitcher and utility player. Middle infielder Kolbe Robb is back for a third spring. Sophomores Paige Bumbolski (P/OF) and Ceanna Gormley (P/1B) could also make an impact. There are two freshmen the Raiders can call on in Maddison Shock (SS/3B) and Sophia Sitting (OF) vying for playing time. Zancofsky is also impressed with sophomore outfielder Abby Whitehead, freshmen Mia Bamford (2B) and Molly Evans (utility).


... “We’re looking to improve on last year’s record and make playoffs,” said the manager. “Were still a fairly young team, with only one returning senior. We will be asking younger players to step up as needed.”



... Will Bartel has been in charge of this program for four seasons, and each and every time out, the Wreckers have found fundamentals to be a staple of the program – a direct reflection back to the skipper.


... The Wreckers will compete, but they must figure a way to solve Schuylkill League Division III champions Marian. Keep in mind, Weatherly does know how to win, and is no pushover, having claimed a crown in 2021.


... One does not just roll out the softballs and play; particularly when you lost your big gun and superb pitcher Madisyn VonFrisch, who was a strikeout artist in three seasons and is in the collegiate ranks whipping up strikeouts.


... Weatherly will rely on the manager’s daughter, Juliette Bartel, to take the reins and lead the way, as she returns for her fourth and final go-round. Juliette is the foundation at shortstop, a defensive wizard for sure who produces at the plate. This edition will roll out four other potential standouts. There’s senior Anna Bloom, who can play several positions and hit for average. Rachel Rosenlund, a junior, will give the Wreckers pop at the plate as she can drive the ball with power, the Weatherly manager observed. Also, sophomore third baseman Abby Weston returns to man the hot corner and is experienced.


... The Wreckers are hoping to get production from newcomers Abby Binder and Karen Strohl. Skipper Bartel will call on both to go into the circle and toss the throws. They will be learning under fire, being rookies at the job.


... Manager Bartel calls it a “learning experience,” as the 2024 season moves forward. “We’re going to have growing pains (for sure) and we only have four returning starters, from our district (11, 1A) qualifying team,” he said. “We will continue to coach them up as they all grow up on the job as they say.”

Capsules by Rich Strack, Sam Matta and Chuck Hixson

Palmerton's Carly Gaffney returns after a stellar season that included Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Softball Player of the Year honors. The Bombers captured a Colonial League title last season and will be looking to repeat that success this spring. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO