Softball Players Learn Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Softball Action

The Foxes softball team had quite a journey getting to the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs this season. It was a bumpy road at times and didn’t come easy. That’s when coach Chris Olbrich started stressing the point that only a shift toward more teamwork could help them achieve their dreams, especially for a squad that skews a lot younger than most. Slowly, he began to see change.

Junior catcher Ava Walmsley says, “This season, I learned that it is important to work as a team because, to be honest, we started off very shaky. We definitely started off as a team that was wanting to play for only individual status. But then, as the season progressed and section games were being played, we realized that if we all want it bad enough, we have to come together and put the individual status behind us. As we all realized we needed each other, we put our differences aside and got ourselves to the playoffs.”

Putting together a consistent and talented starting lineup that worked well together took some time. Coach Olbrich and his staff settled on a starting lineup that includes seniors Mia Dunleavy (third base) and Caitlin Troutman (second base), whose complementary leadership styles provide balance. Junior Brianna Hnatow holds down left field and junior Adina Rosen plays center field. Sophomores Summer Burkhart and Ava are positioned in right field and behind the plate, respectively. Three freshmen also earned starting roles. Taylor Stocker plays first base, and Ella Eisner is the shortstop. Coach Olbrich says when the time comes, athletic freshman starting pitcher Jillian Haigh has the potential to play at the NCAA Division I level.

“It’s a growing year with a young team and they are on the way up,” says coach Olbrich. “They are rising and forming a confident mentality, and they are growing as athletes and teammates. Things are really coming together now, and they are improving at the right time of the season.”

The coach believes their best game this season was versus Mars, but once again, they had to claw their way to an eventual win, 4-2.

Coach Olbrich explains, “That was a really good game. We were down 2-1 going into the seventh inning, but we played well in the field and there were no errors. When the opportunity came, we jumped on it. The ladies executed well and did what they needed to do to get the job done.”

Two-year starter Summer has observed a lot of progress since the beginning of the season.

“I’ve noticed growth with our relationships with each other,” Summer says. “I believe we’ve improved a lot on smarter base running and having more positive energy. It’s interesting to see myself and others grow, and the team overcome its flaws. I’ve learned that the starting lineup is a list of those who work the hardest and those who want to be there. I want to keep getting better to maintain that position.”

Another important step to the playoffs was the integration of ideas from a Positive Alliance Leadership Council conference that supported positivity within the team, camaraderie, and making the controllable aspects of the game as cornerstones for success.

Coach Olbrich praises junior outfielder Melisa Pietz for setting an example of hard work while always wearing a smile. Melisa says she sees a big difference this year as compared to last season.

Skill wise, Melisa she says she’s noticed the younger players have adjusted to the speed of the game and, overall, they are doing better after they’ve circled around to play teams for a second time. But the biggest thing, she says, is “We’ve come together as a team, and we work together. We focus on doing our roles, and we have each other’s backs, no matter if you’re on the field or not.”

Season Highlights

Among the season’s highlights was a game that pitted the Foxes against Shaler, last year’s section champions and state runner-up. Shaler gave up its first run of the season to the Foxes. While the Foxes did not win the game, it was a confidence-booster.

“What they learned from that game set the tone to take care of business,” coach Olbrich says. “They didn’t hang their heads; instead, they realized they are good enough to compete against top teams if they don’t give up.”

The final push that got them a slot in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs came with a pivotal win over Oakland Catholic, 20-5.

Coach Olbrich remarks, “I think right now they are playing to their potential. As they face challenges in the playoffs, it means working harder, practicing harder, and supporting their teammates. They will be playing under pressure, and I hope they continue to work hard and keep up the good communication and trust they’ve built. If they figure out what they can do better, whether it’s in softball or life, they will succeed.”