After losing the 2020 season due to the pandemic, many of Progressland’s seven softball teams had dramatically different rosters from the last time they took the varsity field in 2019.
But that didn’t stop many of them from having successful seasons.
Clearfield, Curwensville, Glendale and Philipsburg-Osceola all qualified for the postseason with the Lady Bison and Lady Vikings both earning district titles and berths in the PIAA playoffs.
The Lady Bison had the best record at 15-6, followed by Glendale, which finished 15-8 after a run to the state quarterfinals.
Curwensville (12-9), P-O (9-8) and West Branch (8-7) also ended the season with winning records.
Harmony and Moshannon Valley had tough years. The Lady Owls only managed to get in seven games as COVID wreaked havoc on their schedule, while the Damsels were just 3-13, but ended the season winning three of their last seven games to set up some optimism for 2022.
The Player of the Year race came down to Curwensville’s Abby Pentz, who had an incredible offensive campaign, and Clearfield ace Emma Hipps, who led the Lady Bison from the circle and in the batter’s box.
But Hipps, who tossed a perfect game against the Lady Tide and a no-hitter in the District 5-8-9 Subregional against Somerset, was simply on another level at times and was named the Player of the Year.
The Coach of the Year goes to Glendale’s Beth Campbell, who guided the Lady Vikings to a District 6 title and to the second round of the PIAA Tournament.
There are just four girls on the first team this year that were also on the 2019 first team.
Player of the Year: Emma Hipps, Clearfield — From the first pitch of the 2021 season, Hipps was on her game in the circle. She fired a 1-hit shutout against Philipsburg-Osceola, while striking out 13 in that game, signaling what was to come for most of her opponents. Hipps fanned at least 10 in 15 of the 19 games she pitched with a season-high of 19 against Tyrone.
Hipps led Progressland in ERA (1.90), strikeouts (232), complete games (19) and shutouts (6). She fired a perfect game against Curwensville, a no-httter versus Somerset and a trio of one-hitters. In a four-game span (which included the District 9 Championship win over St. Marys) late in the season, she gave up just four hits in 26 innings, while striking out 50.
Also a big threat with the bat, Hipps led the area in home runs with 10. She hit .375 with 32 runs scored and 22 RBIs. Her 32 runs were second only to Pentz. Hipps was also named to the Mountain League first team. This is her second Progressland first team selection.
Coach of the Year: Beth Campbell, Glendale — After beginning the season with a 1-3 record as a young Lady Viking squad with just four returning starters from 2019 worked to find its footing under Campbell, Glendale won 10 of its next 14 to finish the regular season with an 11-7 record and earn the No. 4 seed in the District 6 class A playoffs.
The Lady Vikings went 3-0 in the D-6 tournament, upending top-seeded Conemaugh Valley 5-1 in the semis before taking down No. 2 seed Williamsburg 5-2 in the title tilt, avenging two regular-season losses to the Lady Pirates.
Glendale began the PIAA tournament with an opening-round victory over Union before having its season come to end in the quarterfinals to perennial power DuBois Central Catholic. It was the Lady Vikings sixth appearance in the PIAA playoffs in program history. The others being 1990-92 and 2017 and 2019. The Lady Vikings also won the Moshannon Valley League title — the sixth in program history.
Pitcher: Kyla Campbell, Glendale — After sharing time in the circle with teammates Riley Best and Hanna Noel throughout much of the regular season, Campbell took on the role of workhorse over the final three games of the schedule and the entirety of the Lady Viking playoff run, pitching six complete games and doing her best work when it mattered most.
Campbell tossed a 3-hit shutout against Bellwood and a 2-hitter versus Curwensville before nearly leading the Lady Vikings over District 6 class 3A champ Cambria Heights in the regular-season finale. Campbell allowed just two runs on one hit over 6 2/3 innings, but the Lady Highlanders won in extras.
The Lady Viking junior was 10-3 with a 2.15 ERA, both second to only Hipps in Progressland. She struck out 80 in 91 innings, fanning a season-high 10 in Glendale’s D-6 quarterfinal win over Conemaugh Valley.
Also dangerous with her bat, Campbell hit .379 with four doubles and a home run. She had 12 RBIs and stole eight bases.
Catcher: Olivia Bender, Clearfield — While one could argue her most important job — and one she did quite well — was being the receiver in the dynamic battery with Hipps, Bender was also quite adept with the bat.
Also a Mountain League first-teamer, Bender was on fire to start the season, going 6-for-7 with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs against the likes of P-O, Bald Eagle and Central. She hit safely in 14 of Clearfield’s 21 games, recording multiple hits six times. Bender hit .318 for the season with 11 of her 21 hits going for extra bases. She clubbed five doubles and belted six home runs, which was third most in Progressland. Her 21 RBIs was eighth in the area.
First Base: Lauren Ressler, Clearfield — After going hitless in the season opener against Philipsburg-Osceola, Ressler caught fire, hitting safely in 17 straight games. Ressler was 5-for-5 in a win over Central, the first of eight multi-hit games on the season.
Also a Mountain League first teamer, Ressler racked up 33 hits, including a Progressland-high 15 doubles. She batted .471 and recorded 23 RBIs, both fifth-best in the area. Ressler’s 33 hits led the Lady Bison and was the fourth-highest total in Progressland.
Second Base: Logan Sheeder, Curwensville — The Lady Tide senior came out of the gate hot, going 13-for-18 in her first five games, belting four doubles and knocking in 12. While unable to keep up the torrid pace, she was still able to hit safely in 15 of the Lady Tide’s 21 games.
Her 28 hits (tied for sixth), 27 runs (tied for fourth) and 26 RBIs (fourth) were all among the Top 10 best in Progressland. Sheeder also smacked seven doubles and stole eight bases, while finishing with a .400 batting average. She had eight multi-hit games, including three against PIAA semifinalist DCC on April 27.
Shortstop: Jordan McDonald, Philipsburg-Osceola — The spark plug for the Philipsburg-Osceola offense, Lady Mountie leadoff hitter McDonald recorded eight multi-hit games, including a 4-hit performance against Chestnut Ridge and 3-hit outings against Tyrone, BEA and two against Central.
McDonald hit .426, going 26-for-61 with five doubles, three home runs and 20 runs scored. Her batting average (eighth), hits (tenth) and homers (tied for seventh) were all in the Top 10 in Progressland. McDonald was also a Mountain League all-star.
Middle Infield: London Cutler, Philipsburg-Osceola — The second part of the Lady Mountie’s 1-2 punch in the middle infield, Cutler got hot during the second part of the season, hitting safely in eight of her last nine games and finishing the year with a .379 average. That included a 3-hit, 3-RBI performance against BEA
Also a Mountain League all-star, Cutler had 22 hits and 18 RBIs to go with three doubles and three home runs.
Third Base: MacKenzie Wall, Curwensville — The Lady Tide junior had a breakout season in 2021, announcing her presence in the first game of the season when she clubbed a double and two home runs against Johnsonburg in an 8-1 victory. Wall, who played shortstop much of the year before returning to the hot corner where she played as a freshman, hit safely in the Lady Tide’s first 14 games and only went hitless three times on the season.
Also a Northern Allegheny all-star, Wall’s .538 batting average was second only to teammate Pentz for tops in Progressland. And her 35 hits (third), 27 runs (tied for fourth), 27 RBIs (third) eight doubles (tied for fourth) and five home runs (fifth) were all in the Top 5.
Corner Infield: Chloe McElheny, Glendale — One of just two seniors on the District 6 class A champion Lady Vikings, McElheny provided her team with a big bat in the middle of the lineup. She batted .389 with 28 hits, 12 of them going for extra bases. She was tied for sixth in Progressland in hits and was 10th in average, while her seven doubles (tied for sixth), two triples (tied for fourth) and three home runs (tied for seventh) also put her among the leaders.
Also an ICC first-team all-star, the Lady Viking senior scored 21 runs and collected 15 RBIs. She was 6-for-10 with six RBIs in the three D-6 playoff games, including a a three-hit, three-RBI performance in the title tilt with Williamsburg.
Outfield: Abby Pentz, Curwensville — Opposing pitchers simply couldn’t get Pentz out for much of the 2021 season. The Lady Tide senior was batting .733 eight games into the season and was still red hot after 16 contests with a .707 average. She did cool off late in the year with just three hits in her last five games, but that didn’t stop her from having Progressland-bests in nearly every offensive category.
Pentz, who was also a Northern Allegheny all-star, led Progressland in seven statistical categories. She batted .587 and slugged 1.189. Pentz had 44 hits, scored 44 runs and collected 39 RBIs. She also tripled five times and stole 25 bases. Pentz also had 14 doubles, second to Ressler by one, and seven home runs, trailing only Hipps.
Also a Progressland first-teamer as a sophomore, Pentz enjoyed a 6-for-6 day against Johnsonburg, scoring four runs and driving in four. She had a season-high seven RBIs against North Star. Pentz started the season with a 17-game hitting streak which was stopped by fellow Progressland first teamer Campbell. She had multiple hits in 14 games, scored two or more runs in 15 and had at least two RBIs in nine.
Pentz also joined the 100-hit club this year, finishing her career with 113.
Outfield: Lilley Vereshack, Glendale – The second of the Lady Vikings’ dymamic senior duo, Vereshack was a steady presence in the lineup and in centerfield, where she made just one error the entire season. Vereshack hit safely in 19 of Glendale’s 23 games and scored at least one run in 16.
Vereshack had 29 hits, which was the fifth-highest total in Progressland, and scored 28 runs, good for third. Her six doubles and three home runs were also in the Top 10 at ninth and seventh, respectively, while her 19 RBIs fell just one short. Also an ICC first-team all-star, Vereshack did some of her best work in the postseason, going 8-for-15 in the Lady Vikings final four games, while scoring six runs and knocking in three.
Outfield: Hannah Minarchick, Philipsburg-Osceola — Despite missing five games to injury, Minarchick was still among the team leaders in most offensive categories. She hit .371with two doubles and four home runs, while scoring 14 runs and knocking in 15. Her four homers were sixth-most in Progressland.
A Progressland first-teamer in 2019, Minarchick recorded back-to-back four-RBI games against Penns Valley and Chestnut Ridge to spark the Lady Mounties to wins in both.
She also went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs in her only appearance against Bald Eagle Area this season. The Lady Mounties were just 2-3 in the five games without Minarchick, also a Mountain League first teamer.
Designated Player: Josylnne Freyer, Curwensville — After bursting on the scene two seasons ago as a freshman, the Lady Tide junior, who was also a 2019 Progressland first teamer, picked up right where she left off with the bat. Freyer hit .586 two seasons ago and followed that up with a .526 average in 2021. Freyer’s 40 hits and 28 RBIs were second only to Pentz, while her 22 runs scored were good for eighth.
Freyer clubbed 12 doubles (third), four triples (second) and two home runs during the season. She hit safely in 19 of the Lady Tide’s 21 games, collecting multiple hits in 11 contests.
Also a Northern Allegheny all-star, Freyer led Curwensville in the circle as well. She was 9-8 with 11 complete games and four shutouts, tossing 5-inning no-hitters against Brockway and Purchase Line. She also recorded 118 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings.
Utility Player: Bri Bone, West Branch — The Lady Warrior senior split her time between shortstop and pitcher and excelled at both. She only committed one error all season despite playing multiple positions and led the Lady Warriors in several offensive categories.
She batted .447, which was the sixth-highest average in Progressland, and recorded 22 RBIs (tied for sixth) in just 15 games. Bone had five doubles, a triple and a home run for the season, which she ended by going 14-for-28 (.500) with 14 RBIs in West Branch’s final seven games.
Also an ICC all-star, Bone appeared in the circle in seven games, compiling a 2-3 record and a 3.99 ERA. She tossed three complete games and shut out Bellwood-Antis in the season finale.
The second team is led by a pair of Lady Warriors, who appeared in the Progressland Top 10 in batting average.
West Branch’s Sarah Betts (first base) and Greysyn Gable (third base) batted .537 and .429, respectively.