6 local athletes named to TVL softball all-star list

The ultimate goal for each team is to make it past league action and into the playoffs. For the Tri-Valley League’s Greenwood and Juniata softball teams, those goals came true. The Wildcats made it through the District 3 Class A tournament for their fifth-straight title and fell out of the state tournament in the first round. Juniata didn’t make it quite as far as Greenwood, as a loss to Ligonier Valley in the second round of the District 6 Class AA tournament ended the Indians’ run in the playoffs.

However, after the dust has settled from the playoffs and the teams have time to look back over the season, six locals – including two apiece from Juniata and Greenwood and two more from East Juniata – can look back over the season with extra fondness after their selection to the TVL all-star team.

Juniata, which finished sixth in the league at 6-7, followed by Greenwood (5-9) and East Juniata (1-13), was headlined by junior Kristen Pray’s selection to the first team.

Pray was notable throughout the season for her production at the plate, and she also played an important role in the defense with her work at shortstop.

Although small in stature, Pray could bring it at the plate, and the numbers are a testament to her abilities. In statistics provided by the TVL, Pray racked up the third best numbers in batting average (.523) and RBIs (19), fourth in hits with 23 and second with 24 runs scored.

“She hits the ball real well. Pretty much all year for us,” Juniata coach Brian Sheaffer said.

Sheaffer also complimented Pray’s effort at shortstop, and said that when she begins her senior season in 2014, he hopes she will continue to demonstrate the upward improvement she has displayed the past three years.

“I’m just hoping she has the same kind of year she had this year,” he said.

On the second team, Juniata was represented by freshman hurler Brinley Irvin, who was one of only two ninth graders to get an all-star nod.

Irvin was most notable for her effort from the mound, although she put together some numbers at the plate, too.

Offensively, Irvin tied Pray with 19 RBIs, and was right behind in other categories including average (.478) and hits (22). However, when she wasn’t putting the ball in play herself, she was trying to keep the other team from doing so. And although she was just a freshman, Irvin pitched nearly every inning for the Indians, and Sheaffer was pleased with what he saw from her.

“She pitched really well for me, and toward the later part of the season she started hitting her spots really well,” he said.

This ability to hit her spots was evidenced in the strikeout column, as in TVL statistics Irvin was fourth in strikeouts with 56 to her 86 innings of work.

However, outside of TVL action, the one game Sheaffer especially pointed out was the Indians’ upset of No. 2 seed Penn Cambria in the first round of the District 6 tournament.

“I thought she handled (the pressure) pretty well. She threw a gem against Penn Cambria,” Sheaffer said.

“Brin threw really well. I was proud of her as a freshman.”

But it wasn’t just the Indians who had a presence on the all-star list, and Greenwood’s first-team selection Amy Heggenstaller was one of two from her team.

Heggenstaller didn’t top any charts in the TVL, but she was a crucial component to the Wildcat team that came on at just the right time and outlasted any other local TVL team in the playoffs.

A sophomore, Heggenstaller was a consistent force for her team at the plate, and coach Troy Gantt said she was always pushing herself to improve.

“She’s one that challenges herself a lot at the plate,” he said. “She’s not happy if she just gets a seeing eye ground ball base hit. She wants to drive the ball at the plate every time, and that’s kind of the way she approaches it,” he said.

Gantt also said he is looking forward to what Heggenstaller will be able to bring to the team next season

“She’s a good softball player. I expect her to be able to build on what she’s done here for us the past two years,” he said.

The other Greenwood entry, senior Katie Osborne, made second team.

Osborne finished the season for the Wildcats at third base, but throughout her varsity years has been a very versatile player. Gantt said Osborne has played at first base, behind the plate and in center field, so when injuries this year forced him to move some players around, Osborne was able to help him fill those empty spots. She also had the crucial job of leading off the batting order.

“Defensively she’s strong all over. It’s nice to have several players like that where you can just move them around and put them in spots,” Gantt said.

A senior, Osborne won’t be playing for the Wildcats next season, and Gantt said her versatility will be one of her most missed attributes.

“I think she’s done a great job (with) her experience for us. She’s going to be a tough one to replace,” he said.

For East Juniata, seniors Ashlyn Erhard and Lauren Maguire finished with a second-team nod.

Erhard, a pitcher, had the burden of pitching almost every inning. A few games she shared time with teammate Meisha Heintzelman, but after an injury to Heintzelman’s shoulder, Erhard was required to take over the majority of the work.

“She was always the No. 1 pitcher. She had pitched every game here the past three years, so she was pretty much already prepared for it,” East Juniata coach Joe Schilling said.

Erhard finished the season with 30 strikeouts in TVL action, and including games outside of the TVL, completed her season at the plate with a .423 average. She had at least one home run, triple, double and single throughout the season.

“You couldn’t ask for a more solid player and dedicated player,” Schilling said, adding that he hoped her dedication and willingness to help other players would be part of the legacy she would leave behind in her senior year.

In the same way, Maguire also made an impact on the team, whether it was through her rocket of an arm, her dedication to improvement or her high batting average.

Maguire finished with a .472 average in the league, but she also helped out on the field when the team was having trouble in the outfield and she stepped up to bring some solidarity from the number seven spot.

“Lauren’s a very talented softball players, she’s really played numerous positions over the years to help the team out,” Schilling said.

Schilling also noted the work Maguire put in during the offseason to improve her batting, and the way she took a leadership role in the team by mentoring the other players.

“She will really be missed. She was really a team leader. She really helped out to work with the players not as a coach, but as a mentor,” he said.