Thomas Jefferson softball team has plenty to look forward to
The Thomas Jefferson softball program continues to grow.
TJ finished as the WPIAL Class 5A runner-up and in the PIAA Final Four this season. The Jaguars’ starting lineup included one senior, one junior, four sophomores and three freshmen.
The batting order against West Allegheny in the PIAA semifinal round consisted of freshmen Paige Truax (2B) and Claire Whalen (OF), junior Haleigh Karcher (C), sophomore Bella Bucy (P), freshman Lily Rockwell (3B), sophomore Alana Cleary (OF), senior Liz Brock (1B), and sophomores Abby Chalovich (SS) and Mackenzie Zang (OF).
“I am so proud of my team and all we have been able to accomplish this season,” said Brock, who hit .320. “We have had many ups and downs, but we stayed focused on our goal(s) from the beginning. No one expected us to make it as far as we did. That gave us more motivation to prove them wrong. We had some big holes to fill coming into this season, but our underclassmen really stepped up.”
Brock was a two-year starter at first base. Last fall, she earned the No. 1 seed on the TJ girls tennis team.
She also held the anchor position on TJ’s girls bowling team for four years and was named section MVP three times, first-team All-WPIAL twice and league MVP once.
Brock graduated with a 3.6 GPA, will attend St. Francis in Loretto on an academic/athletic (bowling) scholarship and plans to study nursing.
Bucy and Karcher proved to be some of the WPIAL’s more dynamic batterymates this season.
Karcher led the squad with a .461 batting average, .488 on-base percentage and .579 slugging percentage. She also had a team-high 27 RBIs.
“We definitely had an amazing year with a bittersweet end,” said Karcher, a three-year starter and West Chester recruit. “We are the one of the few teams that have made it to the Final Four in states and placed second in the WPIAL, which is amazing.
“The younger kids playing this year really made a difference more than any other year. Their drive for the game was a pivotal factor in our season.”
Bucy posted a 12-7 record and 1.74 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 128 2⁄3 innings, and tossed five shutouts. At the plate, she batted .389 with a .597 slugging percentage and led the team in doubles with nine.
“Going into the season, we didn’t really know what to expect. With us losing some key seniors, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Bucy said. “We came out strong, hit a rough patch, losing some games we shouldn’t have, then picked it back up in the end.
“This season was honestly a learning experience for me and my young teammates, and I’m so proud of how far we went and I think we just proved to people we aren’t a team to take lightly. I’m proud of us making it to the WPIAL championship game and semifinals in states.”
Bucy recently returned from a trip to Philadelphia with the Steel City Cyclones travel team, which competed in the Pennsbury Showcase Tournament.
“I also did a pitching camp where I threw all my pitches, and they had a radar gun,” Bucy said. “It’s kind of a stressful thing, but I really want to showcase my talent because my goal is to play softball in college.”
The Jaguars’ leading reserves in 2018 were seniors Kimmy Bachman (OF) and Jenna Herazo (OF); plus a host of juniors: Alyssa Natter (OF), Adara Getsy (OF), Maura Gdovic (1B), Lauren Liberi (3B/OF), Mackenzie Alava (OF), Sarah Thornton (2B/P) and Erika Vogel (P/1B).
Thomas Jefferson will move down to Class 4A in softball next season and will play in a section that includes Belle Vernon, Carrick, Elizabeth Forward, McKeesport, Ringgold and West Mifflin.
“Next year should be another great year,” Karcher said. “We hopefully will make another run in the playoffs, just not in 5A. I’m hoping next year as a team we can get stronger so our balls can stop hitting the fence and just go over. WTP — Warning Track Power — was a team joke for us.
“I’m also hoping that in my final season as a Jaguar we can inspire the younger softball players in our community. The young kids look up to us, and I hope we can continue to watch them grow and love the game more and more.”
TJ started out 5-0, lost four of its next five games, then won four of five down the home stretch. The Jaguars ended up 15-7 overall.
“My expectation for next season is to start off strong again,” Bucy said. “Even though we are moving down a section, we can not take any team lightly and we need to go out there and play like we know how and make another long run in the playoffs.”
Thornton hit .458 this year, followed by Rockwell at 400. Rockwell led the squad with three home runs.
Other top contributors offensively included Truax (.358), Zang (.333) and Chalovich (.304). Getsy and Truax scored 19 and 18 runs, respectively.
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.