The Thomas Jefferson softball team won the WPIAL Class AA championship last spring, defeating Mars, 5-3, in nine innings in the title game.
The 2014 season began with a spring training trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and grew into one of the greatest years in Thomas Jefferson softball history.
The winning pitcher in the championship game was then-sophomore Lacie Lautner, a right-handed hurler who gave up 11 hits, two earned runs and three walks while striking out five in a complete-game performance.
She threw 130 pitches, including 90 for strikes, in leading the Lady Jaguars to their first WPIAL softball crown in school history.
Lautner, now a junior, is planning to run a fast-pitch softball clinic from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 5 in the Thomas Jefferson High School gym as her senior class project.
The clinic is open to area girls interested in improving their pitching skills and learning from other hurlers.
Lautner will be joined by other area softball pitchers as instructors, such as TJ’s Alysa Fairman, Baldwin’s Jaimie Schleicher and Ana Hale, Sarah Turek and Lauren Mathews from Elizabeth Forward, Monessen’s Shelby Minardi and Belle Vernon’s Erica Amoroso.
“I came up with this idea since I am a current pitcher and would like to share what I know with younger, aspiring pitchers (in the area),” Lautner said. “Also, I wanted to do my graduation project on something I love.
“My friends, teammates and parents are helping me organize this to make it successful. We will be teaching grip styles, and different types of pitches, as well as mechanics.”
The cost to participate is a $25 donation, which will be given to charity.
“The money raised for this (project) will be donated to a bipolar disorder foundation, since members of my family suffer from it,” said Lautner, who has been strongly influenced in her softball career by Cat Osterman, a former University of Texas softball star who was a member of the USSSA Pride in the National Pro Fastpitch league this past summer.
Osterman, who is considered one of the most prolific softball pitchers in the U.S., was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
“Cat Osterman is my biggest influence in this sport. I just think she is an awesome player,” Lautner said. “She had a rough high school career, but did well in college and professionally.”
Lautner is a two-year varsity starter for the Lady Jaguars, who clinched a postseason berth in their last section game in 2014, then went on a dramatic 4-0 run in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.
“It was just an awesome season for the girls’ softball team and coaches,” Bill Cherpak, Thomas Jefferson’s athletic director, said. “They created so much excitement for the school and community.”
Lautner compiled a 14-2 pitching record last season, with almost 150 strikeouts and an earned run average near 1.2. She was named first-team all-section, along with teammates Rachel Bowers and Janelle Allison, both infielders.
“The season was amazing for me and (for) my team,” Lautner said. “I think we started to gain confidence after our first win in the WPIAL playoffs because we all came together as a team and picked each other up emotionally and with errors, too. I had a great team behind me for support and it helped me tremendously.
“I also play for the Renegades travel team and we did well too. We won a couple tournaments this summer.”
The Lady Jaguars will look to continue their playoff success in 2015, as many of the players on last year’s championship squad will return.
“We will strive to do our best and try to bond again as a team,” Lautner said, “especially since we lost five great (senior) players.”
Meanwhile, Lautner’s immediate focus is on her fast-pitch clinic.
“I don’t play other sports since pitching takes up most of my time throughout the year,” she said.
The registration deadline for the clinic is Nov. 27. Each participant will need to provide a catcher.
To register, or for additional information, contact Lautner at 412-608-4901 or at email@example.com.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.