Sto-Rox coach Bill Palermo has coached softball long enough to win 575 games and also long enough to develop some old-school ways.
Well aware of the talent on his team this season, Palermo was upset to see his team drop its regular-season opener, 13-7, to Weyauwega Fremont out of Wisconsin at a Disney Tournament in Orlando, Fla.
So as a disciplinary measure, he took away the players' cell phones.
"I told them, call your parents. If they need something, tell them to call me," Palermo said.
The players heard his message loud and clear and while they may not have had cell phones, they were certainly dialed in during their next game, a 12-1 win against Elk Lake out of PIAA District 2.
"One thing about this team is they are talented players, they are great athletes," Palermo said. "Talent-wise, we are as good as anyone. Our pitching is decent enough to get us to the WPIAL championship game but we make a lot of mental mistakes. We need to work on that."
Without their cell phones the players were forced to improvise to occupy their free time in Florida.
"They got together and had the best time," Palermo said. "They were figuring out new games, playing Wiffleball, entertaining themselves without cell phones."
Palermo gave the cell phones back after the win over Elk Lake. The Vikings came back home and after a two-week layoff caused by inclement weather, they dominated the competition, blasting Avella, 15-0, and Northgate, 15-0, and sweeping Cornell in a doubleheader by a combined 27-0.
They also won 16-2 at Sewickley Academy before losing a wild 13-11 game at Burgettstown on Monday.
Sto-Rox (6-2, 5-1) exhibited its offensive prowess throughout section play but mental mistakes plagued them against Burgettstown (7-2, 6-0) when they could not hold onto an 8-2 lead.
The two teams will likely decide the Class A Section 1 title when they meet again in the makeup of an earlier postponed game (a makeup date has not been announced yet).
Palermo welcomed back eight players who started at some point last season, including junior catcher Mary Cersosimo and senior Aimee Miller who moves from outfield to pitcher this season.
Both were named all-section last season, Miller earned all-section honors as an outfielder -- she only saw limited time pitching behind the now-graduated Natalya Smarra. Even in limited innings, Miller managed to pitch two no-hitters, a feat she has already duplicated this year with no-hitters against Sewickley Academy and Cornell.
Miller is 6-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 31 strikeouts this season. She has been just as valuable at the plate where she leads the team with a .680 batting average, three home runs and 18 RBIs. Cersosimo is batting .652 with 12 RBIs.
Last season the Vikings went 20-2 and reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA playoffs but Class A has taken on a noticeably different look this season with defending WPIAL Class A champion Chartiers-Houston moving to Class AA and defending PIAA Class AA champion Neshannock moving down to Class A.
Sto-Rox certainly has the talent to compete with the likes of Neshannock, Carmichaels and Vincentian for the WPIAL Class A title, but in the meantime the focus is on seeding and a section title.
Scoring runs certainly does not seem to be a problem for the Vikings this season.
"We smack the ball, we hit it real hard," Palermo said. "Our runs are earned runs. We are a little happier than we thought we would be offensively. Position-by-position, we are as good as any team in the WPIAL. We have a talented team, it is fun to be around a team with this much talent."
The other returning starters back this season are sophomore shortstop Lexi Giles, senior center fielder Haylee Weisser and her cousin, senior first baseman Anja Weisser, senior second baseman Josie Buckley and senior third baseman Sam Smith.
Haylee Weisser is third on the team with a .545 batting average while Giles (.462), Buckley (.435) and Smith (.409) all bat better than .400. Buckley has 11 RBIs, Haylee Weisser has scored a team-high 17 runs and Giles has scored 15 runs.
Senior left fielder Rachel Gerster is a returning starter from last season and in right field sophomore Caitlyn Zielinski and Shyanne Ripple share time.
First Published April 18, 2013 4:00 AM