By its own lofty standards, this has not been a typical softball season at Vincentian Academy.
The Royals finished the regular season 8-5. They finished third in Class A Section 3 to qualify for the playoffs where they received a No. 13 seed in the 14-team field. The season was plagued by a depleted roster and mounting injuries, especially concussions.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Vincentian still qualified for the playoffs. The fronts of the jerseys still read Royals and the back of one jersey still reads Melvin.
The Melvin sisters have been the cornerstone of the Vincentian softball program for the better part of the past decade. Casey, Tricia, Nina, Bridget and Danielle Melvin have helped Vincentian become a Class A power.
The Royals won back-to-back-to-back WPIAL championships from 2008 to 2010, thanks in large part to contributions from the Melvins. Danielle Melvin, a senior first baseman is the last one to come through the Vincentian program.
Today's WPIAL first-round game against No. 4 Frazier (16-2) at 3 p.m. at Hempfield Area could be the last time a Melvin plays a game for Vincentian.
"She is the last of the legacy," first-year coach Joe Baczek said.
The first season on the job has been a challenge for Baczek. Seemingly every time he would run into the team's trainer, he would be met with bad news. Three starters missed significant time because of concussions and those came at positions where teams can least afford to lose starters -- catcher, shortstop and center field.
"We looked like a bunch of Band-Aids out there," Baczek said.
The injuries magnified the depth issues Baczek was already dealing with. For most games Vincentian would only have nine or 10 players available for duty.
"We were just trying to make sure we didn't have to forfeit," Baczek said.
In two games this season Vincentian only batted eight players and had to take an automatic out when the number nine hitter was due up. In the field for those games they left center field empty and pinched the left and right fielders toward the middle.
The Royals won both those games, by the way.
"I have been coaching sports for 40 years and never had a lack of players," Baczek said. "It hit us this year, something new always comes up."
Morning announcements at the school would remind students of tryouts for the softball team.
The players Baczek did have were resilient and talented.
Junior pitcher Kim Corcoran won seven games while striking out 95. She led the WPIAL with a .700 batting average for the regular season and had five home runs. Corcoran, a Fox Chapel transfer, batted third in the lineup.
"She is probably one of the top three pitchers in the WPIAL," Baczek said. "She has four quality pitches. She has a great fastball and some great off-speed stuff."
Danielle Melvin batted .619 from the cleanup spot with eight home runs and sophomore Kelsey Hunter batted .587 with 10 doubles. Hunter started at third base early in the season but moved to catcher after senior Katie Yauch sustained a concussion. Yauch had been batting leadoff. Sophomore shortstop Mary Mazur moved from the sixth spot in the lineup to leadoff.
Junior center fielder Natalie Milas missed most of the season with a concussion but she was able to play in the field late in the season. She still has not been cleared to bat. Junior Rachel Balkovec was the starting center fielder but moved to second base in the middle of the season but she also sustained a concussion and has been lost for the season.
"We just didn't have the numbers this season," Baczek said. "But we battled."
Jeannette and Leechburg finished as section co-champs. Vincentian split its two meetings with Jeannette and lost both games to Leechburg by one run. In a 1-0 loss at Leechburg Corcoran had 15 strikeouts in the nine-inning game.
"I always expect the unexpected but the trainer keeps coming to me with more bad news," Baczek said. "The core that is there -- they are good kids and have good grades."