West Xtra: Youthful Burgettstown produces a winner

HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL/PIAA PLAYOFFS

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For the Burgettstown Area High School softball team, youth has been served.

That's because there were eight freshmen on the Blue Devils roster this season, but that didn't stop Burgettstown (17-6) from having an outstanding season.

The Blue Devils won the Class A Section 1 title, took third place in the WPIAL Class A tournament and qualified for the PIAA tournament.

Their season came to a close Monday as Burgettstown lost, 4-0, to District 6 champion Claysburg-Kimmel at Penn State University.

The loss was a mere chapter in Burgettstown's epic season.

For example, 12 of Burgettstown's 16-player roster are playing on Burgettstown's first ever 16-and-under travel team. The team began tournaments last weekend via the National Softball Association. The Burgettstown girls took third place in a tournament at North Fayette Township.

"The [under-16] team was something my coaches and I came up with," Bugettstown coach Mark Deer said, noting, "We're losing five seniors."

He explained that having his younger players play year-round would give them an edge next spring.

Deer added that Burgettstown's travel team will even include three girls who will be freshmen on Burgettstown's high school team next season. Basically, Burgettstown softball is a continuing story.

"I really believe the future is very bright for us," Deer said.

Junior Bryanna Lonick pitched all of Monday's game, but Burgettstown actually has three freshmen who are also good pitchers. Cate Tarr, Morgan Ellek and Cassie Carnes will be sophomore pitchers next year; Ellek and Tarr have both already pitched three varsity games apiece.

Ellek started this season as a designated player for Burgettstown.

"She hit .490 this year," Deer said.

Catcher Caley Ritts, one of Burgettstown's few sophomores, achieved a hit in Monday's shutout loss; Ritts will be a valuable veteran for Burgettstown next year. Right fielder Shannon Briggs had two singles on Monday. But Briggs is one of the five graduating seniors for the Blue Devils.

Deer noted he will miss each of the five seniors. In addition to Briggs, shortstop Lizzie Strain, left fielder Alissa Trovoli, second baseman Brenna Butts and center fielder Martha Tarr have completed their high school careers.

Although the Burgettstown team will miss these 2013 graduates, Deer explained that the program is fueled by the junior high system.

"We have had a very good junior high system," he said. "We've had it for about four years."

The chilly June morning gave way to afternoon sun on Monday, and the weather at Penn State did not affect Burgettstown's game. Deer noted that the team had made the best of the three hours and 45 minutes of travel.

"We rented a charter bus, we watched movies all the way out, and kept the radio on," he said. "The players kept pretty lively."

Deer has been Burgettstown's coach for 18 years, and the Blue Devils have been to the playoffs 17 times. Deer added that they have won 10 section championships.

"We have five seniors, but this class that's coming in is more than capable of filling their shoes within the next couple of years," he said.

hsbaseball


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