Connor Coward, Seneca Valley
Recently: Coward was the winning pitcher in Seneca Valley’s 5-2 victory against Baldwin in last Thursday’s WPIAL Class AAAA championship game. He also got a save in the Raiders’ 4-2 victory against Moon in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
Check this out: Coward has fueled Seneca Valley’s run from a 6-11 team in the regular season to a WPIAL champion. Coward pitched an inning in the season opener against Mt. Lebanon but didn’t pitch again until the WPIAL playoffs because of a stress fracture in his lower back. He was the winning pitcher in the WPIAL quarterfinals, semifinals and title game, and will start today against DuBois in the PIAA quarterfinals.
College talk: Coward has signed with Virginia Tech.
•When did you realize you had to quit pitching because of the injury? I had known for a little bit [about the injury]. We had tryouts and practices before our first game and I had done some bullpen throwing. It was starting to bug me. I was told I could try to throw through the pain or I could shut it down. I tried option A, but it was really affecting me and how I was throwing, so I decided to shut it down.
•Are you 100 percent now? Yes I am. It’s just a matter of getting my velocity back and a matter of getting more experience and throwing more games. But as far as my health, I’m 100 percent.
•Does this team believe now it can win a state title? We do. We’re not too, too confident that we’re going to win, but we’re confident that we have what it takes. If we play well and play our game, we have a chance to really do something special.
•If you couldn’t be a baseball player in college, you would be what and where? I’d like to play golf somewhere, maybe Stanford. That was my sport when I was 7 or 8. I golfed before I played baseball. If I didn’t golf, I hear Clemson has a bass fishing team. That’s all I do when I’m not playing baseball. You can find my by a lake or stream with my line in the water.
•Tell me two healthy things you eat regularly? I usually have a fruit smoothie every day, so I guess that’s healthy. And maybe an omelet in the morning.
•So an omelet is healthy? I guess. I was going to answer a Chick-fil-A sandwich, but I don’t think that’s very healthy.
Rachel Bowers, Thomas Jefferson
Last week: Bowers had three hits to help Thomas Jefferson win its first WPIAL softball title with a 5-3, nine-inning triumph against Mars in the Class AAA final last Thursday at California University.
Check this out: Bowers, a sophomore shortstop, has had a big season as Thomas Jefferson’s leadoff hitter. She is hitting a team-best .413 and has struck out only three times. Monday, she helped Thomas Jefferson win its first PIAA playoff game since 2001, an 8-3 win against Bellefonte. The Jaguars play Greensburg Salem in a quarterfinal today at Baldwin. Bowers’ father, Robert, is the head coach at Peters Township.
•To beat Greensburg Salem, your team must … Go out there with confidence and play as a team. Mainly just rely on each other. That’s what’s what’ve done all season.
•Coming into the season, did you expect to win a WPIAL title? I didn’t know what to expect. I knew we had some good, up-and-coming freshmen. We only lost one senior. After we went to Myrtle Beach (to play four games in March), we kind of just clicked. We bonded really well down there and everything seemed to click as the season went on.
•What did you do to celebrate after winning the championship? Right after the game our parents threw us a tailgate. They set up picnic tables and brought food. It was really nice.
•Best pitcher you’ve faced this season? I would say either the pitcher from Greensburg Salem (Melissa Wagner) or (West Mifflin’s) Paige Flore.
•Has your dad coached you for most of your career? Yeah. He coached me from T-ball all the way to eighth grade. Now he’s one of the coaches on our travel team.
•Do you hope to play Peters Township in a non-section game at some point? (Laughs) I mean, it would definitely be fun. It would definitely be fun to play against my dad.
•Have you been watching the College Softball World Series? Yeah, I’ve watched a couple of games here and there.
•Best pizza? I like Primanti’s.
•Most people might be surprised to know that … I went to Europe to play softball my freshman year and I got the MVP for hitting there.