South Xtra: Trinity leads way in section race

HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL

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A worst-to-first story is developing in WPIAL softball and it is happening at Trinity High School.

A year after finishing 2-8 in Class AAA Section 2 and in last place in the six-team section, the Hillers are 9-0 in section play this year and one of the surprise stories of the WPIAL.

Overall, Trinity is 9-2 with its first loss of the season coming last Friday to Bloom-Carroll from Ohio at the Wendy's Classic in Ashland, Ohio. It remains perfect in section play heading into its game this afternoon against West Allegheny.

"We were quietly confident," coach Mike Marino said. "The preseason stuff came out and we were kind of lost in that shuffle. We knew the only way we were going to make things happen is if we believed in ourselves."

That confidence started to build early.

In the regular-season opener Trinity found itself trailing defending section and WPIAL champion Montour, 7-2, in the fourth inning. The Hillers lost to the Spartans, 5-0 and 9-2, last season but this season they rallied to come back and surprise Montour, 8-7.

The very next day against West Allegheny, Trinity let a 3-0 lead slip away on a grand slam and eventually fell behind 6-3 in the fourth inning. Once again the Hillers rallied with a six-run outburst to win, 9-7.

"In both games, the first thing we noticed, there were no down heads," Marino said. "That was a big start for us -- we are gaining confidence in each game. These girls are fighters."

Marino is in his first season as head coach at Trinity, succeeding Bill Loar. He had been an assistant with the team for nearly two decades.

Marino inherited seven returning starters.

Sophomore shortstop Olivia Gray is one of the returning starters. She moved from second base to shortstop this season. Gray is batting .417 out of the leadoff spot with one home run, five doubles and 14 RBIs.

"Olivia is a complete player," Marino said. "She hits for power and average, she runs well and is a leader. She is the complete package. Being a shortstop, she takes control of the defense."

Sophomores Brooke Beck and Hali Justice are batting .588 and .583, respectively. Beck starts in the outfield while Justice can play third base or catcher. They usually bat fourth and fifth in the lineup.

Freshman Delaney Elling takes over at catcher this season. She is batting .533. Junior outfielder Jasmine Fuqua is another returning starter.

The senior starters on the team are first baseman Brianna Thomas, center fielder Ashley Winkelvoss and third baseman Makayla Watson.

Sophomore Madison Hornak, a left-handed batter, is leading the team with an .846 batting average. Hornak has moved from third base to second this season.

Freshman Katelyn Campbell and junior Tiffany Clark are sharing the pitching responsibilities. Clark was out last season with a right arm injury. This season she is 6-0 with 35 strikeouts through 38 innings and Campbell is 3-1.

Trinity has already clinched at least a tie for the section title. West Allegheny and Montour are tied for second place with 7-3 section records.

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