In four seasons under coach Jay Krull, the Seton-LaSalle softball team has transformed itself from a middle-of-the-road team to the team to beat in the section.
Although the Rebels have been "the team to beat" in Class AA Section 1, that is not to say that any section rival has actually beaten them. Seton-LaSalle, a program that had not won a section title since 1999, has now won three in a row and maintains a 27-game winning streak in Section 1.
The Rebels finished 12-1 overall during the regular season, including a perfect 10-0 record in Section 1. They received the No. 4 seed in the WPIAL playoffs but were upset by No. 13 Beaver Area, 10-3, Tuesday in the first round.
The progress the program has made during the past decade has been slow but steady. In 2008 Seton-LaSalle went 8-10. In 2009 with Krull coming to the program as an assistant the team went 7-10. In 2010 with Krull as head coach the Rebels went 11-5 but still failed to qualify for the playoffs.
By 2011 the hard work started to pay dividends with Seton-LaSalle going 15-2 and ending its postseason drought. Last season the Rebels finished 15-2 again and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
"The girls have worked very hard to develop this program in a fairly quick time frame," Krull said. "The success has been because of their dedication and their effort. I think the biggest change has been the commitment of the young ladies."
The Rebels don't appear to be a flash in the pan either. The current starting lineup consists of three seniors, one junior and three sophomores with a rotation of freshmen also starting at times.
"We are pretty diverse," Krull said. "If you are too top-heavy with seniors, it is kind of hard to recuperate the next season. What has been pretty successful is graduating two or three starters and having two or three who can come in and replace them."
Sophomore pitcher Lauren Zola, a Carrick resident, has had a breakout season. She is 12-0 with 126 strikeouts. Offensively, she batted .410 during the regular season. Zola started as a freshmen last season.
"I think [being a starter] last year has helped her tremendously," Krull said. "The best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores. From a confidence standpoint and being comfortable, it has been a big jump physically. She has gotten bigger, stronger and faster.
"She also has developed some additional pitches from her first year to her second year, mainly her changeup."
Seton-LaSalle's only regular-season loss was a 3-1 setback in a non-section game at South Fayette in the second to last game of the season. Zola did not start that game.
"Lauren's forte is throwing hard," Krull said. "She has command over her changeup this year and that has been difficult for some teams."
Sophomore center fielder Dani Dadig led the team with a .540 batting average. Last season she hit .500. Dadig, a Jefferson Hills resident, bats third in the lineup.
Senior catcher Jess Weiss from Canonsburg has been a cornerstone of the program since arriving as a freshman. A four-year starter, she batted .500 this season from the cleanup spot.
Junior leadoff hitter Taylor Mercurio plays shortstop and she batted .526 this regular season. Mercurio is a Brookline native. Her younger sister, freshman Lexi Mercurio, starts at second base.
Other starters are sophomore right fielder Kaylee Boehme who hit .360 from the number two hole in the lineup, sophomore third baseman Tomasina Arrigo who hit .316, senior first baseman Raelyn Fencik who hit .382 and senior left fielder Victoria Andrews who hit .316. Arrigo is a Bishop Canevin transfer
Freshman designated players Annie Borofski and Olivia Matvey split time this year. Borofski hit .300 and Matvey hit .429.
"We work hard year-round," Krull said. "The biggest thing is how committed these girls are to Seton-LaSalle softball."hsbaseball