A trip to the WPIAL semifinals a year ago has served as a springboard into the 2014 season for the Beaver Area softball team.
With eight starters returning, the Bobcats have started the season 4-0 with all four wins coming in Class AA Section 5. They were scheduled to play Riverside Wednesday.
"As young as we were last year, they really matured as the season went on," Bobcats coach Butch Rousseau said. "We went fairly deep into the playoffs and I think that really, really helped this year."
The run to the WPIAL semifinals helped in the offseason. More players were showing up for voluntary workouts and practices.
"I think that really helped," Rousseau said. "They were really looking forward to this year a lot."
With eight starters back, Rousseau only had one position to fill and that was catcher where his granddaughter, freshman Tayven Rousseau, has filled in.
The Bobcats team is a family affair this year, along with Rousseau managing his granddaughter, there are two sets of sisters on the team, senior Jamaly Jusino and sophomore Ariadna Jusino and sophomores Jennifer and Ashley Kondracki.
Jennifer Kondracki starts at third base and her twin sister starts at the opposite corner in the infield at first base. Jamaly Jusino starts in left field with her sister across the way in right field.
The other returning starters are sophomore pitcher Casey Farkasovsky, sophomore shortstop Haley Champ, senior center fielder Katie Glass and sophomore second baseman Jayda Justice.
"The more they play together, the more it is starting to come together," Rousseau said. "We have been in some tight games and I like tight games. I am really happy with the way they are playing."
After scoring 18 runs in its first three games, the Beaver bats exploded against Freedom with a 20-run outburst. It has been a collective effort offensively with runs being produced from the top to the bottom of the lineup. Four different players have combined to hit five home runs for Beaver Area.
"They have all contributed in some way or another," Rousseau said.
Ashley Kondracki hit a two-out home run in the bottom of the seventh inning at Mohawk to tie the game that Beaver eventually won in nine innings. Champ, Farkasovsky and senior outfielder Bella Valent have also hit home runs this season. Farkasovsky has two home runs this season, helping her own cause.
"Casey hits her spots really well," Rousseau said. "She has pretty good control and that has really contributed to a lot of good innings for her.
"A lot of coaches look for speed, I don't believed that is always the case. Any pitcher who can spot the ball pretty well is going to go along way here."
Farkasovsky pitched all but one game last season.
The Bobcats finished in third place in the section last season with a 7-5 record, just ahead of New Brighton (6-6). Riverside (12-0) won the section and WPIAL titles and Mohawk (10-2) took the other playoff spot out of the section.
Trailing Beaver (4-0, 4-0) in the section this season is Riverside (3-0, 3-0), New Brighton (4-3, 2-2) and Beaver Falls (1-2, 1-1).
"I still think you have to go with the defending champ, Riverside," Rousseau said when asked who the section favorite is.
"They have everybody back except their pitcher and catcher and so far they are doing really well. After that, I think it is a tossup. As young as New Brighton is, they have a nice young team. They have come a long way the last few games and Beaver Falls has a nice team there. "I think it will be those three teams with us, New Brighton, Beaver Falls and Riverside."