Apr. 3—When playing softball for Yough and coach Art ‘Dutch’ Harvey, one thing is for sure: Harvey plays his best players.
Yough returns seven players who saw starts in 2019, but some are competing against talented freshmen for playing time.
Harvey started five freshmen in the Cougars’ (3-0, 1-0) first three games. They are first baseman Maria Lindich, second baseman Kaylin Ritenour, left fielder Madi Horvat, right fielder Makayla Spoonhoward and designated player Allie Augustine. A sixth freshman, Katie Proctor, is a backup catcher and outfielder.
“We have a good group of freshmen,” Harvey said. “I found out how competitive they were in fall ball. They are making some of the veteran players work hard for playing time. Everyone is going to contribute.”
But playing freshmen has drawbacks.
“We’ll have to live with some of their mistakes,” Harvey said. “It’s going to happen. You just hope to keep it to a limit.”
The Cougars so far have defeated Frazier (6-1), Canon-McMillan (2-1) and Laurel Highlands (9-7).
But what excites Harvey is the play of junior pitcher Emma Augustine and senior center fielder Savannah Manns, senior catcher Kaylyn Odelli, junior shortstop McKenzie Pritts and senior third baseman Samantha McGhee.
“The pitching will be strength,” Harvey said. “Emma does a good job placing the ball and hitting her spots. She has three or four good pitches. The infield has looked solid in the first three games, and we’re hitting the ball.
“I think Kaylyn, McKenzie, Emma and Savannah all had two-hit games. I’m a big believer in pitching. Emma is averaging 10 Ks a game.”
Harvey said Augustine looked sharp against Canon-McMillan. She wasn’t as sharp against Laurel Highlands because she was battling a leg injury.
Senior outfielder Liberty Wilkins, junior outfielder Maddie Ritenour and junior infielder Marin Sleith are battling for playing time.
Yough was 15-6 in 2019 and finished second behind Mt. Pleasant. The Cougars defeated Central Valley to open the playoffs and then lost to Thomas Jefferson in the quarterfinals.
The Cougars and Uniontown were moved from Section 1-4A to Section 2, where they join Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward and West Mifflin.
“It’s a tough section, like old times,” Harvey said as Yough reunites with Belle Vernon and Elizabeth Forward. “We’re going to be in some battles.”
That starts Wednesday at Elizabeth Forward.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .