DuBOIS — Mother Nature proved to be a stiff competitor this past spring, but despite poor weather conditions, the 2018 high school softball season proved to be another highly successful one for schools in the Tri-County Area.
Nine of the 11 area teams competed in the district playoffs in their respective classifications, with two schools — DuBois (District 6/9 Class 5A) and Elk County Catholic (D-9 Class A) — capturing district championships on their way to making the PIAA playoffs. Eight of those teams finished with winning records — a significant jump from a year ago when just five schools were over .500.
DuBois (14-8) and ECC (15-9) were joined in states by DuBois Central Catholic (20-3), which qualified as the third place team out of D-9 in Class A this year. It marked the second straight year DCC and ECC competed in states, while DuBois made its first appearance since making a run to the Class 4A semifinals in 2014.
Central Catholic was the only one of those three to notch a state playoff win (5-1 against D-5 champ Meyersdale) before seeing its season end at the hands of District 6 champ Claysburg-Kimmel, 5-4, in the state quarterfinals.
Outside of that trio, St. Marys (13-8) and Johnsonburg (13-8) saw its seasons end in the District 9 Class 4A and 2A title games, respectively, to fall one win shy of states.
Redbank Valley (12-5), Clarion (11-6) and Curwensville (11-10) also all finished over .500 despite losses in the D-9 postseason.
Given the large number of teams with winning records this season, it made selecting the 2018 Tri-County Sunday/Courier Express Softball All-Star teams a little tougher than in past years.
While the three state playoff teams — DuBois, DCC and ECC — are well represented on the All-Stars, there is a little more balance amongst the area schools this year on the team as a whole compared to some other seasons.
DuBois Central Catholic led the way with four TCS/CE First-Team selections, including the Player of the Year for the third straight season. DuBois and ECC each garnered three First-Teamers, while St. Marys and Johnsonburg had two each.
Here is a closer look at the 2018 TCS/CE Softball All-Star First Team:
Player of the Year
Ashley Wruble, Jr., DuBois Central Catholic - Wruble put together a huge season, both in the circle and at the plate, to help lead a young DCC back to the state playoffs and a 20-3 despite the graduation of a talented senior class that featured four starters.
She follows in the footsteps of the now graduated Jordy Frank in winning the Player of the Year award. Frank, who captured the honor the previous two years, and Wruble are the only two Lady Cardinals to ever be named Player of the Year.
Wruble, a First-Team infielder each of her first two varsity seasons, took over the pitching duties full-time from another graduated senior — Riley Assalone. Wruble took the opportunity and ran with it, posting a 19-3 record with a 1.41 ERA, 120 strikeouts and just 25 walks in 124 innings pitched. She all area pitchers in wins, ERA and innings pitched.
The junior also put together another big year at the plate despite most teams pitching around her throughout the season. She hit an astonishing .661 (39-for-59) with 30 RBIs, 45 runs and 17 extra base hits (6 doubles, 6 triples, 5 home runs).
She led the area in average, was second in runs, triples and homers, third in hits and fourth in RBIs.
Wruble’s .661 average shattered the Tri-County Area single-season record of .629 set by Frank in 2016.
Coach of the Year
Denny Nosker, DuBois - Nosker returned to the Lady Beaver program as head coach this season and all he did was lead DuBois to its first district title and state playoff appearance since 2014.
The Lady Beavers compiled a 14-8 record playing a rugged schedule that saw them play eight games against teams that qualified for the PIAA playoffs and a handful of other that fell just short of reaching states. Three of those teams — Hempfield (Class 6A), Punxsutawney (Class 4A) and Philipsburg-Osceola (Class 3A) captured state titles this past season.
DuBois went 3-5 in those matchups with state playoff squads and was one of just two teams — Bald Eagle Area was the other — to hand Punxsy standout pitcher Kylee Lingenfelter a loss this season. DuBois handed Lingenfelter and the Lady Chucks their last loss (3-2 on May 14) before they made their run to a state championship. Punxsy’s only other loss this year came with freshman Kendal Johnston on the mound against Ligonier Valley.
DuBois also scored a thrilling 6-5 come-from-behind win against DuBois Central Catholic in the City Classic and bested ECC 14-3 in 5 innings in an early-season contest.
Nosker’s honor marks the fifth time a Lady Beaver coach has been named Coach of the Year since the award was created in 1994. He is the first since Rick McClelland garnered the honor in 2014 after guiding DuBois to the Class 4A state semifinals.
TCS/CE First Team
Pitcher: Maura Fledderman, Soph., St. Marys - Fledderman came into her own in the circle this season while helping guide the Lady Dutch to the D-9 Class 4A title, where St. Marys fell to eventual state champion Punxsutawney for a third time on the season.
Fledderman went 11-6 with a 2.15 ERA and an area-leading 138 strikeouts in 107 2/3 innings. She ranked second in the area in ERA, wins and innings pitched.
At the plate, Fledderman hit .226 (12-for-53) with 12 RBIs, two doubles and two home runs.
Pitcher: Maria Jones, Soph., Johnsonburg - Jones enjoyed a breakout sophomore season for the Ramettes squad that was the D-9 Class 2A runner-up.
In her second varsity season, Jones became the leader of the Ramette pitching staff. She went 9-4 this season with a 2.23 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings pitched.
Jones made an even bigger impact at the plate, where she was one of the top hitters in the area. She hit .508 (42-for-83) with 31 RBIs, 35 runs and 19 extra base hits (10 doubles, 8 triples, 1 homer). She led the Tri-County Area in hits and triples, tied for second in doubles and was third in RBIs and fourth in runs.
Pitcher: Michelle Gerber, Jr., Elk County Catholic - Gerber lands on the First Team as a pitcher for the second straight year after helping lead ECC back to the state playoffs — this time as the D-9 A champs after the team was third a year ago.
She went 11-8 in the circle with a 3.93 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 98 innings of work.
When she wasn’t pitching, the junior saw time at third base. She also hit .294 (20-for-68) with two doubles, 16 RBIs and 18 runs scored.
Catcher: Mia Meholick, Fr., DuBois Central Catholic - The latest in a run of standout freshmen for DCC, Meholick helped fill the void left behind the plate with graduation of Frank.
While Meholick’s defense improved as the season went along, she was a force with the bat from the get-go as she quickly established herself as a major threat in the middle of the DCC order. She finished her first varsity season hitting .500 (36-for-72) with 41 RBIs, 32 runs and 15 extra-base hits (8 doubles, 4 triples, 3 homers). She led the area in RBIs while ranking fourth in hits, tied for fourth in doubles and tied for fifth in runs.
First Base: Syd Eckert, Sr., St. Marys - Eckert provided the pop in the middle of the Lady Dutch lineup this year while playing strong defensively at first base. While she hit just .324 (23-for-71), Eckert collected a team-high 27 RBIs (tied for 6th in area) and 11 extra-base hits (6 doubles, 2 triples, 3 homers). She also scored 13 runs.
Second Base: Kylee Bundy, Sr., DuBois – Bundy was the top hitter on a Lady Beavers squad that captured the District 6/9 5A title to return to states for the first time since 2013. She hit .477 (31-for-65) with 23 RBIs, 28 runs and 10 extra-base hits (5 doubles, 3 triples, 2 homers).
She led the team in average, hits, RBIs and runs while being one of the top defensive players in the area. She committed just one error on the season.
Shortstop: Shayleigh Gulvas, Soph., DuBois Central Catholic - Gulvas, making her second straight appearance on the First Team, took her all-around game to a higher level coming off a strong freshman campaign in 2017. She hit .513 (41-for-80) with 18 RBIs, 46 runs and 16 extra-base hits (10 doubles, 5 triples, 1 homer).
She led the area in runs scored, was second in hits, tied for second in doubles and tied for third in triples and fifth in average.
Middle Infielder: Jenna Weisner, Jr., Elk County Catholic - Weisner, who split time between second base and shortstop this season, was one of the driving forces — both at the plate an in the field — behind ECC’s run to the District 9 Class A title this season.
She was the spark plug at the top of the Lady Crusader order while also supplying some power with a team-high five home runs (tied for second in area). Weisner hit .385 (30-for-78) with 23 RBIs, 35 runs and 13 total extra-base hits (7 doubles, 1 triple, 5 homers). Her 35 runs ranked third in the area.
Third Base: Jordan Bundy, Jr., Johnsonburg - To say Bundy had put together a breakout season might be an understatement, as the junior put up huge stats in her first year as a starter.
Bundy hit .508 (31-for-61) with 24 RBIs, 23 runs and seven doubles. She tied for sixth in the area in average, while her 31 hits tied for 10th.
Outfield: Carley Semancik, Jr., DuBois Central Catholic - Semancik was one of the Lady Cardinals who stepped into a full-time starting role this season and never looked back as she put together a huge season at the plate.
Semancik hit .457 (32-for-70) with 36 RBIs, 31 runs and 12 extra-base hits (3 doubles, 4 triples, 5 homers). She ranked second in the area in RBIs to her teammate Meholick and tied for second in homers, while her 31 runs were seventh-most in the area.
Outfield: Sarah Snyder, Sr., DuBois - Snyder enjoyed her best all-around season in her final one in a Lady Beaver uniform.
She set the tone for DuBois offense in the leadoff spot, hitting .403 (27-for-67) with 13 RBIs, 22 runs and five doubles. She also was part of DuBois pitching staff that saw four different lady Beavers see action this season. She ranked second on the team to Bundy in average, hits and runs scored.
Snyder went 4-5 on the mound as the Lady Beavers’ No. 2 pitcher with a team-high 41 strikeouts in 46 innings.
Outfield: Lexi Ray, Sr., DuBois - Ray stepped into a full-time starting role for the first as a senior and took full advantage of the opportunity. She provided some much-needed power in the middle of the order to hit behind the likes of Snyder and Bundy.
Ray hit .344 (22-for-64) with 22 RBIs, 20 runs, six doubles and three homers.
Designated Player: Josie Smith, Sr., Elk County Catholic - Smith, who split time between second and short with Weisner this year, played a big part in the Lady Crusaders success with her bat this season helping her garner the TCS/CE First Team DP position.
She hit .467 (32-for-69) with 28 RBIs, 25 runs and 12 extra-base hits (4 double, 4 triples, 4 homers). She led the team in hits and triples, was second in average and tied for second in runs.