Even coming off a first round playoff loss in 2013, the future is bright for the New Castle Red Hurricanes softball team. With the loss of just one senior and after starting three freshman, Coach Leah Ann Williams was looking ahead to 2014.
New Castle plays in Section 1-AAA, an ultra-competitive section. Ambridge won the section championship last year on the way to a WPIAL title game appearance and a long run in the PIAA playoffs. New Castle handed Ambridge their only loss in section play. Blackhawk tied New Castle for second place, the Red Hurricanes knocked off Ellwood City 1-0 in the section finale. Central Valley and Hopewell round out the section.
New Castle has made the playoffs the last three seasons, going 9-6 in 2011, 7-12 in 2012 but picked up the program’s only post-season victory over Kittanning in the preliminary round and 8-7 last season.
The Red Hurricanes will have their infield mostly intact as they enter the bulk of their 2014 section schedule. Seniors occupy the right side of the diamond with Jenna Frank at first and Alyea Cioffi at second. Senior Shannon Dudich also returns at shortstop. Senior Aleigha Withrow starts at third base.
Carly Aven started in the circle as a freshman, she began the season pitching, but has missed the last two games and is expected to miss at least two more games for an undisclosed reason. Cioffi and Dudich have filled in her absence.
Two seniors also return in the outfield, as Christina Evans and Sarah Antonelli started at the corner positions last year. Evans moves from left field to center, senior Charlie Droeder is in left field. Sophomore Nicole Houk has made a couple of starts in right field.
Sophomore catcher Abba Frengel had an injury plagued freshman year, she was able to return late in the season and is the starting catcher this year.
Off the bench, freshman Paige Shaftic has started at second base, two other freshman have seen some playing time in Emily Magusiak and Ally Dovidio.
The Red Hurricanes had trouble just getting on the field in March and early April, due to the extreme cold and rainy weather. New Castle played only two of their first eight scheduled dates thru April 8th. Coach Williams said after a loss to Ellwood City on April 10th that it was only the second time that the Red Hurricanes have been on their home field at George Washington Intermediate School.
New Castle has started the season slowly, at 1-3 in section play and 2-3 overall. New Castle has fallen to Central Valley, Blackhawk and Ellwood City, but did notch a 11-1 win at Hopewell. Williams was happy that the bats are starting to come around, after being outscored 18-1 in the first two section games.
Williams said New Castle has been a second half team, going 4-1 down the stretch in 2013. The Red Hurricanes will need a similar stretch to make a fourth straight playoff trip in 2014.