May 23—After sweeping Aliquippa in a doubleheader in early May, the Carlynton softball team was 4-3 in Section 1-2A and 6-3 overall.
The Cougars looked to be in good shape for a playoff chase in a tough Section 1-2A. However, the team struggled down the stretch and missed out on the district postseason.
"After being unable to play last year, it was great getting back on the field," Carlynton coach Traci Melko said. "We had a great group of girls who worked hard and made it a fun season. We lost some key players throughout the season to grades and to injuries, and even when our numbers were extremely low, the girls just kept moving forward and working hard throughout all the rainouts and indoor practices."
While the roster hit was a huge hurdle for the Cougars, playing a tough stretch in a very competitive section without key players didn't help the Carlynton cause either.
"The competition was solid in Section 1," Melko said. "I feel that had our situation been a little different, we would have come out much better in the standings than we did. We are young, and I have high hopes for the future of the team."
While youth surrounded them, the Carlynton battery was made up of a pair of seniors in Emma Weiland in the circle and Madison Ciabattoni behind the plate.
"Our senior pitcher-and-catcher duo did great on defense," Melko said. "Emma was previously our third baseman while Madison has been our catcher throughout her Carlynton career.
"We had a strong sophomore class that led our offense, starting with Tanner Kephart. Tanner was our shortstop and leadoff hitter. She has averaged an unreal .722 with no strikeouts all season. Coming in with the second and third highest batting averages were our first baseman, Taylor Zaletski, and our third baseman, Lily Barber. At last count, they were both hitting in the low .500s. Another sophomore, Isabella Garcia, had a good year offensively, and consistently made key hits for us, while also being a strong slapper."
While the future looks good for Carlynton with a lot of young talent, one of the highlights of the 2021 season for Melko was the late addition of a senior, who helped the team when the roster took a big hit.
"We had issues, like many teams did, to losing players to covid, injuries and grades," Melko said. "A highlight was when senior Amanda Masdea came out to join our program to give us the ninth player that we needed in order to compete. Amanda did an amazing job after never playing softball. She is a great athlete and quickly moved into our center field position. I only wish she wasn't graduating so I could have her for another three years. She is a coach's dream."
It has been 14 years since Carlynton last played in a WPIAL softball playoff game. With a good young core returning next season, Melko hopes the end of a 14-year drought is close.
"We were young this year, starting seven underclassmen, so we look to have a solid base next year," she said. "Our juniors have the ability to step into the leadership roles for our 2022 season. Kennedi Paolino is a very strong athlete and has so much to offer our team as an upcoming senior. Maddie Albert has grown better and stronger over the years, and I am excited to see how she handles a lead position during her senior season.
"We didn't end up with a winning season, but we were had a good season together and are hopeful for 2022."