Second best does not sit well with the Chartiers-Houston High School softball team.
After finishing as the runner-up in Section 3 and falling one game short of reaching both the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA championship games in 2017, the Buccaneers have beefed up preparation for another successful season on the diamond.
Tricia Alderson, who enters her 22nd season as a head coach and 15th year at with Chartiers-Houston, has helped design one of the toughest non-section schedules the Bucs have ever played. Chartiers-Houston will play PIAA Class A champion West Greene, WPIAL Class A runner-up Monessen, two-time WPIAL Class AAA champion Ellwood City, PIAA Class AA runner-up South Side Beaver and PIAA quarterfinalist Seton-La Salle.
“We expect to compete for section and WPIAL titles as well as qualify for the PIAA playoffs,” Alderson said of the team’s expectations for 2018. “So we are preparing for the competition. Double-A, in softball, has a very deep and talented pool of teams.”
In Section 2-AA, the Bucs must battle defending WPIAL champion Frazier, Bentworth and Burgettstown. “They are always tough opponents,” said Alderson. Anticipation also is for Beth Center and Fort Cherry to be much improved from last year.
“Our section will be very tough with a lot of good pitching,” remarked Alderson.
The Bucs possess just that with two veteran pitchers.
Kaitlyn Dittrich compiled a 12-5 record last season. The senior, who doubles as a first baseman, struck out 65 batters in 83 innings.
Karlyn Bayer racked up a 6-0 record in the circle. The sophomore, who will also play third base this spring, fanned 30 batters and had a 3.53 ERA.
The two pitchers are among the team’s six returning starters.
Back to anchor the infield is Kaci Alderson. Offensively, the sophomore shortstop batted .560 with 37 RBI and 42 runs scored. Defensively, in six playoff games, she committed just one error.
Lauren Lober, Kasey Scears and Jaylese Lombardi are also returning starters.
While Lober returns to second base, Scears will again be behind the plate. The junior catcher also carries a potent stick. She batted .409 with six extra-base hits, 18 RBi and 16 runs scored last spring.
A junior, who can pitch in the pinch, Lombardi should anchor the outfield. She batted .300 with 11 RBI last season.
“We have experience in the circle, behind the plate and up the middle,” said Alderson. “We are returning several players who put up good offensive numbers last season, too.”
Numbers and experienced outfielders are areas of concern for the Bucs. They have only one senior on the roster and they must replace four starters, including Jessica Ford, who will not play this spring because of health issues.
Noting the Bucs have some holes to fill, Alderson said, “We will have some young kids trying to fill those positions.”
In the outfield, the Bucs are banking on junior Mackenzie McIntyre as well as three freshmen: Tatum Clayton, Madyson Smith and Shaylyn VanScyoc.
In addition to providing another reliable pitching arm, Ella Brookman can play both the third base and first base. She is a junior.
The Bucs are scheduled to start section play at Beth-Center April 3. It will be the ninth season that Alderson has coached with her husband, Dan, and her 13th with her other assistant, Tiffany Gray.
Alderson has a 342-113 career record that includes eight trips to the WPIAL finals in the last 13 years, with five titles, as well as 13 PIAA playoff appearances in 15 seasons with one state championship in 2010.