Freedom Area High School's Student Newspaper

FHS Press

Freedom Area High School's Student Newspaper

FHS Press

Freedom Area High School's Student Newspaper

FHS Press

New side of the ball

Softball perseveres through major team changes
Hannah Shaffer
In position: Watching closely, freshman Rylie Vojtko prepares to catch the softball at the scrimmage against Rochester. As first baseman, Vojtko attempts to stop the opposing team from advancing to first base.

Standing on the batting plate, the bat resting upon a shoulder, waiting for the ball to be thrown, all while hearing the cheers from friends and family, is one aspect of softball that the players anticipate every season. Although, for the Bulldogs, this year was accompanied by several unforeseen changes. Nevertheless, the team persevered through their practices and hit the field with confidence.

For the second year in a row, the softball team saw major management differences. Going into last season, the Bulldogs adjusted to losing their former Head Coach, Ray Pranskey, and learning under Head Coach Ron May. May, however, retired from his coaching career going into 2024, allowing Dale Broskey to step up to the plate. Working with Assistant Coach Corey Waggoner, as well as Freedom alumn Carley Schroeder, Broskey is preparing the softball team for a successful season.

As the new head coach, Broskey first reorganized the team’s field positioning. Last season, the softball team consisted of 15 girls; five of whom were seniors. Trying to find balance within a small group, some girls had to take on multiple positions to ensure everyone was played fairly. Similarly, there are 15 girls currently on the softball team, two of whom are seniors. The seniors, Shaye Bailey and Morgan Shaffer, both took on positions left open by the 2023 graduating seniors. Bailey is a pitcher and shortstop. Shaffer plays catcher and outfield. Several other players also stepped up to fill in positions opened by softball graduates. For instance, junior Haydan Baucan now plays catcher and second base, sophomore Brianne Casto plays second base and shortstop and sophomore Janna Kline plays first and third base.

“With the changes we have had, I think it is benefiting our team,” Kline said. “We have all learned a lot from [last year’s seniors] and we put what we learned into action.”

In the midst of adjusting to a new team organization, the Bulldogs saw victory in their first two scrimmages against the Carlynton Cougars and Rochester Rams. On Tuesday, March 12, the softball team travelled to Carnegie to take on the Cougars. Kicking off the game, sophomore Mackenzie Mohrbacher advanced to first base after successfully batting the second ball pitched. Following in her footsteps, Bailey and Baucan both batted the third ball pitched, enabling Mohrbacher to complete the first score of the season. The two girls followed right behind, giving the Bulldogs a three point advantage.

“The first game went good,” Mohrbacher said. “I did better than I thought I would, and it was really fun.”

The scrimmage against Carlynton ended with a score of 12-3, with the Bulldogs dominating most of the game.

Taking this victorious spirit to Rochester High School, the softball team faced the Rams Thursday, March 14 for their second scrimmage. Baucan scored the first homerun of the game, and the first in the 2024 season, which boosted the Bulldog’s to a 3-0 lead before the end of the top first.

“It was honestly kind of funny,” Baucan said, in regards to getting the first home run. “On the bus, I said, ‘someone needed to put the ball over the fence.’ It felt awesome.”

By the end of the second, the girls had scored another two points, maintaining their three point lead over the Rams. Within the fourth and fifth, the Bulldog’s secured another three points, hence concluding with a total of eight points. In a tense game, the Rams managed to score five points by the end of the fifth. The girls ultimately beat the Rams with a tight score of 8-5.

Every spring, there are aspects of softball that the team anticipates. Along with the anticipation comes the unpredictability, which especially struck the Bulldogs this season. Instead of permitting adjustment challenges to hinder progress, the softball team persevered and created a strong start to the season.

“I mostly look forward to having fun [with the team] and winning more games compared to last year,” Kline said.