By Pete Chiodo
“Sometimes it’s better to be the underdog,” said Maple-wood’s head softball coach Hannah Parker, reflecting the outlook her Tigers pretty much have to take as they head into today’s District 10 Class AA meeting against Fairview.
The first pitch of the quarterfinal matchup is 3 p.m. at Penn State-Behrend.
Fairview, last year’s D-10 champion, comes into the game as the favorite after finishing the regular season with a sterling 19-0 record and a 14-0 run through Region 4.
Maplewood, meanwhile, comes in with a record of 9-5, finishing in a tie for second place in Region 3.
“We have nothing to lose. That’s the key,” said Parker. “We’re going in just .500 (in the region) and Fairview is going in undefeated. But the girls are pretty excited. They understand that they’ve got nothing to lose. They’re not the ones with a big target on their backs, which is nice.”
Fairview’s most effective weapon this season has been senior pitcher Raven Rozantz, who has an 18-0 record with a 0.87 ERA and 203 strikeouts in just over 121 innings pitched.
“I know they have a very strong pitcher,” said Parker. “Our goal (today) is to put the ball in play and give our very best effort.”
Fairview also has a couple tough batters, led by senior Kayla Kupniewski who is hitting .564 with 22 runs scored, 17 RBIs, four triples and two homers. Sophomore Roni Lipinski adds a .377 batting average with a team-best 22 RBIs. Rozantz bats .382 with 22 runs scored and 10 ribbies. And sophomore Caitlyn MacKelvey is hitting .362 with 17 runs scored, three doubles and two triples.
Fairview is batting .321 as a team.
Maplewood will look to senior Taylor Smith to cool off Fairview’s bats. She’s gone 7-5 this season with an ERA of 1.75 and 63 strikeouts through 76 innings.
Meanwhile, the offense will have to get something going against Rozantz. Leading Maplewood at the plate this season has been sophomore Maddy Nicols, who is hitting .347 with 17 runs scored, nine RBIs, six doubles and a home run. Sophomore Ruth Fultz (.345) and senior Laura Kirk (.306) also have batting averages over .300.
Maplewood is batting .261 as a team.
That average is a balance of games where Maplewood was able to hammer the ball, mixed with other games where the team has struggled at the plate.
“I told the girls, as far as season goes, I was a little disappointed because of how inconsistent we were all season,” said Parker. “When we show up to play, we’re great. We can be just as good as any other team. But we have yet to put a full seven innings of ball together. If we were able to do that (today), that would be a great way, win or lose, to end the season. If not, it could be a quick game.”