Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tj Banking on Its Seniority System

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tj Banking on Its Seniority System

Article excerpt

Three years ago Thomas Jefferson softball coach John "Hoppy" Mitruski quickly realized he had a special class on his hands.

Mitruski started six freshmen in 2009.

With a group of freshmen featuring a mix of a future Division I pitcher and standout batters and fielders, the Jaguars appeared poised to be on the brink of a four-year run of success.

And they were ... at least in the regular season.

With the Class of 2012 making up a key piece of the roster the past three years, Thomas Jefferson went 33-12 in the regular season.

But when it came playoff time, for a number of reasons, the team could never quite put it all together.

Three years ago as freshmen, it was a case of nerves as Thomas Jefferson was overwhelmed, 12-0, by Moon Area in their first playoff game.

Two years ago Thomas Jefferson reached the WPIAL quarterfinals but ran into Yough and future Post-Gazette Player of the Year Nicole Sleith, who led her team to a 1-0 win over the Jaguars.

Last year injuries began to stack up and the Jaguars were far from full strength in the playoffs where they lost to Valley in the first round.

"For whatever reason things just haven't panned out," senior pitcher Alyssa Frankenfield said. "We have made progressions each year. Hopefully, this year all the pieces will fall into place."

The class of 2012 will give it one more shot this season.

"We have high hopes this year," said Mitruski, now in his 33rd year at Thomas Jefferson. "This is a talented group. I have been watching this team since they were 10 years old. They have some talent."

The group of seniors who have made up two-thirds of Mitruski's starting lineup the past three seasons are center fielder Nikki Benack, second baseman Aubrey Giuffre, catcher Amanda Wrobleski, shortstop Amanda Brennan, first baseman Taylor McConnell and Frankenfield.

"The seniors -- we have been playing together basically since we all started fast pitch," Frankenfield said. …

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