Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Father-Daughter Ties Bind Finalists

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Father-Daughter Ties Bind Finalists

Article excerpt

It's a simple scene played out in many front yards across the country: a father tossing a ball to his child.

But the difference in this All-American act at the Taliani house was the child was only 2 or 3 years old, and she could hit the ball with a fat Wiffle bat across the street and well into the neighbor's yard.

"I thought everybody could do that," Craig Taliani said of his daughter, Maria Taliani. "I talked to some other friends, and their kids didn't know which end of the bat to hold. She could hit from a very young age and with some good power."

Fast forward about 15 years and the father-daughter duo still team up to play ball - but on a much bigger stage. Craig Taliani has coached his daughter, a junior outfielder, and the rest of the Deer Lakes softball team to its first PIAA Class AA state championship title game. Deer Lakes (24-1) takes on Holy Redeemer (22-1) at 10 a.m. today at Penn State.

And they're not the only family affair from the WPIAL making its first trip to the final game. Coach Shawn Gray and his daughter, senior shortstop Olivia Gray, have led Trinity (20-5) to the Class AAA championship game against Bethlehem Catholic (18-7) at 5:30 p.m. today at Penn State.

Shawn Gray has been coaching his daughter and about five other girls on the team since they were 6 years old. And that familiarity with that group of seniors he calls his "grandmas" is what has helped Trinity become so successful this season.

"The team is extremely close, and they've been friends and playing ball for a very long time," he said. "Getting to know the girls from day one, I've seen their goods and bads, and I know when they're struggling or when they're nervous. . I already understand each one of them individually."

Olivia Gray said it will be a change next year when she plays softball at Pitt because, for the first time in her playing career, her dad will be in the stands not on the sidelines. …

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