By Mike Longo Jr.
I've decided a little deviation is in order, so let’s cast our spotlight in a different direction and allow the older gals to shine.
Directionally speaking, down the road from this paper's headquarters, we're checking in with ladies softball at Robert Morris University and the University of Pittsburgh.
Seems it's been the norm for far too long, female athletes not receiving their just reward for their competitiveness. Not so much on the high school level, as athletes moving forward to the next level and beyond.
High school games often get their share of parents, grandparents, students and others, especially around playoff or championship time. Softball diamonds at the high school level pique the interest of novice fans allowing for better than average crowds.
On the college and professional levels things are very different. Though many relatives of players travel great distances to support their loved ones, many can’t make the trek to view their loved one in action.
At the collegiate and professional level is where true fans of the game elevate their enthusiasm, basically bleeding their team's colors.
Pitt's Lady Panthers draw exceptional home crowds to Vartabedian Field on campus. The competition provided is courtesy of one of the most difficult conferences in the country, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) .You have to be on your game when facing the likes of Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, North Carolina and Louisville among others.
Elite is an understatement when speaking of the ACC in softball as Panthers fans very well know. Softball fans in general got a treat last season when Pitt was selected as the host school for the season-ending tournament.
At stake was a berth in the NCAA Tournament and with it, dreams of becoming the next national champion.
To ensure the Panthers were ready for this season, travel was on the agenda. Spring training consisted of heading south to Miami, then hitting the road to compete in early season tournaments in Houston, Texas, Memphis and Huntington, West Virginia.
Entering the 2023 campaign the Panthers turned to senior leadership. They have four bonafide seniors on the roster complimented by three graduate seniors, more commonly known as fifth year players.
Yvonne Whaley, Sarah Seamons and Abby Edwards were awarded a fifth year of eligibility due to the Covid-19 pandemic as designated by NCAA rules.
Rounding out the rest of the roster is only one junior, eight sophomores, three freshmen. The eight super sophomores as they progress, will certainly be the mainstay of the Lady Panthers lineup the next few years.
The season has been a rollercoaster ride,(at press time) overall record is 18-18, 3-11 in conference play, which equates to 12th place in the standings of 13 teams. Not what was expected with a senior-laden team.
At the plate, seniors are leading in batting averages as Yvonne Whaley is hitting 0.448, followed closely by Sarah Seamons at 0.440, Kat Rodriguez at 0.325.
With a scant two weeks left in the regular season, the Lady Panthers are hoping to gain some momentum heading to the ACC Tournament which begins May 10 in South Bend Indiana.
A few miles away on the flip side, RMU's Lady Colonials are making some noise in Horizon League Conference play at home, The North Athletic Complex on the Moon Township campus.
Sitting in third place (at press time) with a record of 8-5 in conference play and 18-18 overall, the Colonials are in the top third of nine teams.
In preparation for the season, the Lady Colonials also took to the road and headed south to the Carolinas. From there it was early season tournament play in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Cookeville, Tennessee.
Combatants in the Horizon League battle teams such as the Detroit Mercy, Northern Kentucky, Oakland and Green Bay.
League play may not be as difficult as the ACC, however the Horizon League is a very competitive conference.
Unlike Pitt, with eight seniors RMU touts only a pair; Avery Winchell along with flame-throwing pitcher, Dana Vatakis. Vatakis, a fifth year graduate student courtesy of Covid-19, is the ace of the mound.
Rounding out the remainder of the Colonials roster are five juniors, eight sophomores, and four freshmen. Fortunately for Head Coach Jexx Varner he will have the benefit of a super-talented group of underclassmen not only this season but down the road.
Charlotte Grover, a junior, holds down the shortstop position. Sophomores will be a mainstay for years to come.
Anna Resnick at second, Alaina Koutsogiani at third, Meadow Sacadura calls the signals behind the dish as catcher and Jess Methany anchors the outfielders covering centerfield.
Like the Lady Panthers, the Lady Colonials will end regular season play in a few weeks to begin tournament play on May 10. The host school will be announced shortly as that honor goes to the highest seeded team.
If you are indeed a fan of collegiate women's softball only a short time remains to view a game in person.
In the event you are in need of a little nudging in a certain direction, I can surely assist.
Satisfy your game day appetite with a marquee matchup and treat yourself to what will be a dandy of a women's game.
Head to the University of Pittsburgh on May 2 at 6 p.m. as the Lady Panthers battle the Lady Colonials for the second and final time this season.
Non-conference matchups are every bit as exciting as conference play.
You won't be disappointed, I assure you.