The good news for the Chartiers-Houston softball team is that it only has to replace four seniors from last year’s WPIAL Class A championship squad that advanced to the PIAA semifinals.
The bad news? All four of those seniors, including a pair of four-year starters in all-state catcher Colby Miller and shortstop Rachel Tucker, were key cogs in helping Chartiers-Houston to a 25-2 record in 2012.
“Lots of kids are excited about the opportunity to step in,” said veteran Bucs coach Tricia Alderson. “Everybody has been working really hard. Everybody has to step up. They know the situation.”
The situation is this: Not only are the Bucs trying to replace some key starters from last year’s team, but they also will be making a move up in classification. Chartiers-Houston will move from Section 1-A to Section 2-AA.
But the cupboard is far from bare at Chartiers-Houston.
In fact, all-state senior pitcher Kayla Briggs should help keep the Bucs in playoff contention.
“That doesn’t hurt, having an all-state pitcher back,” Alderson admitted. “She knows that section is going to be tough. She knows teams are going to put the ball in play a little more in Class AA, more than some of the teams we played last year.”
After serving as a reliever in her first two seasons with the Bucs, Briggs took over as Chartiers-Houston’s starting pitcher in 2012 and put together an excellent season, going 19-1 in the regular season with 160 strikeouts in 103 innings and allowing just 43 hits while giving up 13 earned runs. She added six more wins in the postseason before the Bucs were finally stopped in the PIAA semifinals by Fannett Metal.
That puts Briggs’ career numbers at 26-2 with 15 saves.
“She had a great year,” Alderson said. “I think Kayla pitches better against better competition.”
Briggs will face tougher competition in Section 2-AA, but opposing pitchers will also have to face her. She enters her senior season with a .539 career batting average, eight homers, 83 RBI and 105 runs scored, all while hitting leadoff.
Alderson has to decide whether she should continue to use Briggs in the leadoff spot or slide her down in the lineup where she would have more RBI potential.
“She’s hit leadoff for three years. She’s comfortable there,” Alderson said. “But we have to explore all of our options.”
Alderson will get a good look at her options when the Bucs travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a four-game tournament March 22.
Those could include returning starters such as Megan Kraushaar, Piper McLaughlin and Haley Sutton batting behind Briggs in an attempt to replace the offensive production of Miller and Tucker, in particular.
“You can’t really replace Colby,” said Alderson. “But we said the same thing when we lost Brittany Jones, another four-year starter at catcher. And Colby came along.
“Rachel is another four-year starter, and I thought she had her best year offensively, an outstanding year. She just got overshadowed at times by Colby. But everyone’s working hard. They know they’ve got some big shoes to fill.”