Joe Tuscano's Sports Column
Rebellion need speedy solution
The manager left 12 games into the season, the draft was mediocre at best, the large crowds did not materialize and the team lost 41 of 50 games.
Not the type of season the Pennsylvania Rebellion had in mind for their first season in the National Pro Fastpitch softball league.
Just 12 games into the season, Rick Bertagnolli jumped ship as manager. Bertagnolli, the head coach at California University, had led the Rebellion to a 2-10 record when he left June 18. The team was turned over to Stacey Rice and Stephani Moore, who signed on as Bertagnolli’s assistants before the season.
Rice was initially named manager but plans to make them co-coaches were never made official by the organization.
The two handled the chaotic situation in a settling manner and the team continued to play hard, even in the lopsided games. Rice was named head coach at Slippery Rock University so her status for next season is uncertain.
On the field, the Rebellion had two major problems. They were a miserable hitting team and they lacked speed. The Rebellion batted .199, last in the four-team league, so even a three-run lead was usually insurmountable. Against the league’s best pitcher, Cat Osterman of the USSSA Pride, the Rebellion did not score a run in 47 innings.
As for speed, the Rebellion were like elephants among gazelles. They had 10 stolen bases in 18 attempts – 18 fewer than the next-best base-stealing team, the Chicago Bandits. The Pride led the league with 60.
Stolen bases are an important part of the offense because so many runs in this sport are generated by getting players from base to base.
The Rebellion did not do well in the NPF draft held in May. They took right-handed pitcher Dallas Escobedo of Arizona State with the first pick and she struggled through a learning-process year. Escobedo finished with a 1-11 record and a 5.83 ERA. The player chosen right after Escobedo by the USSSA Pride, shortstop Madison Shipman from Tennessee, was named Rookie of the Year.
In the fourth round, the Rebellion chose right-handed pitcher Anna Miller from the University of South Carolina-Upstate. She went 0-7 with a 7.00 ERA. With two picks in the fifth and final round, the Rebellion selected catcher Nicole Morgan from Texas A&M, who batted .159 in 15 games, and outfielder Victoria Hayward from Washington, who spent the summer playing for the Canadian National Team.
The Rebellion did hit a home run with catcher Taylor Edwards, a second-round pick from Nebraska who led the team with 13 RBI and batted .241. Third-round selection Bryana Walker got a late start, then took a leave of absence to complete school requirements before settling in with the pitching staff. The University of Washington product showed flashes, finishing with a 1-1 record and a 4.85 ERA.
Except for Sarah Pauly, the pitching staff allowed far too many walks, 133 in 231 innings.
The Rebellion traded their first-round pick in next year’s draft to the Pride for Pauly, second baseman Lauren Lappin and outfielder Nikia Williams. Pauly and Lappin were the team’s two best players and each made the All-NPF Team.
Another trade sent Amanda Kamekona to the Pride for third baseman Jenn Salling. Kamekona led the Pride with eight home runs and 28 RBI while Salling hit .174 with no home runs and six RBI.
Expectations did not meet reality when it came to attendance. Opening night drew 2,943 fans to watch the Pride. Only one other game, a July 26 encounter with the Pride, drew close to that figure at 1,982.
Still, the Rebellion attendance at Consol Energy Park was respectable and showed there is enough interest to support this softball team.
Meanwhile, the NPF had to be shocked by the poor crowds for the championship series, which was held in Hoover, Ala., a neutral site in the heart of SEC softball country. Neither of the two Rebellion games drew 1,000 fans and a crowd of just 1,300 saw the Pride wrap up their second consecutive NPF title.
For the Rebellion to improve, it needs a roster upgrade. Scouring the national team rosters from the United States and Canada would be a good start. Putting a premium on speed and hitting is a must.
How well those needs are addressed in the offseason will determine how competitive the Rebellion will be in 2015.
Assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.