Citizens' Voice Softball All-Star Team
Matt Bufano - Citizens Voice

Jenna Lipowski
School: Nanticoke Area
Year: Junior
Position: Third base
The league’s premier power hitter launched nine home runs on the season. Prior to the start of the D2 playoffs, she was hitting .517 with 31 RBIs in 18 games.

Rachel Roccograndi
School: Nanticoke Area
Year: Senior
Position: Shortstop
Concordia (New York) recruit was an excellent leadoff hitter and four-year starter for the D2 Class AAA semifinalist Trojanettes. Hit well over .300 with four homers.

Kiera Brown
School: Nanticoke Area
Year: Senior
Position: Outfield
A steady presence in the top of Nanticoke Area’s lineup, Brown’s batting average hovered around .500 much of the season. She also hit six doubles.

25 WVC players selected to all-state softball team

After boasting 24 selections last season, the Wyoming Valley Conference had yet another strong showing in this year's Pennsylvania High School Softball Association All-State teams.
Released Tuesday, the PAHSSBCA All-State team features 25 WVC selections across seven teams.
Two-time PIAA Class AA champion Holy Redeemer leads the pack of local schools with seven all-state players.
According to the coordinator of the teams, they were put together with "over 220 high school coaches and 160 sportswriters" as being part of the process.
Seven WVC freshmen were selected, including Redeemer's Tiana Wren, who was one of the league's four first-team players, joining Jenna Lipowski (Nanticoke Area, third base), Celine Podlesney (Hazleton Area, pitcher) and Megan Trivelpiece (Hazleton Area, first base).
The Pennsylvania Player of the Year was Avon Grove pitcher Maggie Balint, who is committed to play at Oregon and eliminated Hazleton Area in the PIAA Class AAAA semifinals en route to a silver-medal finish.
Here's a list of the WVC players who earned all-state honors:
Class AA
Holy Redeemer: Morgan Bienkowski (pitcher, honorable mention); Kristen Coffay (pitcher, honorable mention); Abby Shorts (catcher, honorable mention); Meghan Armstrong (first base, honorable mention); Olivia Mennig (second base, honorable mention); Brittany Hebda (third base, honorable mention); Tiana Wren (outfield, 1st team).
Hanover Area: Haylee Bobos (catcher, honorable mention).
Class AAA
Pittston Area: Taylor Baloga (pitcher/utility, honorable mention); Nina Cencetti (first base, honorable mention); Lexi Felinski (second base, 2nd team); Abbey Bradigan (third base, honorable mention); Mindina Lieback (outfield, honorable mention); Alexa McHugh (outfield, honorable mention).
Tunkhannock: Hope Jones (pitcher, honorable mention); Kailey Reposa (second base, 2nd team); Faith Jones (shortstop, honorable mention); Jena Simmons (outfield, honorable mention); Kendra Schultz (outfield, honorable mention).
Nanticoke Area: Jenna Lipowski (third base, 1st team).
Wyoming Area: Gwen Glatz (pitcher, honorable mention).
Class AAAA
Hazleton Area: Celine Podlesney (pitcher, 1st team); Hope Kinney (catcher, honorable mention); Rebecca Rossi (outfield, 2nd team); Megan Trivelpiece (first base, 1st team).

Home run sparks Abington Heights win over Nanticoke in District 2 Class 3A softball semifinal

One big inning and one reversed call proved to be the difference in Abington Heights’ 5-2 win over Nanticoke Area in a District 2 Class 3A softball semifinal game on Friday afternoon.
Fourth-seeded Nanticoke, the defending district champions, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a RBI groundout from Jenna Lipowski after Rachel Roccograndi led off the game with a single and Kiera Brown drove a double down the left field line. Abington Heights pitcher Paige Harris struck out the next two batters, Miranda Bohn and Cassie Novakowski, to prevent further damage.
Harris struck out six batters in the first three innings and didn’t allow another batter to reach base until Lipowski drew a walk to start the fourth.
Abington Heights’ offense got rolling in the bottom of the third. Cassidy Bartkowski led off the inning with a line drive single up the middle and, after a sacrifice bunt from Alison Kane, Harris drove her in. The next batter, Dominique Emmett, launched a two-run home run over the fence in left-center field to give the Lady Comets a 3-1 lead.
Nanticoke (13-4) appeared to score in the top of the fourth, but the run was disallowed after an appeal.
Lipowski walked to start the inning and Bohn lined a double to left field. It was determined Lipowski failed to touch third base on her scamper home.
“Our baserunner clearly said she touched third base,” Nanticoke Area head coach Ryan Stetz said. “The base was kicked off of its foundation and there were no spike marks at third base. The umpire had the final ruling and, unfortunately, called her out.”
Despite the call going against his team, Stetz didn’t believe it directly impacted the outcome of the contest.
“I’ve said all season that one play isn’t going to make a difference in the game,” he said.
Vanessa Tocket’s RBI single, scored Bohn, who doubled, to cut the Trojanettes deficit to one run going to the bottom of the sixth.
“(Abington Heights) is a very good team and there were times in the game when it could have got away from us, and it didn’t,” Stetz said. “We were still close at the end.”
That’s when Abington Heights added two big insurance runs.
Nina Kozar, Cassie Toth and Bartkowski contributed three consecutive infield singles to start the inning and Kane drove in two runs with a single that was just out of the reach of Novakowski at second base.
“I couldn’t be happier for this group of seniors,” Abington Heights head coach John Kelly said. “They got knocked out early the last couple years and had a goal at the beginning of the season to make the district title game.”
Top-seed Abington Heights (14-1) will play sixth-seeded Pittston Area (12-6) at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1 for the District 2 Class 3A championship.

WVC softball season preview
Matt Bufano - Citizens Voice

Nanticoke Area

Coach: Ryan Stetz

2015 results: 16-6; beat Berwick, 6-1, for the District 2 Class AAA title; lost to Bethlehem Catholic, 5-0, in the state semifinals.

Players to watch: Seniors — Vanessa Tocket, IF/P; Rachel Roccograndi, IF. Juniors — Jenna Lipowski, IF; Cassie Novakowski, IF/C; Leandra Ramos, P/OF; Sarah Benscoter, OF; Morgan Briggs, C/OF; Kiera Brown, OF. Sophomores — Megan Murphy, OF/IF; Miranda Bohn, P/IF.

Outlook: Lipowski (.521 BA, 10 HR, 38 RBIs, .568 OBP in 2015) is one of the WVC’s best power hitters in recent memory. Try pitching around her, and you’ll find this lineup is loaded with other contact and power hitters who can just as easily turn a game into a rout. Pitchers Ramos (RHP) and Bohn (LHP) had a combined 1.81 ERA, too, so the pitching will keep Nanticoke Area in the game almost no matter what. This team, like last year’s squad, could do big things.

The 2015 season was an amazing one for Wyoming Valley Conference softball.
And believe it or not, this season has the potential to be just as special.

The WVC enters the year with three district titles to defend in Classes AA (Holy Redeemer), AAA (Nanticoke Area) and AAAA (Hazleton Area).
Defending state champion Redeemer is back with seven starters from last year’s team, including pitchers Kristen Coffay and Morgan Bienkowski, giving the Royals one of the best 1-2 punches in the state.
Defending state semifinalist Nanticoke Area returns with ample firepower, led by slugging Citizens’ Voice Player of the Year Jenna Lipowski and two-time All-Star pitcher Leandra Ramos. But while the Trojanettes enjoyed major success in the district and state playoffs, they’ll need to overcome Wyoming Area in WVC Division 2. The Warriors won an all-season playoff for the conference crown in nine innings last May.
Circle your calendars for May 18, the last day of the regular season, when the Trojanettes and Warriors meet in a game that may decide the division champ.
Hazleton Area, meanwhile, returns two of its six all-state selections and is one of the most reliable powers in the league. The Cougars have won three consecutive regular-season titles in WVC Division 1.
In all, nine teams won a district playoff contest in 2015. The aforementioned four teams, as well as Berwick and Northwest, won multiple games.
In terms of individual talent, there’s a whopping nine returning Citizens’ Voice All-Stars, so many of the same big-time players from last year are back.
But when it comes to coaching, there are many — seven — new faces: Emily Young at Berwick; Kathy Healey at Hanover Area; Heather Dale at Hazleton Area; Nicole Chipego at Lake-Lehman; Kevin Harvey at Northwest; Bob Hegedty at Tunkhannock; Jessica Ras at Valley West.

WVC - Softball Capsules
Times Leader


Coach: Ryan Stetz, 4th year

PIAA Class: 3A

2015 WVC Record/Finish: 10-5, 2nd Division 2

2015 Postseason: D2-3A playoffs – defeated Lake-Lehman 15-0 in three innings in first round, defeated Pittston Area 2-1 in quarterfinals, defeated Valley View 9-1 in semifinals, defeated Berwick 6-1 in championship game. PIAA 3A playoffs – defeated D3 third seed Twin Valley in first round, defeated D1 runner-up Chichester in quarterfinals, lost 5-0 to D11 champion Bethlehem Catholic in semifinals.

Home Field: K.M. Smith Elementary

Key Players Lost: Madeline O’Donohue, C

Key Players Returning: Rachel Roccograndi, IF, Sr.; Vanessa Tocket, IF, Sr.; Morgan Briggs, C-OF, Jr.; Kiera Brown, OF, Jr.; Jenna Lipowski, IF, Jr.; Cassie Novakowski, OF-C, Jr.; Leandra Ramos, P-OF, Jr.; Miranda Bohn, P-IF, So.; Megan Murphy, OF-IF, So.

Outlook: Times Leader Player of the Year Lipowski, who also earned all-state honors, leads a team that has everything – offense, defense, pitching depth, whatever. No team can match the righty-lefty pitching combo of Ramos and Bohn. Those three and Roccograndi were Division 2 all-stars. About the only thing that can keep the Trojanettes from being a district and state contender would be a rash of unforeseen injuries.

WVC Softball Preview: State runs could be challenging for Holy Redeemer, Nanticoke

The problem with setting — and clearing — the bar high one season is people expect the same the next.
But considering how Holy Redeemer won the PIAA Class 2A championship last year and how Nanticoke came within a game of playing for the 3A crown, nothing is certain entering this season.
The Wyoming Valley Conference season starts Monday, and the focus will be on whether Redeemer can repeat as the state’s best 2A team and whether Nanticoke could take the next step to the 3A state title game.
“The expectations are within the team,” Nanticoke coach Ryan Stetz said. “But at the same time, they want to come out every day and show they belong in the conversation with the best teams in the state.”
Nanticoke nearly didn’t even get in the conversation of the best 3A teams in District 2 last year. The Trojanettes needed to survive a valiant effort by a five-win Pittston Area team for a 2-1 win. They then squeezed out a 6-5 victory over Twin Valley in the first round of the state tournament.
“That’s one of the things that has motivated us, the schedule we did so far,” Stetz said. “And to also train. You can’t rest on anything. As people have probably been telling you, there are great teams up and down this conference and this area.”
Like Nanticoke, Redeemer came close to not making out of the D2-2A playoffs. The Royals edged Lakeland 6-5 in eight innings for the championship. Then came a pair of 3-2 wins in the state tournament against Wellsboro and Delone Catholic, and later, a rally from a 5-2 deficit to defeat Deer Lakes 10-5 for the state title.
“This is a whole new team and a whole new year. That’s how we’re treating it,” Redeemer coach Jerry Paulukonis said. “Last year’s team did last year’s job. Now it’s this team’s job to do their job and get better every game like last year and keep progressing.”

Hazleton Area won the Division 1 title in 2015, but last year’s 13-2 record could have been worse if not for four one-run victories. Pittston Area and Wyoming Valley West are expected to be improved after relying on several underclassmen last year. Same goes for Coughlin, winless last year as plenty of younger players gained experience.
Berwick and Crestwood might be slightly down because of graduation losses. Neither, though, should be counted out.
Division 2 had four of its five teams finish within two games of each other last season. Wyoming Area took the crown with a win over Nanticoke in a special playoff game. Those two teams, along with Dallas and Tunkhannock, are expected to contend for the division. Lake-Lehman appears a year away, but could pull off some surprises.
Division 3 is pretty clear cut. Redeemer has won 36 consecutive divisional games and three straight titles. The Royals are heavily favored with Hanover Area and Northwest next in line. GAR, Meyers, MMI Prep and Wyoming Seminary should battled for fourth place on down.

The coaching ranks were really shaken up in the offseason with seven schools hiring new coaches.
The new coaches are Berwick’s Emily Young, Hanover Area’s Kathy Healey, Hazleton Area’s Heather Dale, Lake-Lehman’s Nicole Chipego, Northwest’s Kevin Harvey, Tunkhannock’s Bob Hegedty and Wyoming Valley West’s Jessica Ras.
Also, Coughlin will no longer be playing home games at The Pit at Plains Township Municipal Park. The Crusaders have moved to the Bog on Dewey Lane and will play at the North Wilkes-Barre Little League field.