Not many WPIAL schools have enjoyed more athletic success than Avonworth has in recent years, and the Antelopes softball team is leading the charge.
Fresh off claiming WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A titles in 2022, the Lopes have come storming out of the gates in 2023 with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. That’s because they graduated only two seniors from last year’s championship team, and there aren’t any seniors on the team this year. So while Avonworth (5-0) has all the makings of a championship contender once again this spring, this could be only the beginning of a lengthy stay at the top of the food chain in Class 3A.
“I think it’s a real testament to them that they’re able to keep focused on each and every game,” Lopes coach Jenna Muncie said. “You can’t win a championship in one day.”
Avonworth won each of its seven postseason games last year by at least three runs, and the Lopes have yet to face much of a challenge this season, either, despite facing some tough competition to start the season in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They started the season with an 11-0 win against West Greene, followed up by a pair of wins against Souderton by scores of 5-3 and 9-1, then wrapped up the trip with back-to-back shutout wins against Arcadia (Va.) and Mayfield (Ohio).
“It’s freezing here. We liked being in Myrtle Beach better,” Muncie said with a laugh.
It all starts with junior pitcher Alivia Lantzy, who was already stellar as a sophomore but seems to be playing in another stratosphere so far this year. Through the first five games of the season, Lantzy is 5-0 with an 0.60 ERA and 0.67 WHIP, striking out 53 batters and allowing 20 hits with zero walks in 30 innings pitched.
“It will be shocking when she walks somebody,” Muncie said. “I think she’s one of the best, if not the best [in the WPIAL]. I’m so incredibly impressed by the growth she’s made in the last year. She’s so poised and collected all the time. That’s really hard to do when you’re pitching in games of such magnitude.
“So if everybody thought she was good last year, look out.”
Lantzy earned all-state honors last season after finishing 18-4 with a 1.48 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 200 strikeouts and 38 walks in 138 innings. In the postseason, she turned her game up a notch, tossing a complete game with eight strikeouts while allowing one run on four hits in Avonworth’s 8-1 WPIAL championship win against Deer Lakes. She then allowed two runs on three hits with nine strikeouts in another complete-game effort in a 7-2 win in the PIAA final against Lewisburg.
And make no mistake about it — Lantzy can hit, too. After batting .339 with 13 extra-base hits and 12 RBIs a year ago, she is currently batting .438 with 2 doubles, a triple, a home run, 6 RBIs and 10 runs scored. Just don’t ask her to rank herself among the WPIAL’s best.
“I don’t like to think of it in that type of way, like, ‘Oh, I’m up there with others,'” Lantzy said. “When I was younger, I really never pitched. … If you’re younger, when you [pitch] fast, you pitch. I played more in the infield and outfield, but as I got older, I got better.”
So without being a pitcher in her early years, how did Lantzy manage to add so much speed and spin to her pitches in high school? Good-old fashioned hard work, of course.
“Just working harder, lifting,” Lantzy said. “Even running, getting my core tighter, because I think that’s a big part of pitching.”
Another key to the team’s success is Lantzy’s trusted battery mate, junior all-section catcher Rylee Gray. She is batting .579 with 2 home runs and 9 RBIs, while junior center fielder Layne Shinsky is batting .583 to lead the team. Along with Lantzy and Gray, junior right fielder Leah Kuban and sophomore shortstop Sydney Savatt give Avonworth four all-section returnees across the lineup, and both are batting .389 so far. Kuban also has produced a team-high 10 RBIs while Savatt has eight runs scored.
“They’re a cool group, I will say that. They’re close. They’re very funny with each other, they’re very supportive of each other,” Muncie said. “You can have teams that win it and get comfortable, and this group wasn’t. They were working on it on their own, and I think that’s huge.
“They know the feeling from last year. They know what it looked like and felt like, and I think they want to do that again.”
Few would have expected North Hills to be in the mix of top teams in Class 5A after losing so much talent a year ago — let alone for the Indians to be undefeated five games into the season.
Coach Libby Gasior is as surprised as anybody at the way her young team has proven itself early on, but she certainly isn’t complaining.
“I would never expect to be undefeated, but I did expect that it was going to be a very different team,” Gasior said. “I knew that we had a good bit of talent, in a very different way. … It’s a very team-friendly vibe, which is welcome.”
After starting the season with a dramatic 14-13 win against Gallatin (Tenn.) at the Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., North Hills (5-0) has shut down four consecutive foes by a combined score of 53-11 — and sophomore starting pitcher Alexa Edmunds has played a major part in the Indians’ success.
Stepping in for acclaimed pitcher Sophia Roncone, now a freshman at Holy Cross, Edmunds is proving to be a worthy successor with a 4-0 record to go with 22 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched. She is also batting .583 with 2 doubles, 2 homers and 5 RBIs.
“She has settled in,” Gasior said. “She has definitely calmed down and is definitely starting to improve on what we need her to improve on.”
All-state third baseman Hanna Murphy and fellow senior second baseman Brenna Westwood are the team’s unquestioned leaders, and both are making a big impact on and off the field for North Hills. Murphy is batting .647 with 2 doubles, 2 home runs and 12 RBIs, while Westwood is hitting .565 with five doubles. Sophomore first baseman Addy Wrigley also appears primed for a big year, batting .583 with 3 doubles, a triple, 2 home runs and 16 RBIs.
“[Wrigley’s] bat has been awesome,” Gasior said. “She’s a great addition into the mix.”
With Beaver losing two-way phenom Payton List to graduation, many are pointing at the Warriors as the team to beat in Class 4A going into the season — and so far, they aren’t giving anyone any reason not to.
Starting the season at the KSA SunSational Spring Training tournament in Orlando, Fla., Elizabeth Forward (4-0) returned home with its perfect record intact after taking out Philips Exeter Academy (N.H.), Hopkins School (Conn.) and Preble (Wis.). The first two wins came via mercy-rule scores of 16-1 and 15-0, while the Warriors had to battle to beat Preble — the largest high school in Green Bay — by a score of 1-0. They then returned home to defeat Laurel Highlands, 8-2, on Tuesday.
Junior pitcher Shelby Telegdy is one of the top two-way players around, and she’s wasting little time proving it this spring. Telegdy already has a pair of no-hitters, including one in the 1-0 win against Preble. She sports a 4-0 record with an 0.39 ERA and 0.61 WHIP to go with 35 strikeouts and only three walks in 18 innings pitched.
At the plate, Telegdy leads the team with a .692 batting average and five doubles, while freshman shortstop Julia Resnik is batting .643 with 2 doubles, 3 triples and a team-high 9 RBIs. All-section senior outfielder Lauren Vay is also off to a strong start, hitting .545 with 2 doubles and 2 triples.