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Young Pups: Redbank Valley Softball Team Long on Youth After Losing 10 Seniors to Graduation

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The name across the uniform is the same. The school colors are the same.

Redbank Valley. Red and white.

The bulk of the players wearing them are different, however.

A lot different.

(Redbank Valley freshmen Taylor Ripple, left, and Mackenzie Foringer)

Every high school athletic program experiences turnover, but the Bulldogs’ softball team has taken that to the extreme this season.

Ten seniors graduated from last year’s team. Returning to the softball diamond this season is a grand total of five plate appearances and zero innings pitched.

There are rebuilds, then there is what Redbank is doing.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

“It’s a whole new team,” said freshman shortstop Taylor Ripple.

It’s a new team with promise.

In their season-opener at Karns City Monday, the Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with one of the top teams in District 9. Redbank trailed 4-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning before the Gremlins broke out with a five-run fifth and won it 10-0 on a solo home run by Marra Patton with one out in the bottom of the sixth.

It was a showing that gave first-year coach — yes, even the coach is new — Lee Miller cause for optimism.

“We’re happy, but we still have some stuff we’re gonna work on,” Miller said. “We’re young and we’ll take some lumps, but we’ll learn. It’s all about learning now. We’re hoping we can string enough wins together to make the playoffs.”

Redbank Valley started four freshmen and a sophomore against Karns City. Two seniors — LeighAnn Hetrick and Sam Evans — were in the lineup, along with juniors Payton Polka and Josie Neiswonger.

Only Evans and Polka had plate appearances last season.

But there is a young core already emerging.

Freshman pitcher Mackenzie Foringer did well against a very potent Karns City lineup until the Gremlin bats got to her late.

Foringer throws strikes, mixes up her pitches and spots them well. The Bulldog has, well, a bulldog mentality in the circle.

She took a line drive off her left leg in the fifth inning on a rocket up the middle by Ava Fox, but shook it off and remained in the game.

Foringer shrugged. “I just had to suck it up,” she said.

The right-hander has been pitching since she first picked up a softball. She puts the work in, too, attending clinics and camps to improve her skills.

Foringer is also rarely satisfied.

“I thought I did pretty well against that lineup,” Foringer said. “But I could have done better. I’m just trying to get better so we can win some games. I got the first-game jitters out of the way.”

So did Ripple, who made a trio of highlight-reel plays at shortstop for Redbank against Karns City.

“This is only my second year playing shortstop, so I’m still learning,” said Ripple, who showed off her exceptional range. “I’m just trying to keep improving.”

That’s the mantra for Redbank Valley this season.

Keep improving.

Early on, at least, success may not be measured in wins and losses.

Redbank is also tackling the notion from outside the school that the Bulldogs will be pushovers this season.

Not so fast. That has served as a motivation for this young team.

“I think we could surprise some people,” Foringer said. “I think by the end of the season we could be pretty good.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.