Mars softball back on right path again
Nunis-Westcott turns around youth program
Eagle Staff Writer
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July 12, 2017
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Less than two years after the program nearly went under, the Mars Fastpitch Softball Association fielded a pair of 10-under teams for the recently concluded spring season. Both teams turned in successful campaigns, winning a combined four playoff games at the Greater Pittsburgh Softball League tournament. Some members of both teams came together for a picture. They include, front row from left: Eden Brennan, Caroline Craska, Addison Dorsay, Paige Lauten, Maddie Mroz, Alexis Fowler, London Ayers; middle row: Alaina Ohr, Madalyn Tourigny, Cadence Richey, Laura Craska, Stephanie Esswein, Sofia Soltis, Lauren Arney, Alexa Schlegel, Hannah Kelley, Ella Nicotra and Amelia Queen; back row: assistant coaches Jessica Ohr, John Soltis, Scott Westcott, head coach Debbie Nunis-Westcott, head coach Matt Kelley and assistant coach Bill Schlegel.

ADAMS TWP — Youth softball has experienced quite a transformation in Mars.

In the fall of 2015, the Mars Fastpitch Softball Association’s 10-under squad was in trouble at mid-season.

“The head coach at the time was only playing the best players,” said Debbie Nunis-Westcott, current president and coach. “It was a (recreational) league and everybody was supposed to get equal playing time. Some of the parents confronted the coach about that and he left the team, taking the top six players with him to a nearby traveling team.”

Westcott’s daughter was one of the ten 8- and 9-year old players who remained, but they had no coach. That’s when Westcott stepped in.

“A lot of the parents did not know much about softball,” said Westcott, who played collegiately and competed in a semi-pro league in Germany in 2005. “My husband, Scott Westcott, Steve Esswein and myself, we all pitched in. I became the head coach and just did what I could to finish the season.

“During the offseason, I found out that a lot of the board members were going to be moving on because their kids were getting older. That’s when I took over the program, including as president.”

Without Westcott’s actions, the remaining Mars players would have had to move to another team in another town.

“I remember what my coaches did for me when I was a kid and I just wanted to give back,” she said.

Mars struggled in 2016, losing all of its games in the spring before finally winning a game in the fall. Westcott set up a softball clinic, which was scheduled every Saturday for eight weeks last winter.

“Some girls are intimidated moving from slowpitch to fastpitch,” said Westcott. “I wanted to get them out to introduce them to the next level.

“I was trying to do something to grow the program and I was shocked at the turnout. We got 30 girls, which was the most we could have. We ended up having enough girls this spring to field two teams, both with 11 players.”

Westcott and Matt Kelley were the head coaches.

Both squads competed in the recent Greater Pittsburgh Softball League playoff tournament in Millvale and defeated two opponents before losing to teams from Ingomar.

It was an important step for a program that was on the verge of being defunct less than two years ago.

“The girls have really grown as players since I first came on board,” said Westcott. “They came back this season and wanted to win. It’s like a switch went off in them and they became better all-around players.”

While coming out on top on the scoreboard is the goal, Westcott stresses to her players that it’s not the most important thing.

“Youth sports have become so tainted. Some coaches are out to win, win, win, no matter the cost,” Westcott said. “There’s much more involved here than softball. There are life lessons the girls can utilize as they get older.”