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9-year-old boy who caught McCutchen’s 300th HR reveals significant milestones of his own
9-year-old boy who caught McCutchen’s 300th HR reveals significant milestones of his own
By Aidan Kasner, Senior Staff Writer • 7:31 pm

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9-year-old boy who caught McCutchen’s 300th HR reveals significant milestones of his own
9-year-old boy who caught McCutchen’s 300th HR reveals significant milestones of his own
By Aidan Kasner, Senior Staff Writer • 7:31 pm

Pitt softball looks to finally break through in 2024 under new head coach

The+Pitt+softball+team+celebrates+a+run+during+a+game+against+UVA+at+Vartabedian+Field+on+March+26%2C+2023.+
Nate Yonamine | Assistant Visual Editor
The Pitt softball team celebrates a run during a game against UVA at Vartabedian Field on March 26, 2023.

After an underwhelming 2023 campaign, Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke decided Pitt softball needed significant changes. As a result, former head coach Jodi Hermanek was relieved of her duties.

During Hermanek’s five seasons as head coach, the Panthers went 29-82 in conference play and 76-134 overall. Despite winning 10 more games than the previous season, the 2023 Panthers failed to earn a winning record or qualify for the ACC tournament.

“We wish Jodi the very best in her future pursuit,” Lyke said in a press release. “We will conduct the search for our next head coach immediately, and I expect the opportunity to attract national 

interest.”

The Panthers finally found their new coach in June 2023 and hired NFCA Hall of Famer Jenny Allard. 

Allard had a legendary coaching career as head coach of Harvard. Under her command, the Crimson had nine Ivy League titles, eight NCAA tournament appearances and seven Ivy League Player of the Year wins.

The former Harvard head coach brings a wealth of experience to Pitt with a 658-518-4 record as a head coach. In 2023 alone, Allard coached Harvard to an NCAA tournament berth, Ivy League Tournament title and a 29-17-1 overall record.

Allard’s impeccable resumé gives Panther fans reason for optimism, signaling a resounding commitment to Pitt women’s softball. Hiring a head coach of Allard’s caliber demonstrates Lyke and company’s willingness to provide the resources necessary to win championships.

“We are thrilled that Jenny Allard will be our next head softball coach at Pitt,” Lyke said. “Not only is she an extraordinary teacher of the game, but her proven championship experiences, work ethic, persistence, confidence and passion for developing young people are evident based on her Hall of Fame career thus far. We are excited to support Coach Allard in this opportunity to build Pitt softball into an ACC and National Championship-caliber program.” 

Allard and Lyke had already known each other for several years before the hiring process. The two became teammates as Michigan softball players, where they gained a mutual respect for each other’s intelligence and leadership abilities. Allard’s previous connections with Lyke made the Panther’s job much more appealing. 

“She’s extremely bright,” Allard said. “There’s another level to her intelligence. She can zoom out, see the whole picture to figure out how to take on different challenges. As a teammate, she got people on board. She’s doing the same thing at Pitt.”

In her introductory press conferences, Allard referenced needing players with the same level of dedication as herself and Lyke.

“I don’t want to tell you to buy in,” Allard said. “It’s about ownership. This is your program. I won’t get you to buy in on how I do things, but to own how we will do things to get better together. For instance, I heard they didn’t do much conditioning last year. Sorry, but we’re going to be in better shape. You’re going to be accountable. This is the standard, and we need to own this.”

Allard named three captains, as leaders on and off the field, to build the foundation of the Panthers’ new winning culture. She selected senior infielder Kat Rodriguez, senior outfielder Cami Compson and junior utility player Kylie Griggs as the 2024 captains.

Rodriguez provides a consistent bat in the Panthers lineup. After hitting .307 with 19 RBIs, the Panthers need another stellar season from Rodriguez to steal some ACC wins. Rodriguez also provided the most memorable individual performance of 2023, as she went 6-6 against Georgia Tech, etching her name in the program record book with the most hits in a single game.

Meanwhile, Compson’s experience as a Panther will prove invaluable. Compson made the starting lineup during her first year as a Panther and has made 120 career starts. Despite the allure of the transfer portal, Compson remained committed to Pitt through the coaching change. 

Compson had yet to top her elite 2021 campaign, leading the team with a .325 average as a first-year. Pitt fans can only hope Compson saved her best performances for last, as a return to form would significantly improve the Panther’s lineup.

Griggs’s adaptability will give Allard flexibility when setting the lineups. In 2023, Griggs started multiple games in both left and right field. She is also a highly skilled defensive player, as she recorded 36 putouts and zero errors in 2023.

These returner’s contributions hold the key to the Panthers’ success in 2024. This is especially true considering the graduation of All-ACC players Yvonne Whaley and Sarah Seamans, who batted .439 and .385, respectively.

The Panthers also brought in some talent through the transfer portal. Senior pitcher Olivia Stefanoni, junior pitcher Kyra Pittman, junior infielder Desirae Martinez, sophomore catcher KK Esparza, senior infielder Caroline Deem and sophomore outfielder Alena Ball could prove crucial to Allard’s rebuild.

Despite the optimism around Allard’s hiring, winning in 2024 might prove difficult. However, under Allard’s leadership, fans can expect a hard-working team with no quit. 

“We have to overachieve,” Allard said. “We graduated a lot last year and had some kids hit the transfer portal. We’re trying to piece together what we’ve got and continue to build. We’ll need a lot of grit to steal games, because we’re not as talented as those top teams right now. But we will be.”

Pitt softball opens its 2024 season with a three-game set against Memphis in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The series begins on Feb. 9 and will conclude with a double-header on Feb. 10.

About the Contributor
Alex Porter, Staff Writer