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Spirit of Sport Softball Team Wins Pennsylvania State Title

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The month of June 2011 most likely will never be forgotten by the New Kensington (Pennsylvania) Valley High School softball team and everyone associated with it.

First of all, on June 17, the Vikings won their first-ever state softball title when they defeated Manheim Central, 3-1, for the 2011 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class AAA championship.

That pivotal contest was played at Penn State University’s Beard Field at the Nittany Lion Softball Park in State College, Pennsylvania. It also marked the first state title for Valley High School in any sport since the boys basketball team won the 1979 PIAA state title.

Just 12 days later on June 29 some 153 miles to the east, the Valley High School softball team, along with umpire Bill Dithrich, will be conferred the 2011 National High School Spirit of Sport Award.

That award will be presented at the Opening General Session of the 92nd Annual NFHS Summer Meeting, which will be held in Franklin Hall B in the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown hotel.

The Valley High School softball team and Dithrich are being honored for what occurred during the 2010 PIAA softball playoffs and afterward.

In one of last year’s PIAA Class AA quarterfinal games, Dithrich was the umpire who made a catcher’s balk call that resulted in the winning run being scored in Valley High School’s 5-4 loss to Wilmington.

In an interesting twist, the Valley High School Booster Club subsequently invited Dithrich to be the guest speaker at the year-end athletic banquet. There, Dithrich spoke about the great sportsmanship exhibited by the Valley High School softball team and the life lessons learned by all.

And in yet another interesting twist, Dithrich was present in the stands June 17 to witness Valley High School winning the 2011 state title.

Caitlin Nealer, who pitched the 2010 quarterfinal game, was dominant in this year’s title game, as she tossed a one-hitter, had 10 strikeouts, and walked just one batter.

Following the game, the softball team members and coaching staff arrived back in New Kensington late that night, where they were greeted by approximately 40 fire trucks, ambulances and cars that escorted them through town. In addition, a huge crowd waited for them at the high school to help the Vikings celebrate their state championship.

 

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