Ridgway Little League Softball started 30 years ago

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

Thirty years ago today Jen Foringer of Ben Rossi Jewelers Major League team stepped to the plate against Heather Williams of Alpine Pressed Metal in the very first Ridgway Little League softball game. Alpine won that first contest 12-11 and the season was underway.

Karpinski’s Logging defeated McKay Printing by the same score following the opener. Both games were played under the newly installed lights at the Major League Field. The next evening (July 10) the four Minor League teams began their season with games between Bestway and the Firemen team and the K of C against the VFW.

Before the 1990 season girls had played baseball with the boys. Ed Porcaro who was the local little league’s President from 1990 through 1992 helped spearhead the effort to create the league which has allowed countless girls to play the sport locally.

Porcaro began coaching tee-ball when his son Nick turned six. He then coached minor league team Fairview Coal for a couple of years. At that time he noticed that while many girls had participated in tee-ball the numbers dipped as the kids hit the minor league level. “Back then there was no such thing as coach-pitch. The girls were batting against boys, some who threw pretty hard for nine-year-olds. I think back in those days the boys ate and slept baseball,” he said.

When his son turned 10 and moved up to the Majors Porcaro stepped away from coaching for a bit. “At the 10-12-year-old level, I realized we were down to three girls playing. The boys were getting bigger and stronger and the pitchers were throwing baseballs even harder. It was then I thought we needed softball for the girls. My daughter Natalie was in tee-ball at the time and I liked the prospect of her continuing in Little League if she wanted,” he said.

Porcaro who came back to manage his son’s Ridgway Senior team to the 1994 Pennsylvania Little League Championship credited many folks with getting the softball league off the ground.

While not wanting to miss anyone Porcaro opted not to try to name all those that were involved in getting the inaugural season underway. “Thirty years is a long time ago,” he said. “One name I do want to mention is Denny McMahon. Denny was the past President and very involved. He was a stalwart in the Ridgway Little League for many years. Back then we had a Vice-President for each of the four leagues and they made up the Board of Directors along with the League President, Past President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer,” he added.

According to the Feb. 20, 1990 edition of the Ridgway Record, the board unanimously approved the start of the softball program on Feb. 15. “It was something we could see as helping the program grow and involving ourselves on a different level. Expansion is good and expansion into girls’ softball is particularly exciting because it opens up an entirely new direction for Little League,” Porcaro is quoted in the article.

Before the approval, a survey to gauge interest in adding softball locally was circulated and came back as “more of a mandate,” with all the interest it garnished according to Porcaro. The board was impressed that nearly 80 girls had responded paving the way for the unanimous approval.

Mary Williams, whose daughter threw the first softball pitch, was selected as the league’s Vice-President. She was present for the first sign-ups at the Second Ward Fire Hall for girls ages 8-15 on Feb. 25. The first tryouts were held May 20 (required for girls 13-15) at the Little League field on Grant Road.

The softball leagues had hoped to begin to play in June but had to be pushed to July 9 due to a lack of fields. According to Porcaro between tee-ball, Minor League, Major League, and Senior League (baseball), there were already 24 teams and only three fields leading to the July start. “When the league did begin it started with a bang. The field and stands around the field were packed with spectators,” he said pointing out that nearly 100 girls were involved in the first season.

The board realized with so many girls playing a field for softball was needed. With the help of many volunteer workers, a softball facility became reality in 1992.

Porcaro credited those who coached that first season for the league’s continued success. Again not wanting to miss any names he opted not to single any out but stressed how important they were. “The truth is the coaches of those softball teams were a group of dedicated people who did the leg work and put forth the effort needed to make the program work. They can be justifiably proud because they jump-started a girls softball program 30 years ago and since then about one-thousand girls have enjoyed Ridgway softball. [That’s] pretty good stuff,” he said.

While Ridgway now co-ops with Johnsonburg for high school softball as the Ramettes Porcaro felt the Little League program was a great feeder for the school. “Brenda Miller was one of the first coaches if not the first. She coached for many years. The fact we had started the Little League program was a big boost for the high school program. She [acknowledged] how important it was,” he said acknowledging that he had the privilege of helping her for a "few" seasons.

The majority of area Little Leagues including Ridgway, Johnsonburg, and Kane made the tough decision to cancel this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Porcaro and the Elk County Historical Society provided several copies of write-ups and pictures used for this story and to compile a list of team rosters (various spellings of names were listed in the articles and all players may not be listed).

1990 Major League Rosters

Ben Rossi Jewelers – Champions - 8-3 record – defeated Alpine 35-9 to clinch the title – roster: Wanda Foringer (Manager), Ron Foringer (coach), Beth Wygant, Cheri Zameroski, Jen Olay, Crystal Young, Angela Williamson, Dawn Piurkoski, Jen Foringer, Annie Klawuhn, Julie Hampton, Cristen Steger, Lynette Gardner.

Alpine Pressed Metals: Mary Williams (Manager), Erin Skelly, Trisha Viglioni, Carey Miller, Crista Miller, Judi Prechtl, Lisa Geyer, Steph VanDerlin, Elise Anderson, Heather Williams, Stacy Rhodes.

McKay Printing: Aletha McKay, Rona Hudsick, Nicki Huggler, Tonya Huggler, Heidi Park, Carrie Costion, Jolene Leahy, Jen Huber, Crystal Carlson, Christine Kasmierski, Robyn Scraba, Michelle Viglione.

Karpinski Logging: Tammy Zawatski, Julie Marshall, Trisha Rickard, Kerrie Lewis, Angela Benasutti, Jodie Gausman, Shelley Weaver, Carey Shilk, Amy Decker, Carrie Rakieski, Gerri Dorley.

1990 Minor League Rosters

K of C: Raina White, Kayleen Ford, Emily Lupino, Rachael Fiscus, Amber Gorske, Samantha Stahl, Laurie Fernan, Rayna McCartney, Nicole Renaud, Denna Lindberg.

Bestway: Rachel King, Lindsay DiPanfilis, Katie Powers, Cindy Smith, Amy Geyer, Leanna Hampton, Amanda Reiter, Stacy Reiter, Tiffany Miller, Cindy Stafford, Kathy Bloom, Jackie Home, Gail Meister, Karen Bloom.

Firemen: Jessica Thorwart, Deanna Stephanic, Julie Brigger, Susie Bower, Nicki Herzing, Rachel Tettis, Judy Mitchel, Melody Elmquist, Janet Leahy, Suzie Bowes, Elizabeth Azzato, Misty Jo Peters, Cherry Mitcheltree.

VFW: Jennifer Baumgratz, Becky Dush, Katie Friedl, Leslie Davido, Rochelle Luchs, Jackie Amacher, Billie Jo Goodreau, Korin Gardner, Tara Carr, Kristen Rusciolelli, Katie Eagan, Darcy Donahue, Leslie Davido.