FALLS TWP. – A pair of Pennsbury High School softball players are taking their games to the next level. They are Lady Falcon battery-mates Alyssa Hileman, Pennsbury’s pitcher, and Arden Rabiger, the team’s catcher.
Both seniors, Hileman is headed to the University of Pittsburgh, an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) rival, and Rabiger is going to Penn State-Brandywine. The pair made their college intentions known in a ceremony held Nov. 16 at the PHS West campus.
While Hileman committed to the Panthers the summer between sophomore and junior seasons and signed her letter Nov. 8, she also considered Bryant and West Chester universities. Pitt just suits her better, said Hileman.
“The nursing program is nationally-ranked and I like a smaller campus,” said Alyssa.
After missing her sophomore season with a shoulder injury, Hileman came back with 11 wins last year, a performance that helped the Lady Falcons into districts after their first season in many years in which they did not make the playoffs.
“After we didn’t make the playoffs, everybody started doubting us and talking about how the program isn’t what it used to be,” said Hileman.
“I’m proud of everyone for working their way back up and not doubting ourselves.
“And it was nice seeing all our hard work pay off.”
The coaching staff of Frank McSherry, Jamie Parell and company deserve credit, she says.
“They’ve always been very good with us one-on one,” said Hileman. “They’ve always wanted to see each individual strive. They’ve worked with me for three years now and they’ve always had my best interests in mind.
Alyssa plays summer travel ball for the New Jersey Outlaws. A mind-boggling stat regarding her junior year in high school was the fact that she walked just one batter all season long.
A four-year varsity catcher, Rabiger shows plenty of power at the plate. Batting .344 last year as a junior, six of her 11 hits were for extra bases including two home runs.
Arden also considered Cabrini, LaSalle and Monmouth but felt more at home with the Nittany Lions.
“I like the atmosphere at Penn State,” said Rabiger. “I felt like it could be my home for the next four years and that it can offer me a lot once I leave college.”
According to Arden, when Pennsbury failed to make playoffs her sophomore season, it turned a few heads in the Levittown softball community.
“It was definitely shocking,” she said. “Even though we lost in the first round freshman year, we thought we could come back sophomore year ready to go.
“It was a little upsetting. Hopefully this year, we’ll get back there and go even farther.
In addition to helping her with her skills, Rabiger says the Falcon coaches have helped her develop other aspects of her game.
“The program here helped me grow as a person,” she said. “They helped me work harder with other girls. They made me see that teamwork is the only way that things get done.
“They helped me form friendships that will last me a long time.
Rabiger likes the job that McSherry does with Pennsbury softball.
“He’s definitely on the spot with those things but that’s just what a coach does,” she says. “I think he does a really good job helping us out and helping us achieve the highest goal that we possibly can.”
Seeded 14th in a 20-team field in districts, Pennsbury was ousted in the first round by 19th-seeded Pennridge. Going into the 2018 campaign, the Falcons will have to find a way to replace the talent lost by departing players Bailee Zaccaro, Mia Pitt, Anna Downs and Jenn Brady.
Pennsbury has players ready to step up, however.
Middle infielder Sydney Jacimowicz saw plenty of time at short when Zaccaro went down with an injury.
Junior Sierra Daley is quite capable anywhere in the infield or behind the plate, taking second team All-SOL National Conference honors last season at second base.
Classmate Allison Rose hit for both average and power, either filling in for Pitt at third base or Rabiger behind the plate.
With Hileman and Rabiger calling the pitches, the Falcons should do just fine.
NOTES: PSU-Brandywine finished in fourth place at the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) Softball World Series for the second consecutive season and closed out the 2017 campaign with an overall record of 23-15. Pitt concluded its 2017 campaign with a 24-23 overall record and a 7-17 mark in ACC play.