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BREAK THROUGH: Mastillo, North Pocono hoping this is their year

Each of her first three seasons, Kylie Mastillo has gotten close, only to see North Pocono lose in the District 2 softball semifinals.

As a freshman, the Lady Trojans lost to Abington Heights, 11-5. Her sophomore year, they fell in eight innings to West Scranton, 3-2. Last year as a junior, they lost to Valley View, 6-5.

“Every year, you’re like, ‘This year’s the year because last year wasn’t,’ ” Mastillo said. “You keep hitting a wall, hitting a wall, hitting a wall and you want to be able to break through the wall. So it’s frustrating.

“But it’s also motivating at the same time. You want this year to be the year you break through that wall.”

Now a senior, this is Mastillo’s final chance to break through that wall. It also could be North Pocono’s best opportunity.

The District 2 Championships get under way this week. Finals in Class 2A, 5A and 6A are scheduled for May 28, while Class 1A, 3A and 4A set for May 29.

Five of the defending champions are from the Lackawanna League: Abington Heights in Class 5A; Valley View in Class 4A; Mid Valley in Class 3A; Elk Lake in Class 2A; and Old Forge in Class 1A. Of course, Mid Valley went on to capture the PIAA Class 3A title.

North Pocono (15-5) is the No. 3 seed in this year’s Class 4A field that includes top seeded Valley View and No. 2 Tunkhannock. The Lady Trojans boast a young roster; Mastillo and Alexia Charles are the lone seniors who play. A third, Kaylee Whiteford, is injured and hasn’t played this season.

“From the get-go, one of the things we knew had to happen was bringing up five freshmen,” North Pocono coach Joe Miraglia said. “Between the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and two seniors, I was hoping that somehow they’d figure out a way to play together. As game went by, we got better. The freshmen settled in, they started gelling together and we started hitting on all cylinders.”

For evidence: in its last nine games, North Pocono is 8-1, including an impressive 2-1, eight-inning win over Pittston Area and standout pitcher Gianna Adams.

“That was huge,” Mastillo said. “It gave us confidence that we can hit off fantastic pitching. It also showed us wew have a better team dynamic than we thought. We picked each other up through that game and that’s what matters. we stayed together, worked hard and dug deep to win the game.”

Miraglia calls Mastillo and Charles his “Super Seniors.”

“Alexia made a phenomenal catch in center field against Pittston Area,” Miraglia said. “Bases loaded, two outs. We were at Schautz Stadium where there is no fence. There’s a shot in the gap and she runs it down and makes a phenomenal over-the shoulder catch. Then she comes in, steals second and scores the winning run.”

For her part, Mastillo is batting .596 (34 for 57), which led Lackawanna Division I. She also ranked in the top five in the division in RBIs (23, fourth), runs (29, third) doubles (9, second) and home runs (7, fourth).

Being more disciplined at the plate, Miraglia believes, is the reason for Mastillo’s offensive success.

“She’s learned how to be patient, sit back and not reach,” Miraglia said. “She has become a hitter this year.”

Mastillo agrees with her coach, but also feels a move to the leadoff spot has helped her offensively.

“I’m trying to be more disciplined and help my teammates out,” she said. “I’m trying to work the pitcher as long as I can without striking out to see what she can throw.”

With so many younger players on the team, Mastillo has also tried to be a leader.

“I try to be motivational,” Mastillo said. “I’ve gone through it. So if someone makes an error, I give them a pat on the back and say, ‘That’s OK. Errors are part of the game.’ It’s a learning curve. So I just try to tell them what I can and what I know and help them out as much as possible. But also motivate them to be better.”

Because his seniors know this is their last shot, Miraglia said they’re hungry. They want it and their attitude is rubbing off on the rest of the team.

“Now is the time,” Miraglia said. “This is where you want to peak going into the playoffs. We are playing out best softball right now.”