A-K Valley athletes of the week: Freeport's Mady Kirsch, Burrell's Stevie Hasson

May 25—Mady Kirsch

School: Freeport

Class: Sophomore

Sport: Hockey

Report card: Kirsch scored two goals and had an assist to lead the East girls hockey team to a 4-1 win over Northeast in a PIHL girls hockey game Thursday. She has 18 goals and five assists this season for East (5-5). The forward also was recently invited to the USA Hockey 16-17 National Development Camp in mid-July at Miami (Ohio). It will be her third trip to the prestigious camp.

How did the team play against Northeast on Thursday night?

I think we worked a lot better as a team that game. Obviously, it translated to a win. We struggled a little bit the last couple games, but we definitely passed the puck better and took a lot more shots, so it worked out.

How were your goals set up?

The first two we broke it out of the zone and came down on a breakout play. My defense partner Anna (Daniel) passed it up to me through the middle, I went down and scored. Kylie McKenzie passed to me on the first goal.

How has the season gone so far?

We've had some ups and downs, but I think we've have a good chance in the playoffs. I'm excited to see what we can do.

What are your goals for the rest of the season and the playoffs?

Obviously, we want to win games, but to win we have to play better as a team and definitely get more shots generated. That's what we've been struggling with. I think if we start doing that better we'll definitely pull out some wins.

How did it feel to be selected for the National Development Camp?

It feels really great. That's a big goal of mine. It's nice to get selected for it and be able to compete against the best girls from around the country. I'm excited for that.

What goes on at the camp?

Last year, it was around a week long. They do on-ice and off-ice training. You get put into teams. The teams will scrimmage. You do a lot of other fun stuff, like a spikeball tournament, a lot of team bonding activities and getting to know girls from all over the country.

How do you see your future in hockey progressing?

College is definitely the big goal. Division I is the biggest goal for me. This summer we'll see how everything plays out.

How did you get started playing hockey?

I don't really know. Nobody in my family really plays. The story goes that when I was 4 the Pens game was on, and my parents were watching. I pointed at the TV and said I want to do that. That's how it started, and it hasn't stopped.

What's the dynamic like playing with girls from other schools on the same team?

There's a lot of friendly competition cause everybody knows each other from playing on traveling teams. That's one of the funnest parts of the league. You get to see your teammates and play against them. It's a nice competitive aspect and super fun.

Do you have a favorite hockey player to watch?

I've liked Patrick Kane since I was really little. I like Hannah Bilka. She's on the national team and played at Boston College and transferred to Ohio State and won a national championship, so that was cool. She also played for Pens when she was younger.

What's your favorite home-cooked meal?

Anything my mom or dad makes is usually pretty good, so I can't complain.

Who has the best pizza in Freeport?


Where's your favorite summer vacation spot?

Anywhere on the beach with the ocean. I love the beach.

What's something people might not know about you?

I have dog named Scooby.

Stevie Hasson

School: Burrell

Class: Junior

Sport: Baseball

Report card: Hasson was lights-out for the Bucs in their WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal victory over Neshannock last Monday at Seneca Valley. He tossed seven shutout innings and allowed just two hits as the No. 14 seed defeated the No. 11 Lancers, 1-0. Hasson struck out six and walked three. The win also clinched a spot in the PIAA playoffs. Hasson's performance came on the heels of his outing in Burrell's 6-2 upset of Mt. Pleasant in the first round where he fired six scoreless innings and scattered three hits. Hasson is 6-3 with a 2.59 ERA.

What worked so well for you on the mound against Neshannock?

My breaking ball was working for me, getting them off balance. Mixing my pitches was what did it.

How nice was it to see the whole team perform well to get that big win?

We all played as a team, and it felt like a great team win. That is what was needed to beat a team like Neshannock.

Did you feel the pressure as the game went on as it showed to be a pitcher's duel?

There definitely was more pressure. In the sixth, when the bases were loaded, to get out of that was huge to be able to keep my team up 1-0.

Was the Neshannock game the best you've pitched this season?

Two games come to my mind. Of course, Neshannock was for how big it was with all the pressure of the playoffs and how I was able to throw strikes and do my thing. The other was the Freeort game at the beginning of the season. I was able to go all the way in that one and only gave up two hits. It was really similar to the Neshannock game.

Do you relish the opportunity to be given the ball in these big games?

Every time I go out there, I try to do the best job that I can and help put my team in the best position to win. I have that confidence that I will be the best pitcher in the game, and I can trust my defense behind me to make all of the plays.

The win over Neshannock clinched a spot at states. How special is that feeling to represent the Alle-Kiski Valley at the PIAA tournament?

It's awesome. It's been a good run for this team this year. We've had our ups and downs. We didn't start out the way we wanted, but to come back in the section was amazing. To make it to states feels unbelievable.

Was there a lot of confidence that this team could get this far?

We've all been playing together since coach-pitch and T-ball, and we have that chemistry. We knew we could be a really good team and make something like this happen. We've all been invested in this team. I knew we could do it.

Despite the semifinal loss to Avonworth on Tuesday, was there a lot of energy Thursday when you got back to practice and began preparation for the consolation game with South Allegheny?

When we got to practice, the first thing coach (Jay) Miller said, 'Did we all think we would be practicing now?' We came out and were able to put that loss behind us. It didn't go our way, but we played hard right to the end. We got out there at practice and continued to work.

What is it like to say you're playing postseason baseball in June with the start of the state playoffs?

(The seniors) graduate on June 6, so we could be playing that day. We hppe the seniors get to play after they graduate, too. We want to make a run. We're excited to know that we are one of a small group of teams left out of everyone in 3A.

Why is Burrell where it is, positioned to possibly make a run in the state playoffs?

Hard work. That is all I can really say. We've been working since the fall and winter to be ready for these games. Pitching, hitting, fielding, all of that. The way we've prepared for anything and everything. We had it in our heads that we were going to make a run, and that's exactly what we did. And we're not done.

How did the section and other games in the regular season help you when you got to the playoffs?

We were battle-tested. There are some really good teams in the section with Valley, Freeport and East Allegheny. They all have good pitching and good hitters. Seeing that helped us tremendously.

Who are the toughest hitters you've faced this season?

Nik Heakins from Valley. He takes good pitches. I throw junk, and he doesn't bite. He has good vision. Ryan Cochran from Deer Lakes is a really good power hitter. I had to keep it really low on him. A couple guys from EA had good two-strike approaches. They were getting me deep in counts and making me throw a lot of pitches.

Have you always been a pitcher since you started playing baseball?

I've been pitching since I was 6 or 7 after coach-pitch. I always threw harder than anyone else, and I threw strikes. That really helped me. I just grew each year from there.

Are you getting more college looks now with your strong junior season this spring?

After my first playoff game (Mt. Pleasant), I had Saint Vincent reach out. My one teammates (A.J. McLafferty) is committed there. Westmoreland County Community College and Penn State New Ken have also shown interest. It's exciting to possible play in college.

What do you think of all the hype and excitement of Pirates No. 1 draft pick Paul Skenes now that he is in the Major Leagues?

He's a money-making machine for the Pirates right now. He's selling out the stadium. It's awesome for the Pirates to have someone like him create so much excitement. He's pitching lights-out. His speed and movement with the baseball is incredible. I 100% want to get to a game soon and see him pitch. I want to sit behind the plate.

Are you following the college baseball playoffs or any other playoffs?

I don't really watch college baseball. I like the NBA and hockey. I like the Minnesota Timberwolves. I've followed them all my life, honestly. It's been the team I've always gone with. They hadn't been too good the past couple of years, but I just stuck with them. It's great to see this team be good again with players like Anthony Edwards. Some people have compared him to Michael Jordan.

Do you have a nickname?

Steve-O, but I really don't know where that came from. Maybe from the Steve-O guy on that (MTV) Jackass TV show. Maybe that's what it was inspired from, I don't know.

What is something people might not know about you?

I can sing decently. I like to sing anything. I can sing opera if I needed to. My mom told me I could sing. I joined the choir for a little bit. I also like to ride dirt bikes. I never thought of competing. I just ride around with my friends. I have a camp, and I go down there and rip around for the weekend. It's a lot of fun. I've been riding for 12 years.