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Laubach leads Freedom softball to impactful 1st conference title

Lehigh Valley High School Softball Showcase Championship: Parkland vs. Freedom

Freedom's Brenna Ortwein (3) and coach Michele Laubach during the change of innings in game against Parkland during the Lehigh Valley High School Softball Showcase Championship on July 16, 2020.Hannah Buss | contributor

In Freedom High School’s long history of softball, the Patriots never reached a conference title game.

Not only did Freedom advance to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference championship game, but the Patriots did one better this season.

Freedom rolled to a 10-0 victory over Northampton on May 20 for its first conference title in program history.

Coach Michele Laubach understands the impact of the championship.

“This was very important for our softball players, the program, Freedom High School, and our BASD community as well as all the young softball players who are future Pates,” Laubach said. “We do free fall softball clinics at all our elementary schools and these league champs will be there this fall helping teach the next generation a game they love. That’s what this is all about.”

For her ability to guide the Patriots to program history, Laubach is the 2021 Softball Coach of the Year.

“There were many special moments, but top is the league championship night,” Laubach said. “To be part of a community who filled Patriots Park with fans to watch softball, a beautiful evening with great weather, playing against a good friend and awesome coach (Kristy Henritzy), and winning that league title for our school and the program’s history.”

“From the start of our season, she had a clear expectation that, with the talent of our senior leadership, we had every opportunity to make school history by winning the EPC championship,” Freedom senior pitcher Jen Slanovec said. “That goal had been on all of our minds, and knowing the confidence our coach had in us from the start solidified the confidence we had in ourselves as well.”

Freedom built a 6-0 lead over the Konkrete Kids in the second inning and cruised from there in the title game. Slanovec homered, senior center fielder Brenna Ortwein tripled, junior left fielder Natalie Stannard hit an RBI single and senior third baseman Matison Piripavel connected on a two-run double to open up a six-run lead in the second inning.

“That credit goes to my hitting coach Jack Roman,” Laubach said. “He is very laid back with our players and he’s an excellent hitting coach, the best around. We joke, he tells people I yell at him when our hitters aren’t doing their job, but that night, he got all the praise. We work very hard at hitting every single day at practice.”

Slanovec held Northampton to four hits and struck out six as she allowed only one walk.

The Patriots reached the championship game by snapping Parkland’s conference title streak at six seasons.

Stannard hit a go-ahead two-run single with two outs in the top of the seventh inning to lift the Patriots to a 3-2 victory over the Trojans in the conference semifinals.

“Totally awesome to beat a great team and program like Parkland,” Laubach said. “It was a great softball game for everyone in attendance, as they say ‘it was worth the price of admission,’ especially if you are a Patriot. Before the inning started and our last at bat, they announced ‘Parkland is going to play for their seventh straight league title.’ That might have been the fire. This team proved they belong on that field, proved they are one of the best teams to date at Freedom. They did this all with class too, which makes me proud to be their coach.”

Ortwein, Piripavel and senior second baseman Corrin Gill each were named to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Northampton County Division first team. Sophomore shortstop Julia Heineman and Slanovec were each on the second team.

The Patriots’ talent extended beyond the softball field.

“This senior class was very special,” Laubach said. “We had a lot of multi-sport athletes. My assistants and I go watch them in their other sports, we love supporting each player and Freedom in other sports. I’m friends with all the other Freedom coaches and we often talk about the players we share. These seniors are probably one of the most talented classes to ever come through the program’s history as a whole and some top individual players as well.”

“Coach has helped me improve, not just my skills, but my mental toughness as well,” said Ortwein, who was the Girls Athlete of the Year. “We have pushed through lots of highs and lows, including COVID. And during hard times, coach was always in my phone looking for ways to stay on track. Actions like that helped me grow as a person and change my perspective on many situations that have helped me grow as an athlete. It also goes without saying that she helped my play on the field as she is a very knowledgeable coach that is always looking to give constructive criticism in order for her players to succeed.”

Laubach graduated from Central Columbia High School in Bloomsburg before playing softball at Lock Haven University.

She lives in Bethlehem with her husband Jason and their children, 14-year-old Alyssa, 12-year-old Nelson and 10-year-old Conner.

The Freedom coach thinks her program has its own family feel and hopes to carry that into the future.

“We have created a culture with the softball program that believes in academics first, strong mental and physical health goals, being a great teammate, respectable young ladies who are coachable, giving back to their community, and achieving the best they can on the playing field. Most important is the relationships they develop along the way,” Laubach said.

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