C-K girl gets D-I softball scholarship

Kiersten Coho likes watching movies, but she doesn’t get to sit down and enjoy too many because of a habit she’s inherited from her dad, Clifford.

“The more I sit around the house, the more I end up trying to find stuff to do, because I get bored easily,” Coho said.

Too much free time shouldn’t be a problem for her over the next few years.

Coho, Claysburg-Kimmel High School’s standout senior pitcher and Altoona Mirror first-team softball all-star, signed a letter-of-intent Monday to continue her career at the University of Hartford, less than two years after a serious injury left her future on the diamond in doubt.

Coho said she was surprised to get the Division I scholarship offer.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing,'” Coho said. “To get a chance to play softball at a Division I college is just great.”

For a player from a small high school to be getting nearly a full ride to a big-time college is quite an accomplishment, but the way Coho arrived there is all the more extraordinary.

Coho backed up all-stater Ronette Claar as the Lady Bulldogs’ pitcher as a freshman and a sophomore. However, during her sophomore year, she severely injured her shoulder to the point that she couldn’t even throw overhand.

C-K coach Mike Barbarini used her as a designated player and first baseman in her 10th grade year. In the meantime, Coho and her family looked for some way to get her back into the pitching circle.

The Cohos found Denny Tincher, whose daughter, Angela, was an All-American pitcher at Virginia Tech who no-hit the U.S. Olympic team. The elder Tincher was teaching a different style of pitching that put less stress on the shoulder by flipping the ball instead of snapping it through.

Although Barbarini said it was a slow process at first, the results were astounding. Coho threw 140 innings for the Lady Bulldogs as a junior, striking out 155 and posting a 1.15 ERA for the District 6 Class A champions and PIAA quarterfinalists. She even appears in a promotional video for Tincher’s instructional school.

“To fight back from an injury where she thought she’d never pitch again to possibly pitching at the Division I level is just a testament to how hard she’s worked,” Barbarini said. “She wasn’t even able to swing the bat there for a while, her shoulder was so bad.”

Barbarini said Coho now is throwing 62-63 mph and could reach the upper 60s as she continues to grow and build up strength in her shoulder. Coho throws a variety of pitches, including a fastball, a drop, a curveball and a screwball. She’s hoping to have a handle on a riser by the time her senior season begins.

“Her ball moves all over the place. Even when she throws a fastball, it’s not just straight,” Barbarini said.

Coho’s talent caught the eye of a Hartford assistant coach while she was pitching for the Virginia-based Glory traveling team in a tournament in New Jersey over the summer. She took a visit to the college on Sept. 28-29 and got the scholarship offer on Oct. 22.

Coho committed to the Hawks on Nov. 5. Her scholarship will cover 85 percent of her tuition and school expenses. She said Washington and Jefferson recruited her hardest of the other colleges looking at her.

“The coaches were very nice. The [players] were wonderful to be around,” Coho said of her reasons for picking Hartford.

Coho is planning to major in physical therapy, a product of her time rehabilitating her shoulder. At Claysburg, Coho also plays volleyball and served as a manager for the football team, which she manages to fit in with a couple of hours of softball work two or three days a week in the offseason. She’s played with the Razorbacks travel team and will be with the Cumberland County Magic next year.

“You have to work hard and dedicate yourself to that sport to be able to go to college for it,” Coho said.