Summer Smiles, Grad Gifts, and Great Giveaways
- May 31, 2023
As the basketball season came to a close Loyalsock softball coach Tom O’Malley knew the majority of his team would need a break before heading to the diamond to start practice. Loyalsock’s historic run through the district and a portion of the PIAA state playoffs meant six players of the 14 listed on the softball
As the basketball season came to a close Loyalsock softball coach Tom O’Malley knew the majority of his team would need a break before heading to the diamond to start practice.
Loyalsock’s historic run through the district and a portion of the PIAA state playoffs meant six players of the 14 listed on the softball roster would need that time off. O’Malley gave them everything he could which meant one whole day off before a week of practice and a trip to Myrtle Beach, SC to kick off the season. It’s often times the life of multiple sport athletes, but one they should be more than prepared to handle.
“They are good athletes,” O’Malley said. “We got them in there on occasion, but they had a tremendous year and worked hard to get where they did. I’m sure they surprised some people, too.”
Loyalsock did more than surprise as it picked up a league championship, made a run in the district playoffs, and even won a state playoff game in the process. The success cut deeply into the practice time and preparation for the season.
Once through the basketball portion of the year, six girls—Sam Stopper, Julianna Cruz, Jocelyn Cruz, Maegan Reitz, Summer McNulty, and Rhialle Jessell—quickly had to make the adjustment to softball. It might have felt a little rusty at first to make such a sudden switch, but their girls appeared more than capable of making the turn quickly.
“It was good because we were playing at such a high intensity and I feel like that carried over a little bit,” Jessell said of the basketball season. “Having that week of practice and to go straight into our season and getting five games under our belt was really beneficial. We got live at-bats and got to see the ball.”
Jessell was great in practice leading up to the team’s trip. That all changed during her first live action as she ended the first game of the season without a hit. She went 0-for-4 in her first game but didn’t let that stop her.
“Nothing was working for me,” Jessell said. “My throws were off. I was swinging and missing. Nothing was working for me. When I got my first hit, got my first solid contact with the ball, I felt like I was fully in the swing of things.”
Loyalsock’s first game of the season ended with an 11-9 loss. The second was much better for both the team and Jessell as it got back on track with an 11-2 win.
In the game, Jessell went two-for-three with a run scored and three RBIs to help the Lancers record the win. It also helped restore some of the confidence gained from the basketball season.
“Most of the times, the basketball practices were later, and I could go home and do what I needed to do,” Jessell said. “I had to get right into things after school with softball. I didn’t have much time.”
Jessell broke out her second game and really hasn’t looked back, but it was difficult during the basketball season. At times, it was like being split into two halves as she excelled through basketball, but stayed updated on the softball team’s progress.
“A lot of my close friends kept me up-to-date on things,” Jessell said. “I knew for my basketball team I had to stay in that mindset. I tried to set it aside a little bit, but still wanted them to know I’m ready for them.”
Jessell wasn’t the only Lancer to make the transition as six of Loyalsock’s 14 players contributed to the basketball team’s success.
“We had a really good basketball season and had a lot of players from the basketball team coming into softball,” Julianna Cruz said. “We knew we just had to keep that momentum going from basketball.”
Cruz had to make the adjustments of being the leader as a point guard on the basketball team to tossing pitches as one of the main arms on the softball team.
During Loyalsock’s game against Bloomsburg, Cruz came in as a relief pitcher and held the Panthers scoreless through her final four innings of work. Cruz was outstanding, striking out three batters and overcoming some questionable calls at the plate.
Loyalsock gained the lead in the game when McNulty drove a pitch over the fence during her first at-bat. McNulty was another contributor on the basketball team.
“It was tough at first, but our coaches were really welcoming,” McNulty said. “We played very good teams down at Myrtle Beach, and we played well. We knew it was softball mode then.”
Loyalsock 8, Bloomsburg 5
BLOOM 005 000 0—5 2 1
SOCK 800 000 X—8 10 1
WP: Kaitlin Welker. LP: Kendra Loff.
Top Bloomsburg hitters: Rylie Klinger 1-2, 2B, run. Top Loyalsock hitters: Julianna Cruz 2-4, 2 runs, RBI; Sam Stopper 1-4, 3 RBI; Rhiallie Jessell 2-4, 3B, RBI; Summer McNulty 1-3, HR, 3 RBI; Brynn Dunkleberger 1-1, 2B, run.
Records: Bloomsburg 3-3. Loyalsock 6-2.
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