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Spring Sports on the Horizon

Recently, a cartoon appeared on Facebook. It depicted a shivering groundhog holding up a sign stating, “I lied.” Imagine the nation’s ‘most followed weather prognosticator’ admitting he falsely misled us — and this admission coming on the heels of George Washington’s birthday — the man who couldn’t tell a lie!

That false prophecy was on my mind last week when, with the temperature hovering in the 20s and wind gusts approaching 40 mph, I was driving to our first Lycoming County Umpire’s chapter meeting of the year. While that unpredictable groundhog can’t be trusted, one of the most surefire harbingers of the coming spring is the knowledge that spring training is underway in the warmer climates of Florida and Arizona. To bring that reassurance closer to home, this past Monday marked the first official day of practice for high school spring sports teams.

Although those baseball, softball and track teams have been conducting indoor workouts for the past several weeks, coaches — both new and old — are looking forward to soon getting outside to prepare their teams for the season’s start later this month.

Among those teams, the highly successful Loyalsock Lancers softball program is now under the direction of a new coaching staff. Former Major League infielder and Japanese League MVP, Montoursville’s Tom O’Malley has left the program following a recent decision by the Loyalsock School District’s School Board. Last month the School Board approved O’Malley’s return as head coach by a vote of 6-3. However, in doing so, they declined to approve O’Malley’s coaches for the 2019 season.

Following the Board’s action, O’Malley tendered his resignation and has accepted a position as an assistant softball coach at Williamsport High School.

Leading the Lady Lancers this season will be two coaches with South Williamsport ties. Mark Godfrey will serve as Loyalsock’s head coach assisted by Chris Molino. Godfrey, who recently returned to the area following several years at the Hershey School, has an extensive coaching background. Molino, a former Mountaineers wrestling coach, is a teacher in South Williamsport.

Speaking of coaching changes, Casey Waller, former head coach of both the Loyalsock and Hughesville baseball teams has resurfaced as an assistant coach with the Spartans this season.

At the aforementioned baseball umpires meeting the 25 chapter members were advised of a PIAA directive aimed at curbing instances of disruptive fan behavior at sporting events.

Prior to each PIAA contest, officials remind coaches of the sportsmanship code pertaining to player, coach and umpire deportment. While fans are not involved in that communication, their behavior sometimes can lead to an unsportsmanlike atmosphere surrounding the game. Umpires will be working in conjunction with school-appointed officials to remove disruptive individuals should situations warrant.

In attendance at the umpire’s meeting was Bryce Brewer, the subject of my December 12 column in this publication. Brewer recently returned from participation in the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School in Daytona, Florida, calling his time at the school “an awesome experience, one of the best times of my life.” Brewer will continue his quest to become a Major League umpire by umpiring this year in the Northwest League in Minnesota. The league is a Division 1 college summer league played May through July. Before he leaves for Minnesota Brewer will be umpiring local high school games.

A reminder for those purchasing new baseball equipment for the coming season – MAKE SURE the purchases you make comply with the various requirements and specifications of the PIAA, Little League and other youth leagues. Equipment is not cheap, so precaution is urged when making those purchases.

When attending high school baseball games fans should be aware of the pitching restrictions now being used. Those pitch limits include: 0-25 pitches – no rest required; 26-50 pitches – 1-day rest; 51-75 pitches – 2 days rest; 76-100 pitches – 3 days rest. In addition, a pitcher cannot pitch on more than two consecutive days.

The PIAA baseball pitching rule restriction has been amended “to permit a pitcher reaching the maximum pitch count for any level of rest during an at-bat, to continue to pitch to that batter, or any substitute for that batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until a third out has been made prior to the end of that at-bat. The pitcher will be credited with the maximum number of pitches for that level.”

“Each team will designate a pitch counter, with the home team being the official counter. The pitch counters are to confer with each other frequently. If there is a discrepancy, the home book is to be used.”

Note: There is no pitch restriction placed upon softball pitchers.

Enjoy the coming season and hopefully warmer weather to follow!

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