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The Gridiron & Softball

As I was preparing this week’s column, 9:31 a.m. unceremoniously passed by on the September 22 morning, bringing with it the fall equinox and the first day of autumn. As a big fan of summer, this annual occurrence has never been a cause for celebration for me, but this year is a bit different. After a summer full of cancellations and disappointments, almost anything that may denote a change for the better gets my attention.

The high school football season’s delayed start has raised the excitement level in several Lycoming County communities. After the first two weeks of play, the gridiron contingents at Williamsport, Montoursville, and Jersey Shore have flexed their muscles in the most impressive fashion. All three stood undefeated. The Warriors and Bulldogs were dominating in outscoring their first two foes 101-10 and 94-7. But it has been Chuck Crews’ band of Millionaires that may have turned the most heads with their 43-18 win over Nanticoke followed up by defeating the defending Class AAA state champion Wyoming Area 35-14 in week two.

All three faced tough tests last week, but as this short season reaches the mid-point Friday night, anticipation is already building towards the regular season final game October 30, when Jersey Shore visits Montoursville. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if by then more than 250 fans could witness what should be a competitive game? Incidentally, if you are not aware, in a unique scheduling twist, the Bulldogs, who hosted rival Central Mountain last week, will be traveling to Lock Haven on October 23 for a second meeting with their arch-rival.

Speaking of competition, both Loyalsock and South Williamsport were the last county teams to kick it off with COVID tests causing cancellations of their first two games of the season. This week, the Lancers will face an unenvied road trip to Southern Columbia, while the Mountaineers hit the road for the second time at Northwest Area.

Not that they needed it, but Montoursville’s 55-3 thumping of Central Columbia in week two was aided by one of the oldest motivating tactics used by coaches — a little bulletin board material. Prior to that meeting, it seems some statements by Blue Jay players indicating how “they matched up well” against Montoursville ruffled the Warrior’s teepee.

Warrior coach J.C. Keefer was quick to point out, “We had a little bulletin board material, and there was a little edge going into the game.”

Whether real or contrived, using opponents’ comments to fire up the troops has been a staple in many a coaches’ handbook.

Back in my own high school playing days, one of the most memorable was employed by legendary South Williamsport coach Rod Morgans. Prior to departing for a Saturday afternoon game against Montoursville, Mountaineer players arrived at their locker room to an unexpected sight. There amongst their pads and helmets were blue & gold balloons and streamers and hinted allegations from the coaches regarding some pre-game shenanigans by their opponents.

Logic would indicate that such items being placed there by Montoursville supporters would be next to impossible to pull off; impressionable teenagers illogically assumed they were being disrespected. The team wouldn’t have needed a bus to get to the game. Instantly fired-up, they couldn’t wait to get to Montoursville, where they won the game.

Needing no outside motivation, a group of South Williamsport junior high school softball players are continuing the winning habits that excited the community last summer during the Little Mountaineer Little League’s march to the World Series in Portland, Oregon. Coached by Tom O’Malley, the young Mountaineer ladies have continued their development this fall.

Earlier this month, with only one 14-year-old on their roster, and including nine members of that World Series team, the team competed in and won a 16 and under USA tournament. During that tournament, the team finished off one victory in a most unusual way pulling off a game-ending triple play.

Holding a two-run lead, the opponent had runners on first and second, with no outs and their cleanup hitter at the plate. She smashed what appeared to be a line drive to the outfield when seemingly out of nowhere, second baseman Gianna Goodman dove to snag the liner. The base runners were off as the ball was hit. Goodman shuffled the ball to shortstop Sage Lorson for the second out, and Lorson’s throw to first baseman Abby Lorson completed the triple play.

Later in the tournament’s championship game, the young team’s defense again shined. Pitcher Alizabeth Schuler threw only 58 pitchers in the seven-inning win. The performance was noteworthy as she did not strike out or walk a single batter. The ball was put in play, and the defense responded with near perfection. Throughout the season, the team has completed double plays and twice frustrated opponents by throwing out runners at first base from right field in what appeared to be base hits.

Like life itself, sports are often measured by ‘what have you done for me lately.’ No one knows what the future may hold, but the future of South Williamsport softball appears to be headed in the right direction.

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