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Lady Raiders Reign Supreme

The King James Version of the Bible contains the phrase “Faith, Hope and Charity.” As she has proven throughout her high school career, culminating in helping to achieve the first team sport championship in Montgomery High School history, senior pitcher Faith Persing has given a new meaning to the biblical phrase. With Faith in the

The King James Version of the Bible contains the phrase “Faith, Hope and Charity.” As she has proven throughout her high school career, culminating in helping to achieve the first team sport championship in Montgomery High School history, senior pitcher Faith Persing has given a new meaning to the biblical phrase. With Faith in the circle, opponents have little hope and receive very little charity.

Earlier this month — in the state championship spotlight — on a day when the Red Raiders bagged out 15 hits, including five players with two or more, it was fitting Persing fielded a harmless pop-out for the final out of the game, sending her happy teammates into a victorious dog pile on the Penn State dirt infield. For this senior-laden team, the 5-1 victory over DuBois Central Catholic was the sought-after ending to a season so driven to win gold medals and an appreciative fan base that engulfed the stands in a sea of red.

Even with the Red Raiders holding a slim 2-1 lead after five innings, this game never seemed in doubt. Having out-scored their five playoff opponents 44-2 entering the championship game, with Persing’s right arm and mental toughness in tow, this one was not going to get away. From a purely statistical standpoint for the reigning 2021 Class A Player of the Year, and likely the 2022 repeat winner, this one wasn’t one of her totally dominant eye-popping performances. Entering the game with a 0.79 ERA and 234 strikeouts with only 22 walks, she struck out six and allowed four hits, three of them coming off the bat of DuBois Central Catholic’s cleanup hitter Savannah Morelli.

But it certainly was more than good enough to get the job done; Persing tossed 83 pitches, only once going to a three-ball count, and other than two fifth-inning doubles that produced the Cardinals’ only run, she was in full command. With her favorite rise ball working, she induced 11 harmless pop-ups, three infield groundouts, and one out on a Cardinal base-running blunder to complement her six strikeouts.

“It was unreal to get to the state final, playing for a championship, and obviously, coming out with the gold like we did,” said the triumphant Persing. “It was just unreal to be the team in that position. The first school team state championship is amazing. Kids dream of that every day. There’s how many Class A teams in softball that don’t get to experience this? And for us to be the team that got to win it, we’ll all remember this.”

The effectiveness of the Montgomery offense backing Persing’s pitching was evident as eight players chipped in with 15 singles, and every player reached base. Jenna Waring and Bryn McRae were 3-4, while Taylor McRae, Cortney Smith, and Persing were 2-4.

Waring’s words were as cool as her bat was hot during the victorious celebration.

“This is everything any of us could have ever dreamed about. It was the ultimate goal, and all of us were very determined to get here, so I am not that surprised. We all wanted this day more than anything else. Small schools like ours don’t often get to experience something like this and for us to be the ones to be wearing the gold medals is just absolutely amazing.”

The Red Raiders (22-4) climb to the peak of the PIAA Single-A softball summit was hard-fought and well-earned. Twelve times during the season they shut out their opponents while allowing just one run on six other occasions. Three of the team’s four losses came at the hands of larger schools, 2-0 to AAAA Jersey Shore, 5-3 to AAA Central Columbia, and 4-2 to District IV Class AA champion South Williamsport. Canton was only the second Single-A team in two years to down the Raiders beating them 1-0 in eight innings.

For head coach Chris Glenn the accomplishment is the culmination of a long coaching career that has included Little League, summer ball teams, and previous high school stints at Hughesville and Jersey Shore before taking over at Montgomery four years ago. His thoughts ran a collective gamut as he talked to the media following the game as joyous celebration broke out around him.

“This is incredible. It produced a flashback of a lot of things. I’ve been coaching for a while, and it means so much to me that so many people have reached out with their congratulations. It’s been an overwhelming feeling to experience.

“I’m just so happy to be a part of bringing it to Montgomery because Montgomery is such a great community. I can’t say enough about the community, these girls, and what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

One of the architects of what has been an athletic resurgence at Montgomery in recent years, athletic director Mike Snyder was gushing with pride as he reflected upon the softball team’s achievements.

“Without a doubt, this state championship was historic for our school district and community. This was our first ever team state title and was a special moment for us and District IV softball. It was great to see the sea of red in the stands supporting the team; that’s what you get from a small town like Montgomery. The entire community was behind the team, and that is what it takes to be successful. We’re excited and happy for the girls.

“I understand how hard this is. This is District IV’s first softball title since 2014 and only the fourth since 2000 for Williamsport area teams. Personally, I go back to when I started competing and coaching, and it’s always been one of my goals to collect a team state title. I never did it as a coach, but now I’ve had the opportunity to accomplish that as an athletic director. When the final out was registered, I can’t recall the last time I was that excited, going all the way back to the birth of my kids.

“It is great. The girls are phenomenal kids and great student-athletes. They represent the school and community to the highest, and I am grateful for the way they represented us, the athletic program, and the community throughout this whole process. It has been very special for everyone involved.”

Even the adults had to pinch themselves to make sure it was real, assistant coach Wayne Stine among them. Stine, who serves as pitching coach for Susquehanna University and had a 20-year accomplished pitching career in the City Fast Pitch Softball League, was touched by what the team had achieved.

“This is an incredible feeling that really hasn’t soaked in yet. It will, but right now, it is a bit surreal.”

Surreal has become very real and a proven fact that every member of the Montgomery roster will be telling tales to their children and grandchildren about as the years go by. The championship Lady Raiders includes Addi Cross, Brynn McRae, Taylor McRae, Shelby McRae, Summer Drick, Kailyn Woltz, Cortney Smith, Kaylei Snyder, Sloan Wooten, Skylar Hunter, Falin Reynolds, Addi Muhl, Faith Persing, Isabella Staggert, Savanna Sauers, Kaitlyn Raemsch, Vallyn Ault, Samantha Ulrich, Delilah Preitz, Chloe Smith, Megan Beagly, Izabella Wright, Madison Budman, Carly Hall, and Elizabeth Bryson.

As their team bus brought them home, plans for a parade through the community for the returning heroes were somewhat dampened by an approaching summer storm. With pride in their hearts and gold medals draped around their necks, that validation, while nice, wouldn’t have been needed. A flashing six-word sign in front of the Montgomery Fire Department simply told the story — “Welcome Home, Lady Raiders, State Champs!”

Following a brief gathering at the high school, players and their families individually departed for their homes accompanied with a newfound resolve. Akin to a Norman Rockwell painting, one of the last to leave was Persing, her white number 17 uniform appearing even more vivid against the backdrop of the darkening skies above. She and her teammates had written an exciting new chapter in Montgomery sports history that will long be remembered.