Whether it be sourdough, rye, whole wheat, ciabatta, or just plain white — it’s the bread that makes the sandwich great. Those tasty ingredients packed between those two slices just wouldn’t be the same without the stabilizing influence holding things in place.
As South Williamsport softball coach Tom O’Malley went about the task of putting together the menu for this year’s team, that ‘sandwich effect’ has played an important role. While cooking up a recipe that included just one returning senior starter and six seasoned sophomores putting all the ‘fixings’ together was the task at hand.
“We tinkered with potential lineups and settled on Aleigha Rieppel, Alizabeth Schuler, Sage Lorson, Abby Lorson, and Lily Reidy forming the heart of the order two through six,” O’Malley explained. “Those five are solid hitters. To compliment them, we moved Gianna Goodman from ninth last year to the leadoff spot and moved Kendall Cardone up from eighth to seventh this year.”
For Mountaineer softball fans, it has provided a tasty morsel to consume. Goodman and Cardone have excelled in their new batting order homes; two through six have stung the ball, clearing the table for two developing treats at the bottom of the order in freshmen outfielders Mikaiya Hills and Maddie Pinkerton.
“They’ve really been a spark for us. Gianna is a table setter. She’s been getting on base, stealing bases, and scoring runs. She causes a lot of havoc at the top of our lineup. In the seventh spot, Kendall has been very consistent and has continued to get better,” O’Malley added.
“Both of those girls played the outfield last year but are more comfortable playing the infield. They have done a phenomenal job playing second and third this year. The great thing about them both is that they will do whatever they can to help the team. That’s just their makeup. I’m lucky to have them on our team.”
Both sophomores, Cardone and Goodman, are happy with their new infield home.
“It wasn’t entirely difficult because I had continued practicing ground balls. But moving to third base, pressure-wise, it was different knowing I had to field the ball. The position is quicker and more reactionary, but it created a great opportunity for me. I’ve constantly been working at fielding ground balls. It would be impossible to count how many between our regular practices and then taking ground balls on my own time,” said, Cardone.
“My confidence has improved knowing the teammates hitting ahead of me are good players. I tell myself if they can do it, so can I, no pressure. It sounds simple, but I just try to put the bat on the ball, hit it hard, and put it in play.
“Ever since last year when we went to Myrtle Beach, I feel like the team has really bonded together well. A lot of us were freshmen last year and playing varsity for the first time. The seniors accepted us. We all talked, nobody felt left out, and we cheered for each other. Even when we made mistakes, there was always someone to give you a hug and pick you back up. That team chemistry has carried year on to this year and has been a big help for everyone.
“I’m always telling myself, ‘You got this,’ and I’m always telling my teammates the same thing. I hope that provides a big confidence booster for them.
“I’m so proud of the way we have been able to play defense. My teammates are good, and it is great to see how the defense backs up Alizabeth and our pitchers. We work hard at it, and there have been many games we have played without making an error. I hope we can keep playing well and get a lot of wins the rest of the way.”
It’s been much the same for Goodman.
“I grew up playing second base since I started playing softball, so I am used to it. Playing the outfield last year gave me a chance to play, which I was happy about. But I like playing the infield.
“When I come to bat, I’m just trying to get on base and get everything started. I look at it like that is my job. With the hitters we have coming up behind me, if I can do that, good things can happen.
“The last two seasons, I’ve gotten a lot stronger, gotten a little bigger, which has helped both my confidence and the ability to hit the ball harder.
“Our outfielders have made some great catches in key spots. We still have some tough games remaining to get us where we want to go, but we have confidence in our abilities, and we’re going to continue to play hard.
“We all get along so well, which is very important. The better we get along, the better we play together.”
With the regular season winding down, O’Malley’s crew hopes to achieve bigger goals in the playoffs.
“Overall, our infield has done exceptionally well. Alizabeth is a pitcher that induces a lot of ground balls and depends on her defense. Aleigha at short and Abby at first have each played well, and Lily has pretty much shut down the running game. She is an aggressive catcher and has thrown out several runners. The outfield has been rebuilt with Sage, Mikaiya, and Maddie, and our reserves [McKenzie Mitstifer, Emma McLaughlin, Emily Holtzappel, and Natalya Betz] have done everything we’ve asked of them. I’m really proud of the way the girls have been playing.”