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A Prideful Team, a Supportive Community

Four years ago, an enthusiastic group of parents, fans, and supporters gathered in the parking lot of South Williamsport’s AAA office to send off an excited team of pre-teens to the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Oregon. The wide-eyed youngsters were members of the Little Mountaineer Softball All-Star team, which was about to embark on the final leg of a successful summer of softball after having won the District 12, State of Pennsylvania, and Eastern Region championships.

Playing softball was something the youngsters were familiar with; flying across the county was not. Perhaps there was more apprehension with the parents than the kids, but as the bus pulled out, many parents began making scramble plans to get to Oregon to support the team. After all, that’s what they do.

Nearly four years later, many of this same group stood patiently by outside the first base dugout at Central Mountain to greet, console, and congratulate the South Williamsport High School softball team in the aftermath of the team’s 4-0 defeat at the hands of Bald-Eagle Area in the PIAA AA state semi-finals. After all, that’s what they do.

While smiles were absent from the faces of the disappointed players, the same could not be said for the large greeting party. Yes, they were hoping for a victory, but the pride and appreciation they had for these now teenage softball achievers was clearly evident. A second consecutive District IV championship, two decisive state playoff victories, and a 21-3 season record gave everyone plenty to feel good about.

Eight of the current members of the Lady Mounties team (sophomores Kendall Cardone, Gianna Goodman, Lily Reidy, Alizabeth Schuler, Sage Lorson, Abby Lorson, and Emily Holtzappel along with freshman Mikaiya Hills) were players on that decorated Little League team and had dedicated themselves to achieving South Williamsport’s first softball state title since 2003.

That Little League core had meshed well with incoming freshmen Maddie Pinkerton, Emma McLaughlin, and Natalya Betz and responded to the senior leadership provided by Aleigha Rieppel and McKenzie Mitstifer.

The senior duo, both loving the game, brought with them distinct personalities the team appreciated. Mitstifer, a reserve outfielder whose bat contributed a .438 batting average in limited roles, was upbeat, outgoing, and approachable and played the game for the enjoyment and camaraderie of her teammates.

Rieppel was the consummate competitor and one of the most decorated athletes in South Williamsport athletic history. She established what is thought to be a record for receiving 12 varsity letters while competing in soccer, basketball, softball, and football. Only a canceled softball season prevented her from compiling 13 letters. During her senior season, she was the driving force in helping South’s soccer, basketball, and softball teams all win district titles.

On the diamond, she was the team’s shortstop, leading the team with 47 assists, batting second in the lineup, hitting .324, and compiling a 4-0 record in the circle.

Family is often thrown about when discussing the makeup of an athletic team. While Sage and Abby Lorson are family as cousins, the rest of the Mounties formed a bond about as close as you could get to a related family group. That same attitude was prevalent on the playing field with Cardone, the well-recognized motivational leader.

Off the field, the soft-spoken sophomore is quiet and reserved, but once the game begins, the third baseman is the first person to cheer her teammates on. She also led by example, playing outstanding defense at third, hitting .364 with two home runs and 18 RBIs.

The spark plug of the group, second baseman Gianna Goodman, moved from ninth to lead-off for this year’s team and set the offensive tone early and often. Batting .408, Goodman was unstoppable on the bases stealing 24 without being thrown out. She led off ten games with base hits and promptly stole second eight times. She led the team with 32 runs scored, 13 of those coming in the first innings of games.

In the circle, Schuler was frustratingly effective for opponents. While not overpowering, she possessed an arsenal of pitches, creating ground ball outs and keeping hitters off balance. On the season, she threw 70% of her pitches for strikes, striking out 110, only walking 17 while compiling a 17-3 record with an ERA of 1.82. Offensively, she led the team hitting .495 with 8 home runs and 36 RBIs.

Reidy, a hard-nosed competitor with a rifle arm, caught the entire season without committing an error. Her tenacity behind the dish discouraged opponents from attempting steals, as opponents were successful on only eight attempts. She complemented her battery mate Schuler with 6 home runs and 23 RBIs.

The Lorson cousins were key contributors, with Abby recording 169 putouts at first base while driving in 10 runs. Sage enjoyed a stretch during the season in which she drove in runs in ten consecutive games and belted two home runs.

Freshmen outfielders Mikiaya Hills and Maddie Pinkerton were outstanding defensively, committing only one error among 44 chances between them. Both responded well during their rookie year, Hills hitting .354 and Pinkerton .316.

Mountaineer reserves Holtzappel, McLaughlin, and Betz all contributed hits while committing no errors in the field.

As competitors, these Mounties went into every game expecting to come out on top. The BEA loss hurt, but the pride of the 2023 season was there for all to appreciate.

“This is a good group of girls,” Rieppel said. “They have a relatively young, strong core. I couldn’t have been happier to play with anyone else. They welcomed me in, being the only senior starting, and I’m so proud of every single one of them.”

The Mountaineer fans, coaches, and parents can say the same thing.

“The girls fought to the last pitch,” head coach Tom O’Malley told the media after the game. “I’m proud of the season we had, and hopefully, we can build on where we were last year, what we achieved this year, and continue to get better.”
There is an old sports saying, “Work will win when wishing won’t.” While it may be true, these Lady Mounties wished they would have won; you can be guaranteed they will keep working hard to achieve that ultimate goal.

Front row (l-r): Kendall Cardone, McKenzie Mitstifer, Aleigha Rieppel, Maddie Pinkerton, Lily Reidy, Gianna Goodman, Emma McLaughlin. Standing (l-r): coach Chris Schuler, coach Lexi Schuler, Natalya Betz, Abby Lorson, Alizabeth Schuler, Sage Lorson, Mikiaya Hills, Emily Holtzapple, trainer Chelsey Rieppel, coach Cory Goodman. Back (l-r): coach Adam Lorson, coach Scott Lowery, head coach Tom O’Malley. (Photo courtesy of Albright Studio).