Latest Issue


You won’t find it written in any rule book, but the hard facts of life for any team sport played, unless you are able to win the ultimate game at the conclusion of each season — your season is going to end with a loss.

It matters little how hard your team works, how many breaks they may have gotten along the way, or how many wins they are able to accumulate; a paramount goal for any team is to do what is necessary to make the playoffs. Once in the playoffs, it is a whole new season, with every qualified team beginning with a 0-0 record. Then suddenly, but certainly, unless the team can be the last team standing, the last game you play will end up being a loss.

Three years ago, Tom O’Malley extended the opportunity to join the coaching staff he was assembling after being named the South Williamsport High School girls’ softball coach. Coaching has always been in my blood, doing so at one level or another every year since 1977. O’Malley has been a longtime friend and a broadcast colleague over the years, making it an easy invitation to accept.

This coaching gig, however, came with a twist. Rather than helping young men learn and enjoy the game, this time, it would be attempting to do the same thing with young ladies. Having never formally coached girls before, after 43 years on the bench or in the dugout, the first lesson learned was there IS a difference. But, fortunately for me, this group of talented young athletes made that transition both easy and enjoyable.

While emphasized in the Tom Hanks movie League of Their Own, there may not be crying in baseball, but the same cannot be said for competitive softball at the high school level. Young ladies are talented. They compete hard. Sometimes when the scoreboard sends them an unwelcome message, tears flow.

As the PIAA AA state semi-final game came to a close, Bald-Eagle Area advanced to the state championship game with a 4-0 victory over South Williamsport. The teams lined up, shook hands, and each headed to the outfield for the post-game talk. Cheers, smiles, and excitement lit up the BEA side of the field. As the Mounties gathered around Coach O’Malley, those emotions penned up inside found an escape hatch through the tear ducts of several players.

There was no sobbing, no angry words, no display of temper — just unashamed, unwelcome, disappointed tears. Some tried to hide their existence; others found the shoulder of a teammate, and a few stood stoically watching. Coaches made comments offering to defuse the disappointment.

During my coaching career, I’ve experienced many moments of won/lost disappointment, but my hope, and my message at the time, was telling the girls to let those tears flow, but once they did, they should reflect proudly on what they had accomplished during the season by climbing rungs on the playoff ladder that no other South Williamsport softball team had achieved since 2004.

This year’s edition of the Lady Mounties repeated their success of last season in claiming the District IV AA title. They then took it one step further than last year by advancing to the PIAA AA state semi-final game. Along the way, they compiled a 21-3 record playing a challenging independent schedule designed to prepare them for high-level state competition.

Along the way, 14 of their regular season 18 games came against teams AAA and above. Included was winning the championship of Williamsport’s Invitational Tournament by defeating District 6 AAAA champions Bellefonte, HAC Division II champ Loyalsock, and the host 6A Millionaires. The team won five playoff games and dispatched District champions Newport and Bristol by a combined 25-0 score in the PIAA state tournament before falling to BEA.

Featuring a solid defense and dependable pitching in 20 of their 23 games entering the state semi-final, they had held their opponents to 3 runs or fewer. They were able to win close games (3 games when scoring 3 runs or less) and in mercy rule blowouts eight times.

For a young team featuring two seniors, seven sophomores, and four freshmen, the future remains bright. But as the team gathered around their coaches, with the end of their season crushingly real, that future seemed light years away. For teenagers, entrenched in the moment, that moment was all that mattered.

At South Williamsport’s commencement a week earlier, one of the student speakers told his classmates not to let their high school years be their defining moment in life — they should enter the real world and make their mark.

No doubt, when that time comes, these young ladies will find a way to do just that. But there is no doubt the tears they shed on that Central Mountain field cannot wash away the accomplishments they’ve achieved and the pride swelling in the community that supported them.