Latest Issue

Playoffs Await

The high school baseball and softball regular seasons conclude this week, and area fans may want to heed the words of Terrell Owens to “get your popcorn ready.” The PIAA district playoffs begin next week, and a bevy of area teams have spent the past few months prepping for the upcoming opportunity to make deep runs in their quest for state championship gold.

It remains to be seen if any of District IV’s talented teams can remain above the fray. But based on their regular season accomplishments, those lofty goals have fueled game preparations since play began in the cold days of March.

South Williamsport’s 2A Lady Mounties softball team is among those hopefuls and has played their way through a beefed-up schedule of 3A, 4A, and 5A competition to help meet the awaiting challenge. With two games remaining this week, the Mounties have stumbled only against neighboring Loyalsock and 5A state power Pittston and will be joined in the 2A field by very good Muncy and Troy squads.

The Mountaineers, who have advanced to the state quarter-final and final four the past two seasons, feature a non-senior roster led by seven players who participated in the Little League Softball World Series in 2019.

The septet includes pitchers Alizabeth Schuler, Kendall Cardone, and catcher Lily Reidy.

Schuler developed her interest in pitching as a six-year-old watching her sister Lexi and decided she wanted to follow in her footsteps.

“I like that I can control everything because I am a perfectionist and a control freak. In the circle, my control has gotten better as I’ve gotten older. When I was just beginning, my hand was not big enough to wrap around the ball, but Lexi helped me learn how to control that to my advantage. Throwing the ball where I want it to go is a big part of my game.

“Trusting the defense I have behind me is very important. If I know there is going to be a ball hit up the middle that my shortstop and second baseman can cut off, I am going to pitch more relaxed, and all my pitches are going to work best, which will lead to winning games.”

While Schuler is the staff veteran, Cardone has worked hard during the past year to replace the graduated Aleigha Rieppel.

“Last year, I was like the backup to the backup. I knew this year was going to be my year to fill in. There was pressure on Alizabeth, so I put in the time and worked hard to be the second pitcher when needed.

“Over the winter, I worked on my pitching every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I practiced getting in the reps and developing my pitches. It was fun because these sessions were relaxed, and I was just getting started. I know throwing strikes is important. As we look ahead to the playoffs, it is important that we have pitching depth. The better I can pitch and throw strikes reduces the times Alizabeth might have to come pitch in relief.”

Catching the duo, Reidy has seen improvement in both.

“Over time, Alizabeth has gained more control on her location and speed. She has been able to learn new pitches as she has progressed over the years. Kendall is doing really well and is filling in the space we need when Alizabeth is not pitching. She hits her spots and has worked hard to develop her pitches.

“Both our pitchers have good control. In my role, I just listen to what pitches the coaching staff is calling and set up accordingly. I try to do the best I can to frame the pitch, but most times, I don’t worry about that because both hit their spots well.”

“My relationship with Lily is really important,” Schuler added. “If I don’t trust her to catch a certain pitch, I’m not going to want to throw that pitch, and everything will be out of whack. I need to trust her and know that she is going to do it, and she does. She puts in a lot of time with me, and it has made both me and our team better.”

Although they share the pitching spotlight, each has its own unique style. Cardone is the team’s cheerleader, and her voice and encouragement are infectious in the dugout.

“Looking back to my freshman year, I know what it is like to be nervous. We had senior players, and it can be hard for younger girls to fit in. I felt that, and I just wanted the younger players on this year’s team to understand that it is OK to make mistakes because practicing with the varsity for the first time can be intimidating. I am just trying to do what I can to help them and grow their confidence.

“Positivity is a good thing. I like that, and I don’t want players to get down on themselves, especially because this team has a lot of talent. It makes things more fun when the team is relaxed and enjoying themselves.”

As the self-proclaimed perfectionist, Schuler is determined in the circle but appreciative of her teammates’ dedication and work ethic.

“I love this team; it is amazing. We have the best chemistry, and we know everyone is going to be there for each other. Our ultimate goal is to win that last game and a state title, but I’m enjoying that we can pick each other up when someone is not having a good day and help the team play up to our potential.”

Like South Williamsport, this year’s playoff field is filled with many talented, determined teams all trying to do just that.