Just as important as the dominant defense and consistent hitting she provides Loyalsock is the outstanding leadership she adds.
After a blend of gusty winds, sleet and pouring rain delayed Tuesday's game at South Williamsport 35 minutes, Amanda Daneker kept her team focused. And when play resumed she told them exactly what had to be done while also navigating pitcher Casey Ulmer through a rough patch.
Oh yeah, she led on the field too. Shortly after the delay ended, Daneker crushed a grand slam that highlighted a seven-run sixth inning as Loyalsock thumped its rival, 14-4.
Tiffany Hauke of South Williamsport is out at second base as Loyalsock’s Ashleigh Bair records the force out Tuesday at South Williamsport. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"When they came into the circle she said, 'We're going to be on that fence, we're going to cheer and we're going to play as a team,' and they did," Loyalsock coach Matt Whipple said. "They set the table in front of her and she did what Amanda does."
Daneker has been one of District 4's best players since she first stepped on a high school field two years ago. Her defense makes it nearly impossible for opponents to take an extra base and she sucks up pitches in the dirt like a vacuum cleaner.
The all-state catcher went 4 for 5 with a double, three runs and four RBI Tuesday. After Ulmer induced an inning-ending groundout following the delay, Loyalsock extended its lead to 7-4 when Ashleigh Bair drew a bases-loaded walk. Two pitches later Daneker cleared the bases, crushing an 0-1 pitch over the right-center field fence while breaking the game open.
"Our team was up and that got our intensity up and we were all cheering, but I wasn't looking to hit a home run. I was just going to try and hit a single and it just sort of flew out there," Daneker said. "I like those situations. They get me fired up."
That was a good way to describe a Loyalsock offense that delivered 15 hits and scored 11 runs in its final three at-bats. Every starter had at least one hit and Ulmer put the Lancers ahead to stay in the top of the first, belting a two-run home run to right field following a Daneker single.
First baseman Sara O'Dell ignited the pivotal sixth-inning rally with a lead-off single and also capped it with a two-run single. It was just the kind of performance Loyalsock (5-6, 4-3 HAC-II) needed against a quality opponent as it prepares to face Central Columbia and Jersey Shore later this week.
"We were definitely fired up for this game. Last year we beat them by a lot and then they came back and beat us so we knew we didn't want to do that again," Daneker said. "We're definitely jelling a lot more. It took a while but this helps us. This gives us a lot more confidence going into Thursday."
"Once we came up to bat in the sixth we kind of calmed the storm and righted the ship and we did really well after that," Whipple said. "We had to turn it around. This is another stepping stone to get into the playoffs and that's goal one from day one."
Mother Nature started making its presence felt in the top of the fifth inning. Heavy, cold winds had players devising ways to stay warm and made pitching and fielding the ball an adventure. Still, Kylie Welker belted a two-run double, highlighting a three-run flurry that put Loyalsock up, 6-0.
Instead of caving, South (6-5, 2-5) came storming back in the bottom of the fifth, scoring four times and collecting four hits. Jourdan Boehmer and Sarah March hit consecutive singles that produced three runs and Kalynn Wheeland made it 6-4 when she slammed a two-out RBI triple.
"I was very encouraged by that," South coach Scott Stugart said. "They're gaining confidence as they go. Early on (this season) they kind of tensed up a little bit when things got a little tight and now they believe in themselves."
After Wheeland slid into third, the heavy rain became too much and umpires stopped the game. South coaches and volunteers spent ample time fixing the field, but there was no stopping the Loyalsock offense as it pounded out seven more hits. Whipple said he considered making a pitching change but that Daneker assured him Ulmer would pull through and the senior was in a comfort zone the rest of the way.
Ulmer pitched out of trouble in every inning but the fifth and struck out four over the final four innings, including two straight with runners on second and third in the fourth inning. Third baseman Kay Kay Lupo (2 for 4) helped Ulmer by snaring a line drive and doubling off a runner in the second inning while center fielder Heidi Womeldorf threw out a runner at second an inning later.
Wheeland and Rachel Floyd each had two hits for South which is hoping to reach the postseason after missing out last season.
"This is South-Loyalsock and you love these games and hopefully we'll get another chance," Stugart said. "In the mean time we have work to do to get there to have that opportunity. We learn from it and move on. I like the trend of the team."
Loyalsock200 137 1-14 15 3
South000 040 0-4 8 4
Casey Ulmer and Amanda Daneker. Casey Brewer, Rebecca Knee (7) and Sarah March. W-Ulmer, (2-4). L-Brewer, (6-5).
Top Loyalsock hitters: Daneker 4-5, GS, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R; Ulmer 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; Kylie Welker 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Kay Kay Lupo 2-4, 2B, RBI; Sara O'Dell 2-4, 2 RBI. Top South hitters: Rachel Floyd 2-4, 2B; March 1-4, 2 RBI; Kalynn Wheeland 2-3, 3B, RBI; Kelsey Gantz 1-3, 2B.
Records: Loyalsock 5-6, 4-3 HAC-II. South 6-5, 2-5.