MUNCY - As former coach Mark Temons spoke about heroes, new Muncy softball coach Mallory Hafer began reminiscing. Hafer thought about someone who has always been there for her, setting an example, helping her excel on and off the field and showing her what courage is all about.
And then, suddenly, her lifelong hero was there.
Duane Hafer, Mallory's father and a cancer survivor, made a surprise trip from Athens and arrived to highlight Muncy's "Strikeout Cancer" pregame ceremony on Wednesday. Recovered and still teaching at Athens, Duane has been an inspiration to many, something evident as Mallory ran crying into his arms. Muncy and Montgomery played softball yesterday, but Duane and fellow cancer survivors Daryl Bixler and Brad Laidacker, who all threw out first pitches, were the real stars.
They represented the ultimate triumph and Muncy honored them, along with all impacted by cancer, the best way they knew how - by playing their best game this season. Amanda Kustanbauter threw a five-hit shutout, Jordan Jones went 2 for 2 with four RBIs, and Caitlin Dauberman hit a mammoth home run as Muncy blanked Montgomery, 11-0, in five innings.
"I had never told any of the girls until we did this fundraiser that my dad had been sick and then it became a little more special to everyone," Mallory said. "I started to get a little teary-eyed when he (Temons) talked about teachers who were fighting through it. All I could think of was my dad. I just lost it and got really emotional when I saw him and at that point I knew we were going to win."
"It was awesome, especially with coach Hafer and her dad. It was pretty special," Jones said. "Seeing her get like that it would make anyone feel something and we just wanted to come out and play really hard."
Muncy, which clinched no worse than the No. 4 seed and a first-round home game, did that while making a statement about what it is capable of in next week's District 4 Class A playoffs. The Indians (14-5) snapped a five-game losing streak against Montgomery, avenged a previous one-run defeat and played well in all facets, scoring at least two runs in three of their four at-bats.
Early on it appeared Emily Shnyder would cruise through the bottom of the first, retiring Muncy's first two hitters and going ahead 0-2 on Crystal Good. The sophomore catcher, though, started a trend when she fouled off numerous pitches before belting a single. Dauberman and Kustanbauter fought back from 0-2 and 1-2 counts to draw walks before Natalie Lamoreaux hit an infield RBI single and Jones followed with a RBI walk.
Muncy made Shnyder throw 49 pitches that inning and players made sure they were swinging at only the pitches they liked. Dauberman proved that two innings later when she crushed a long leadoff home run to left field and ignited a four-run rally that made it 6-0.
"When I hit it I felt it was going to be out because when I hit one against Sullivan County it felt the same way," said Dauberman who reached base all three times she batted. "We are an awesome team. We have a lot of talent and we obviously showed it. It's a good feeling knowing that we can beat Montgomery. Going into playoffs we can have a better mindset now because we know we can beat whomever we play."
Muncy scored four two-out runs in the first three innings and consistently delivered the timely hits that eluded it a few weeks ago. All nine starters had either a hit, RBI or run scored. Jones produced runs every time she batted, ripping singles in the third and fourth innings that produced three runs. Courtney Ebner and Mackenzie Ruby combined for three RBIs at the bottom of the lineup and put Muncy ahead 11-0 in the fourth, and Good went 2 for 3 with a triple and two runs scored.
Kustanbauter allowed only one hit through three innings and was backed by a superb defense. Jones made several good plays at shortstop, including starting a fourth-inning ending double play with the bases loaded. Jones fielded a hard-hit grounder, made a snap throw home to Good for the forceout and Good then threw a perfect strike to Dauberman at third. Jones also made a leaping catch to rob Corrine Shaffer of a third-inning leadoff single.
"Everybody contributed, whether it was offensively or defensively," Hafer said. "Rolling into districts like this on a night for such a great cause, it doesn't really get any better. It was a win-win for everybody."
Montgomery (10-6) and Muncy already have raised more than $1,000 for the Amercian Cancer Society so there really was no loser yesterday. Both teams wore lavender shirts during pre-game ceremonies to promote cancer awareness and posed for a group picture. They played hard on the field, but showed how much good can come from working together.
"We were hoping we would have a good night," Jones said. "Everyone was getting to school excited today."
"It's a good thing to raise money for cancer awareness. I thought it was a great idea," Dauberman said. "It's a good feeling knowing that you're doing something good for everyone in the U.S. and raising money and saving lives."
And giving their coach a memory she will always cherish and never forget.
Montgomery 000 00- 0 5 0
Muncy 204 5x-11 9 1
Emily Shnyder, Rebecca Hite (3) and Kaitlyn Warzel. Amanda Kustanbauter and Crystal Good. W-Kustanbauter, (9-3). L-Shnyder, (10-6).
Top Montgomery hitter: Shnyder 2-2. Top Muncy hitters: Hannah Cole 2B, SB; Good 2-3, 3B, 2 R; Caitlin Dauberman HR, RBI, 3 R; Jordan Jones 2-2, 4 RBI, 2 R.
Records: Muncy 14-5, 10-4 HAC-III. Montgomery 10-6, 7-5.