Many Warrior Run players cried after dropping a heart-breaking 4-3 Class AA state championship decision against Neshannock.
As the days, weeks and years go by those tears will become permanent smiles when reflecting upon their 2012 season. Warrior Run started turning things around in 2010 and this past season it completed its transformation from also-ran to state power. The Defenders constantly made history, capturing the program's first league, district and Eastern Region championships while shattering the single-season for wins and winning the first three state playoff games ever. And the best might yet to come as well since all but one starter return next year.
It is no surprise than that in a year of firsts, Warrior Run headlines the Sun-Gazette Softball Awards.
Coach of the Year
Second runner-up-Greg Carr, Wellsboro: Despite having a team that had no seniors and started mostly freshmen and sophomores, Carr led Wellsboro to 12 wins, a gutsy playoff victory and to the brink of a league championship. The Green Hornets recorded wins over Towanda and NTL-West champion Troy and rallied from four runs down in the bottom of the seventh to beat South Williamsport in the first round of the playoffs. Every player returns next season and Carr could have his team poised for big things.
First runner-up-Ray Perchinski, St. John Neumann: At one point, Perchinski thought the season might be canceled due to having so few players. Instead, he guided the Knights to the best season in program history. Neumann won 10 games, reached the postseason for the first time and upset district semifinalist Muncy along the way. Perchinski has helped Neumann break the program record for wins in each of the last two seasons and has helped breathe life into a once dormant program that constantly is fighting the odds.
And the winner is...Garth Watson, Warrior Run: The fifth-year coach has helped orchestrate the remarkable Turbotville turnaround and pushed all the right buttons this season. Watson helped his team navigate a tough HAC-II and challenging District 4 while winning 24 games. One sign of an outstanding coach is how much it improves as the season progresses and Warrior Run kept getting better, playing its best softball when it mattered most. Every player contributed, Warrior Run consistently won tough games and the lineup was strong top to bottom. Watson is not one to take credit, but he deserves a lot of it.
Honorable Mention: Quint Bower, Williamsport; Mallory Hafer, Muncy; Chris Glenn, Jersey Shore; Craig Weaver, Montgomery
Sun-Gazette Pitcher of the Year
Second runner-up-Arika Stopper, Jersey Shore: One of the district's best the last two years, Stopper helped Jersey Shore build on its excellent pitching tradition. The senior went 12-3 and allowed just 10 earned runs while shutting out Williamsport, Bald Eagle Area and Selinsgrove, and also downing District 4 Class AAA champion Milton. Stopper allowed five hits or fewer eight times, was outstanding in pressure situations, never became rattled and was the consummate teammate.
First runner-up-Taylor Parker, Warrior Run: A player who dominated some of the state's premier offenses, Parker had a year to remember, going 24-3 with a 1.38 ERA and 239 strikeouts. The junior pitched every inning of every game, threw six no-hitters and added consecutive 1-hitters in states. Parker also threw a shutout against Mifflinburg in the district final and finished the season with 11 shutouts. Five of those came in succession halfway through the season. Parker also has topped 600 career strikeouts.
And the winner is...Alexis Bower, Williamsport: It seemed difficult to build on a tremendous 2011 season, but Bower did it this past year. The hard-working, hard-throwing junior went 17-4 with a save and a 0.84 ERA while leading Williamsport to a second straight District 2-4 Class AAAA championship. Bower seemed invincible at times, allowing only 56 hits in 141 innings while striking out 220. She threw nine shutouts and held opponents to a .115 average. Bower had to be nearly perfect in some games for Williamsport to win and she was. Bower surrendered only two hits in two district wins and struck out 25 in those games. She has thrown six shutouts in eight postseason performances and thrives under pressure.
Sun-Gazette Player of the Year
Second runner-up-Amanda Daneker, Loyalsock: Just about any other year, Daneker would be Player of the Year, showcasing how deep this field is. The best area catcher this reporter has covered in 13 years at the Sun-Gazette, Daneker is an offensive and defensive force who already has verbally committed to play collegiately at Coastal Carolina. She hit .603 this past season with five home runs, 31 RBIs and 30 runs scored while striking out just three times in 76 at-bats. She might be even better behind the plate. Not one opponent stole a base against her and she threw out 11 baserunners while compiling a .983 fielding percentage.
First runner-up-Alexis Bower, Williamsport: Oh yeah, she can hit really well, too. And picking between Bower and the Player of the Year winner is the equivalent of a photo finish. Bower hit .547 and belted seven home runs, drove in 29 runs and scored 20 more. She had a 1.000 slugging percentage and a .618 on-base percentage and added six doubles and a triple. Bower might be the district's best power hitter and seems to be at her best when runners are in scoring position. She also runs the bases well and plays a good shortstop on the rare occasions she does not pitch. Williamsport has a proud tradition featuring so many terrific players. Bower is now firmly entrenched among those great ones.
And the winner is... Taylor Parker, Warrior Run: Those that see Parker for the first time during warm-ups probably would not think she could be so dominant. Looks can be deceiving and this small, soft-spoken player is a dynamic force who likely was the state's best Class AA player this season. As stellar as she was on the mound, Parker might have been even better at the plate. She hit .642 with seven home runs, a district-best 18 doubles, four triples and a district-high 45 RBIs. Parker is a blur on the bases, often taking an extra base with her instincts and blazing speed. Aside from the stats, she also is a great leader who makes those around her better.
"She's a gamer and her work ethic has rubbed off on her classmates and some of the younger girls," Watson said after the state final. "To get somebody in your program like her, it's a great thing. I could coach 20 years and not get a kid like her. She is the first kid to practice and last to leave. She does her homework on the batters and that's something special for a kid to put in the extra time.
"She did a phenomenal job."
(Only teams who consistently reported scores to the Sun-Gazette are eligible)
Starting Lineup: 1. Hannah Cole, OF, Muncy (.556, 35 R, 23 RBIs, 7 HR, 9 2B, 1 3B, .680 obp, 1.148 slugging, 20 SB, certain four-time all-state selection); 2. Taylor Parker, IF, Warrior Run; 3. Alexis Bower, P, Williamsport; 4. Amanda Daneker, C, Loyalsock; 5. Jackie Clemens, IF, Warrior Run (.494, 42 H, 10 2B, 3 HR, 32 RBIs); 6. Casey Ulmer, IF (.420, 6 HR, 31 RBIs, 19 R, .966 fielding, only 3 errors in 89 chances); 7. Rebecca Hite, IF, Montgomery (.577, 16 R, 22 RBIs, 10 2Bs, 11-11 SBs, .578 obp, .769 slugging, only 1 K); 8. Alana Androvette, OF. St. John Neumann (.533, .700 obp, 25 RBIs, 13-game hitting streak); 9. Kayla Allen, OF, Jersey Shore (.519, HR, 23-23 SBs, team leader in runs)
Starting Rotation: Alexis Bower, Williamsport; Taylor Parker, Warrior Run; Arika Stopper, Jersey Shore; Christina Mignot, Neumann (9 wins, 1.59 ERA, 168 Ks, 120 IP, 1 no-hitter, 1 1-hitter, 2 2-hitters, 31 Ks against Muncy, 19 against Montgomery, 9 Ks per game); Amanda Kustanbauter, Muncy (10-5, 1.72 ERA, 93 2/3 IP, 78 Ks, 11 Ks against state finalist Southern Columbia in district semifinals)
Bullpen: Brooke Kohler, Wellsboro (5-1, 4 SVs, 64 IP, 57 Ks, 2-hitter vs. Troy, 5-hitter vs. Towanda); Casey Brewer, South Williamsport (9 wins, 3.93 ERA, 84 Ks, 5 SHO); Emily Shnyder, Montgomery (11-7, 3.67 ERA, 103 IP, 81 Ks, 1 no-hitter, 3 one-hitters); Tori Entz, Montoursville
First Team Reserves: Ashleigh Bair, IF, Loyalsock (.382, 23 R, 13 RBIs, .987 fielding, just one error in 76 chances, turned 4 DPs); Sarah March, C, South Williamsport (.419, .446 obp, .613 slugging, .524 RISP, 1 HR, 13 R, 13 RBIs, only 3 Ks, 0 throwing errors); Janelle Konkle, DH, Montoursville (.386, over .500 over last 8 games); Megan Miller, IF, Hughesville (.392, 14 R, 12 RBIs, 3 HR, 5 2B, 1 3B, .530 obp, .736 slugging, 7 SB); Brooke Pompeo, IF, Williamsport (.373, .455 obp, 18 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR); Carra Rishel, OF, Warrior Run (.347, 7 RBIs, hit safely in all seven playoff games, 5-9 in districts); Courtney Smith, IF, Jersey Shore (.679, 16 RBIs, 0 strikeouts, several game-winning RBIs); Katy Swartz, OF, Warrior Run (.407, 33 H, 20 RBIs); Dominique Thomas, OF, Williamsport (.277, 12 R, 3 3B, 2 HR, 13 RBIs, great defense, clutch hitter, played with injury all season); Kaitlyn Warzel, C, Montgomery (.396, 15 R, 17 RBIs, 5 2B, 3 3Bs, 8-8 SBs, .517 obp, 0 Errors); Hannah Yost, IF, Jersey Shore (.365, 10-game hitting streak, terrific defense, turned 6 DPs, great range and arm strength)
Mikayla Bower, IF, Williamsport (.382, .405 obp, 1 2B, 1 3B, 6 RBIs); Hanna Cioffi, IF, Montoursville; Rachel Danneker, C, Neumann; Crystal Good, C, Muncy (.359, 27 R, 14 RBIs, 3 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, .456 obp, 16 SB); Rachel Floyd, OF, South (.412 RISP, 13 R, 8 RBIs, second half of season: .367, .500 slugging, .457 obp) Katie Kustanbauter, OF, Hughesville (.321, 16 R, 12 RBIs, 1 HR, .449 obp); Jordan Jones, IF, Muncy (.420, 19 R, 17 RBIs, 2 3B, .540 obp, 13 SBs); Averi Lorson, IF, Jersey Shore (.333, only three errors as a freshman; Kay Kay Lupo, IF, Loyalsock (.365, HR, 12 RBIs, 17 R); Devin Nicholas, IF, Warrior Run (.400, 32 H, 14 SB, 21 RBIs); Holly Peacock, IF, Jersey Shore (.279, 5 2Bs, 1 3B, 8 RBIs, stellar defense); Gabby Shrawder, OF, Warrior Run; Maggie Smith, IF, Wellsboro (.303, 18 RBIs, 14 R, 2 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B); Kelsey Stine, C (.300, excellent defense, threw out 12 runners); Carisa Swartz, IF, Warrior Run; Kiersten Warzel, IF, Montgomery (.294, 13 R, 11 RBIs, 7-7 SBs, .492 obp); Kaylnn Wheeland, IF, South (.308, .519 slugging, .368 obp, .385 RISP, 1 HR, 10 R, 12 RBIs); Courtney Wilk, IF, Montgomery (.396, .609 obp, 13 SBs, 22 R, 8 RBIs); Cortney Zook, IF, Hughesville (.355, 14 R, 7 RBIs, 3 2B, .403 obp, 5 SB)
Breakthrough Underclassman of the Year
(This does not signify the top underclassman, but rather a non first-teamer who either burst onto the scholastic scene or made strong progress)
Kelsey Gantz, South Williamsport: An infielder most of her life, Gantz moved to right field and made an immediate impact. The freshman made several quality plays while also playing second and third base when those starters were sidelined. Gantz had a .300 on-base percentage and is a hard worker with a bright future. South has all but three starters returning next season and Gantz is a key building block as the Mounties hope to build off this year's playoff appearance.
Cortney Zook, Hughesville: The sophomore shortstop came a long way and played well in all facets as a young Hughesville team progressed throughout the season. Zook hit .355 and had a .403 on-base percentage. She also scored 14 runs and scored the winning run in a dramatic 8-7 win over archrival Muncy. In that game, Zook went 3 for 4 with a double. That was one of her seven multi-hit game performances.
And the winner is... Kaitlin Caringi, Williamsport: One of three freshmen who immediately started, Caringi played a prominent role in Williamsport repeating as district champions. Caringi hit .322 and acted like another leadoff hitter when she opened the season batting in the No. 9 slot. Caringi is a good right fielder and displayed her versatility when fellow freshman shortstop Mikayla Bower was injured midway through the season. Caringi moved to shortstop and played well as the Millionaires continued their march toward league and district titles. Caringi is one of several starters returning next year and will be joined by a crop of promising incoming freshmen, so the good times could continue at Williamsport.
Other Underclassmen to watch in 2013: Lauren Bleggi, Wellsboro; Jourdan Boehmer, South; Brianne Brewer, Jersey Shore; Taylor Brooks, Williamsport; Jordan Butters, Wellsboro; Paige Carr, Wellsboro; Allison Czap, Loyalsock; Rachel Danneker, Neumann; Caitlin Dauberman, Muncy; Samantha Fischer, Williamsport; Kaylie Harer, Montgomery; Kirstyn Harstead, Jersey Shore; Bryce Hillyard, Jersey Shore; Natalie Lamoreaux, Muncy; Katherine Mertes, Neumann; Kelsey Stine, Montoursville; Cayla Treaster, Montoursville; Lynn Vermilya, Warrior Run; Kylie Welker, Loyalsock; Cindie Wilt, Hughesville
-Masse may be reached at email@example.com