Loyalsock shortstop Allie Pagana stood next to first-year coach Tom O'Malley, a few feet from the batter's box, shivering and trembling. She was freezing, but absorbing everything the former major leaguer said.
Then she proved how well she listened.
Pagana slammed her fourth hit seconds later and capped a fantastic day Wednesday at Short Park. Pagana went 4 for 4, hit her first varsity home run and finished a triple shy of the cycle as Loyalsock thumped Hughesville, 16-0 in four innings. Freshman Kayla Gee pitched a 1-hitter in her varsity debut while Amanda Daneker and Kay Kay Lupo homered in the season opener for both teams.
"Tom has a very positive attitude which helps me a lot and he knows a lot about the game so it gives me a lot of confidence," Pagana said. "I can understand and believe what he says to me."
Pagana was one of several Loyalsock offensive standouts. The Lancers delivered 12 hits and all 10 batters reached base at least once. Daneker slammed a walk-off grand slam, going 3 for 4 with a double and three runs while Ashleigh Bair (2 for 3) and Allison Czap (1 for 3, 2 runs) ignited a five-run first-inning with a RBI single and two-run double, respectively.
All three hitters follow Pagana, who is the team's leadoff hitter. She set the tone, leading off the first inning with a single, doubling in her next at-bat and then homering her third time up. She has dangerous hitters behind her and Pagana getting on base is a huge asset, a fact driven home by her scoring every time she reached.
"I think that the reason I'm hitting first is because of my quickness, so if I can get on I have awesome people who can hit the ball behind me and help me score," Pagana said. "It was awesome. Last year I didn't hit so well and was kind of in a slump. This year I was happy he (O'Malley) put me up first. I feel like he put me there because he feels like I can do it and I feel like I can do it."
Loyalsock appears loaded offensively and opened the game with four straight hits. The Lancers scored at least one run every inning, ran the bases well and displayed outstanding approaches at the plate. They did not strike out and consistently put pressure on the defense. All nine starters scored at least one run.
Lupo's three-run home run put Loyalsock up 9-0 in the third inning and Daneker ended the game an inning later as she slammed her grand slam off and over the top of the fence in dead center field.
"The girls were aggressive swinging at strikes and putting the ball in play and making good, hard contact," O'Malley said. "That was a good overall team win right there. We played good defense, had good pitching, swung the bats well and everyone contributed."
Gee was brilliant in her first varsity game. The freshman struck out the first two batters she faced, had five strikeouts through two innings and surrendered only a fourth-inning single. It was an impressive opening statement by one of two freshmen starters who is part of a deep pitching staff.
"I just needed to stay positive and try and work ahead and not get down," Gee said. "It takes the pressure off a little bit. It gives me more confidence for other games. It gave me a lot of confidence because I know my team is there to back me up. They have great attitudes behind me."
Hughesville is a young team that has barely been outside yet. The Spartans had not taken an infield practice until yesterday's pregame.
Daneker again showed why she is one of the state's premier catchers. In the fourth inning, she tracked down a wild pitch and easily threw out a runner trying to advance to third. It was a difficult play but Daneker made it look routine before nearly picking a runner off first two pitches later.
She is one of seven returning starters from last year's team and Loyalsock is hoping to make a statement this afternoon when it hosts rival South Williamsport (2-0).
Hughesville000 0-0 1 2
Loyalsock531 7-16 12 1
Cindie Wilt, Elle Watts (4) and Kaitlyn LaForme. Kayla Gee and Amanda Daneker. W-Gee, (1-0). L-Wilt.
Top Hughesville hitters: Watts 1-2. Top Loyalsock hitters: Allie Pagana 4-4, HR, 2B; Ashleigh Bair 2-3, 2B, 2 R; Daneker 3-4, GS, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R; Allison Czap 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Kay Kay Lupo HR, 4 RBI.
Records: Loyalsock 1-0, 1-0 HAC-II. Hughesville 0-1, 0-1.