Loyalsock first baseman Allison Czap spent many weekends last fall playing travel softball. Her eye focused on spring of 2013, Czap could not get enough softball. The more, the better so she could explode come spring.
Third baseman Kendall Watkins spends most of her Sundays working on hitting with her stepfather, former professional baseball player and Hughesville baseball coach Casey Waller. The more swings, the more tips, she receives, the happier Watkins is.
All the work, all the extra time is paying dividends. Czap has unleashed all season and Watkins, a freshman, broke out Tuesday at Short Park. Both Czap and Watkins homered while combining for three RBIs while Kayla Gee threw a two-hit shutout as Loyalsock blanked Montoursville, 6-0.
Loyalsock players congratulate Allison Czap (22) after her home run Tuesday vs. Montoursville. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"I practiced hard at everything," Czap said. "Catching, fielding, hitting, running and playing first base. Whatever it took, I practiced it."
"We (she and Waller) work every Sunday on hitting and that helps," Watkins said. "I've been in a slump I guess you could say and I've been getting some extra swings with (Loyalsock) coach (Tom) O'Malley too and we just really worked on it and it paid off."
Czap's two-run first-inning home run put Loyalsock ahead to stay and Watkins' fourth-inning home run made it 3-0. Watkins later added a RBI single in a three-run fifth-inning as the Lancers (5-1, 4-1 HAC-II) won their third straight and beat a fundamentally-sound team.
The bonus for Loyalsock is that Czap and Watkins hit behind three-time all-state catcher Amanda Daneker. Trying to pitch around Daneker is futile because Czap has been a huge run producer early this season and Watkins showed with one swing how dangerous she can be.
Daneker drew a two-out first-inning walk and a batter later, Czap slammed a 1-0 pitch into a stiff wind blowing in, easily depositing it over the left-field fence. They were the fifth and sixth runs Czap drove in during the past six innings.
"It was a really good feeling to get my team motivated and score some early runs," Czap said. "It's fun knowing others depend on you to get runs in."
"Alison has been very consistent," O'Malley said. "She's very key because of Amanda hitting in front of her. The top of our lineup has been very consistent and that's how we've been able to score some runs and all the way throughout the lineup they're doing well."
Montoursville pitcher Cayla Treaster threw a good game, but Watkins led off the fourth with one of the longest home runs hit at Short Park this season. The freshman drove a 2-1 pitch over the fence in dead center field and nearly put it into the creek well beyond that fence. An inning later, she blooped a two-out RBI single into center field, putting Loyalsock up 5-0.
Watkins also made one of the game's best defensive plays. Montoursville (2-3, 2-3) had runners on first and second with one out in the sixth inning when Kourtney Phillips hit a screamer down the third-base line. Watkins dove toward the line and made the brilliant catch before throwing to second and completing an inning-ending double play. She also had made the final out an inning earlier when Montoursville had runners on second and third.
"I just saw the ball off the bat well," Watkins said. "My teammates definitely helped me out yelling to get two and I just threw it over and got the out."
"Kendall has a lot of ability and it showed on that home run," O'Malley said. "I like the way she plays third too. She has great agility over there and a nice strong arm."
So does Gee (2-for-3) who took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and struck out seven. The freshman threw her second shutout and consistently worked ahead in the count while letting her defense work. Gee also changed speeds well, something she has been progressing with and something that could be make her especially tough as the season continues.
Montoursville, one of the area's youngest teams, kept trying to fight back and had two runners on in three of the last four innings. Another great Loyalsock play ended its last rally and the game. With runners on first and second, Loyalsock second baseman Ashleigh Bair made a spectacular leaping catch near the right-field grass, robbing Hanna Cioffi of a RBI hit.
The Warriors showed huge improvement from the previous day when they made seven errors against Southern Columbia. This time, Montoursville played near flawless defense and took runs away with outstanding plays. Catcher Kelsey Stine showed why she is one of the best around, picking a runner off third and throwing another out trying to steal second while Phillips made a nice catch in center field that resulted in a double play.
Combine that with Treaster consistently working out of trouble against an explosive lineup and Montoursville never letting up and coach Mike Tate likes what he sees from his young team.
"My whole team has been working their butts off and right now I couldn't be prouder," Tate said. "They don't quit. They just keep plugging away. They are a great group of kids and they all work hard."
Stine went 1 for 2 with a walk and Ally Yocum also singled for Montoursville in the fourth inning before both executed a double steal and became the first players to steal a base off Daneker in two years.
Montoursville000 000 0-0 2 1
Loyalsock200 130 x-6 9 1
Cayla Treaster and Kelsey Stine. Kayla Gee and Amanda Daneker. W-Gee, (2-1). L-Treaster, (2-3).
Top Montoursville hitters: Stine 1-2, BB; Ally Yocum 1-3. Top Loyalsock hitters: Allie Pagana 1-3, 2B, R; Allison Czap 1-2, 2-run HR, 2 R; Kendall Watkins 2-3, HR, 2 RBI, R; Gee 2-3, RBI.
Records: Loyalsock 5-1, 4-1 HAC-II. Montoursville 2-3, 2-3.