One need not watch a softball game to realize Williamsport's Alexis Bower is pitching. Just listen.
As she releases nearly ever pitch, Bower lets out a grunt. That grunt says a lot too. Bower is putting everything she has into every pitch and everything except the batter and the catcher's mitt is flushed out. So while Bower did something that no Williamsport pitcher may ever accomplish again Saturday at Elm Park, she was the last to realize it.
Bower threw two no-hitters, in addition to slamming two home runs that produced four of the team's six runs, as the Millionaires defeated both Union-Endicott and St. Hubert's while capturing their second Williamsport Tournament championship in as many weeks. Bower no-hit Union-Endicott 1-0 in the semifinals before delivering an encore performance in a 5-0 championship win.
Alexis Bower pitches Williamsport to its second tournament title in two weekends at Elm Park.
"I just stay focused the whole time and go out and do my job. I never think going out, I want to throw a no-hitter or I want to throw a perfect game. It's just go out and throw and let the defense do it's job," Bower said. "I don't even notice when they go back through the lineup. We will come in and my mom will tell me, '2-3-4' is coming up and I'm like, 'Oh, ok.' I'm going out like it's a new girl every time and just throwing the ball."
Milton's Kiah Brink enjoyed a career day, finishing a single shy of the cycle as the Black Panthers defeated Montoursville 8-1 in a consolation game and finished the tournament 2-1. Montoursville nearly upset Penns Valley in its first game Saturday but finished 0-3.
Williamsport (14-2) won its ninth straight and did not allow a run in this tournament that included several outstanding teams and elite pitchers, especially Union-Endicott's Rachel Mouilleseaux. The Millionaires played good defense, delivered 17 hits and did not allow a hit in three tournament games.
Taylor Brooks went 3 for 4 in the final, setting up and driving in Williamsport's last two runs. Samantha Fischer added two hits while third baseman Kaitlin Caringi, shortstop Mikayla Bower and second baseman Tiana McCormick made some nice plays in both games.
"I feel like we're really starting to come together as a team," Brooks said. "We're starting to become one."
While the entire Williamsport team played well, Bower stole the show.
Bower, the state's reigning Class AAAA Player of the Year, struck out 24 and walked just one while going to only four three-ball counts. She needed just 92 and 79 pitches to overwhelm Union-Endicott and St. Hubert's (13-3). Bower threw 17 straight no-hit innings at the tournament after she and Mikayla combined on a perfect game in Friday's 8-0 win over Montoursville.
Only one runner reached second in either game and Bower made 1-0 and 3-0 leads in both games look like 10 and 30-run leads. She nearly threw a perfect game against Union-Endicott, striking out 13, before stifling St. Hubert's, a 5-0 semifinal winner over Milton, and striking out 11.
"The past week, week and a half, I feel really strong and with the defense behind me it helps a lot," Bower said. "Throughout my high school experience this is definitely the strongest I've felt. I've had a lot of experience and I know situations going in and it's helped me."
Bower has been equally dominant offensively. She provided the game's only run against Union-Endicott when she slammed a home run over the center fielder's head. She went 3 for 3 in that game and finished a double shy of hitting for the cycle.
After Kaliyah Moore and Caringi reached to start the championship, Bower lined a long home run into the left-center field gap, her longest hit of the day and three batters into the game Williamsport led 3-0. She finished 5 for 7 in the two games and 8 for 10 at the tournament with three home runs and seven RBIs. Bower now has seven home runs and is as playing as well in all facets as any Millionaire player ever has.
In addition to clicking offensively, Bower has been untouchable in the circle, running her scoreless innings streak to 51 yesterday. The senior has allowed just five hits during that span and struck out 101.
"I've never seen a high school player, since I've been coaching, that is as locked in pitching, hitting and fielding as she is right now," Williamsport coach Quint Bower said. "She did an excellent job at shortstop (Friday) night and she's just smoking the ball. She's locked in right now and hopefully she can carry it right through the playoffs."
"I'm learning as the season goes on to just put a sweet swing on it and it's definitely helped me," Alexis Bower said. "Last year was a struggle for me, just going in and thinking I need to hit. My dad always tells me you can't go out and hit an 8-run home run so you just have to go in and do your job and put a nice swing on the ball. That's what I've been doing and it's been working."
The whole Williamsport offense was working in the championship. The Millionaires delivered 10 hits off St. Hubert's ace Erin Ragazzane, who threw a 2-hit shutout earlier in the day against Milton. And after Bower played longball in the first inning, Brooks proved Williamsport can play smallball too, dropping a lead-off bunt single and then scoring on three wild pitches.
Mikayla Bower dropped a two-out bunt single an inning later, Fischer followed with a single and Brooks hit a slap RBI single, making it 5-0. The sophomore right fielder has a nice blend of speed and offensive skills and that gave her pitcher two huge insurance runs. She is one of many players excelling as the season progresses and that has the two-time defending District 2-4 Class AAAA champions soaring as the playoffs approach.
"I feel like when I go up there and bunt one time and then I slap and then I hit for power they're not going to know what to do," Brooks said. "I feel like we're a lot more of a team than last year. We all have a lot of fun outside of softball. We're all really close. We're like a family."
Milton bounced back from its semifinal loss in impressive fashion as Dani Lincoln threw a five-hitter and Brink sparked the offense in the 8-1 win over Montoursville. Brink doubled, tripled and then homered in her first three at-bats while driving in five runs. Her two-run double and two-run triple came with two outs and put Milton up 4-1.
"I felt great. I felt more comfortable than I have felt all year," Brink said. "I think from now on I'll be more aggressive at the plate and know that I can hit the ball."
Lincoln allowed no runs over the final six innings and Milton broke things open with four runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Bethany Brennan went 3 for 4 with a double and both Megan Phillips and Linea Brouse had two hits.
The Black Panthers (11-3) fared well at a tournament stocked with strong teams, beating Lower Dauphin 2-1 Friday night. Playing those kind of games could be a blessing as they try defending their District 4 Class AAA championship.
"I felt we did really well. We played more as a team. I think we play as a team we can do really well," Brink said. "Playing the better teams makes you better. It lets you know what pitching might be coming."
Payton Lynch had two hits for Montoursville (4-11). The Warriors made a furious rally in their first game, nearly erasing an 8-3 seventh-inning deficit before losing 8-7. Montoursville delivered five hits in the seventh inning before the tying runner was thrown out at home to end the game.
St. Hubert's 0
Williamsport300 001 1-5 10 1
St. Hubert's000 000 0-0 0 1
Alexis Bower and Shataya Buxton. Erin Ragazzane and Jess Grzyluna. W-Bower, (13-2). L-Gryzluna.
Top Williamsport hitters: Bower 2-4, 3-run HR; Samantha Fischer 2-4, 2B; Taylor Brooks 3-4, RBI, R; Buxton 1-2, 2B.
Records: Williamsport 14-2. St. Hubert's 13-3.
U-E000 000 0-0 0 1
Williamsport000 100 x-1 6 1
Alexis Bower and McKenzie Tebbs. Rachel Mouilleseaux and Karleigh Eaton. W-Bower. L-Mouilleseaux.
Top Williamsport hitters: Bower 3-3, HR, 3B, RBI; Buxton 2-2; Tiana McCormick 1-2.
St. Hubert's 5,
St. Hubert's000 300 2-5 3 0
Milton000 000 0-0 2 1
Ragazzane and Grzyluna. Taylor Batman and Mackenna Miller. W-Ragazzane. L-Batman, (7-3).
Top Milton hitters: Miller 1-3, Dani Lincoln 1-3.
Milton020 202 2-8 11 1
Montoursville100 000 0-1 5 1
Lincoln and Linea Brouse. Cayla Treaster and Kim Foster. W-Lincoln, (4-0). L-Treaster.
Top Milton hitters: Kiah Brink 3-4, HR, 3B, 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R; Bethany Brennan 3-4, 2B; Megan Phillips 2-4, RBI; Brouse 2-3. Top Montoursville hitter: Payton Lynch 2-3, R.
Records: Milton 11-3. Montoursville 4-11.
Other Consolation Scores
Penns Valley 8, Montoursville 7
Daniel Boone 10, Lower Dauphin 9