One cannot blame her. Cellina Salvatori grew up playing softball but she also possesses elite speed.
So last year, Salvatori opted to run track instead of playing high school softball as a freshman. She performed well on the track but is back playing softball this season. There is nothing wrong with trying another sport, but Salvatori used a specific word to describe last year's decision.
"I took off last year and decided not to play and I don't know why. It was stupid of me," Salvatori said. "I missed it a lot and I'm glad I came out this year and played."
Cellina Salvatori ran track last season for Loyalsock.
So is Loyalsock.
Despite missing a year, Salvatori has become a vital contributor and came up big at last weekend's Williamsport Tournament. The sophomore second baseman delivered late-game go-ahead hits in Saturday's semifinals and championship as Loyalsock defeated Mifflinburg and Williamsport while capturing the tournament crown for the first time in the 21st century.
The Lancers (9-4) made a big statement last weekend and again look like serious District 4 Class AA title contenders. But it is hard to envision where they might be without Salvatori. Facing the difficult task of replacing all-stater Ashleigh Bair, Salvatori has settled in and provided a reliable glove while becoming an offensive weapon.
Saturday, her go-ahead fifth-inning RBI double broke a 1-1 tie against Mifflinburg and she slammed a two-run double against Williamsport to put Loyalsock ahead 5-3 in the sixth inning. Salvatori finished that game 2 for 4 and seems to be finding her groove.
"At our very first meeting we had, I asked the girls, 'where's Salvatori?' I heard she was going to come out and boy are we glad she did," Loyalsock coach Craig Weaver Sr. said. "It's my first year here and that was a huge addition. She filled a big hole and has done a real nice job."
Salvatori is a weapon on the bases and has the ability to turn singles into doubles and to take extra bases, something that can loom large in big games. She had struggled a little offensively but broke out Saturday and was one of the team's most valuable players.
Against Williamsport, Salvatori also showed that she is a quick learner. She struck out her first two times up and chased some pitches out of the zone. It looked like it might happen again as she went after a high pitch and fell behind 0-2 in the fifth inning. Instead, Salvatori laid off the next high pitch, took another ball and then crushed a two-run double into deep center field.
"It felt great just to do it for the team and for everyone. I just waited for what I wanted and I got it," Salvatori said. "I knew I needed to do something. I had struck out twice and I knew I needed to do something big."
Salvatori simply changing sports this year has been big. She opened the season as a first baseman but moved to second base early and the defense has solidified itself, making just five errors in the last eight games. Salvatori has good range and can get some balls that others cannot since she is so quick.
Just as important, Salvatori is a good teammate, an experienced player who has been a two-year basketball starter as well. She might regret last year's decision, but Salvatori is back and is enjoying making up for lost time.
"The girls and the coaches really helped me get right back into it," Salvatori said. "I couldn't ask for better coaches or teammates and I'm having a lot of fun."
COMING BACK: While Loyalsock defeated Williamsport in Saturday's championship, the Millionaires still have come a long way after starting 0-5. The Millionaires won five straight before playing the Lancers and beat playoff-bound Troy and Muncy, 2-1 and 11-1, respectively. Earlier in the week, Williamsport routed Punxsutawney and Altoona by a 21-0 margin.
Especially encouraging for Williamsport is the way its offense has been producing. The Millionaires delivered 22 hits in Saturday's two games and every starter reached base against Loyalsock. The bottom of the order ignited a three-run sixth-inning against Loyalsock that gave Williamsport a brief 6-5 lead and put Muncy away, displaying a killer instinct that was lacking earlier this season when it lost a big lead to State College.
"It would have been nice to get that last one (Saturday), but we're going to go hard this week and we have some real quality teams coming up next week," Williamsport coach Quint Bower said. "If we can just keep moving forward we'll take some positives from it."
STREAKING: St. John Neumann has heated up, winning five straight games and suddenly the playoffs appear a distinct possibility for a young team that has made tremendous progress. The Knights scored 71 runs and delivered 51 hits in four wins last week, sweeping a double header from Bucktail, 14-4 and 15-4 last Friday. Now, they are four wins from reaching districts for just the second time in program history.
Senior catcher Rachel Danneker, hitting .500, has been key to the resurgence and went 6 for 7 in the Bucktail sweep while driving in five runs. Emily Sholder and Meghan Trenholm returning after taking last year off also has been a huge boost. Trenholm homered against Bucktail and Sholder has been nearly impossible to get out the last few weeks.
While those seniors are helping ignite Neumann's run, young players are also making an impact. Freshman pitcher Morgan Kriner improved to 5-1 after the Bucktail sweep and has allowed six hits or fewer in four of her last five starts. She and fellow freshman pitcher Cassandra Crouse give Neumann to good building blocks and things are looking for a team that won just two games last year.
EXTRA BASES: Former Loyalsock catcher Amanda Daneker is having a huge debut season at Coastal Carolina and helped it capture the Big South championship Saturday. Daneker has started all 51 games, is hitting .306 and has helped Coastal Carolina go 37-14 ... Former Williamsport all-stater Alexis Bower also is having a big freshman season, hitting .311 with 7 home runs and 35 RBIs while going 15-9 with a 2.59 ERA ... Hughesville was beating East Juniata 8-0 Friday before rain suspended the game in the eighth inning. Juneil Ritter hit her first career home run and Brianna Stroup was 2 for 2 ... Emily Shnyder earned a save and had RBI hits in consecutive games as Muncy (9-3) finished fourth at the Williamsport Tournament.
Dr. Masse's top five in area softball
(Records through Saturday)
1. Milton (10-0): The Black Panthers are having one of the best offensive seasons in program history, averaging 12.4 runs and 12.2 hits per game. Milton has mercy-ruled seven teams and handed Mifflinburg just its second loss when it beat it 7-2 last Tuesday. Pitcher Taylor Batman (8-0) has helped her own cause and homered in three straight games while Bayli Derr and Leigthon Chappell have heated up the last two weeks.
2. Jersey Shore (8-3): The Bulldogs trail Milton by one game in the HAC-I and they are 8-0 when they score more than two runs. Rebecca Caputo and Brianna Stetts have thrown well and the offense has been balanced. Shelbie Wenner is settling in nicely as a first-year starter and went 2 for 3 in Saturday's loss to Mifflin County. The Bulldogs went 0-2 at the Central Mountain tournament but playing two strong big-school teams could pay nice dividends as the season progresses.
3. Wellsboro (9-1): The Green Hornets are off to one of their best starts ever and have a shot at gaining District 4 Class AA's top seed. A team that returned nearly every starter from last year has won five straight and shutout four straight opponents before beating Athens, 8-3 last Friday. Catcher Paige Carr is having a big year and went 3 for 3 against Athens while Jordan Butters went 2 for 3 with a home run, a double and three RBIs. Alexa Singer and Brooke Kohler give Wellsboro quality pitching options and Kohler has excelled in relief while Singer is 8-1. This is a big week for the Hornets in their pursuit as they play Troy and Towanda. The Black Knights knocked Wellsboro from last year's playoffs and are the only team to defeat it this season.
4. South Williamsport (6-4): The Mounties have turned their season around following a three-game losing streak that dropped it to 3-4 and last week could be a big springboard down the stretch. South exacted revenge for an earlier defeat, edging Southern Columbia, 3-2 before completing its first sweep of Loyalsock since 2007 when it won, 7-4. Sophomore pitcher Anna Steer appears to be regaining the form that made her one of the area's premier pitchers late last year and junior Lizz Cummings has been on a hitting rampage. The team's lead-off hitter has hit four home runs in her last five games and went 2 for 2 with six walks and seven RBIs last week. Third baseman Kelsey Gantz also is heating up and went 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBIs in the comeback win over Loyalsock.
5. Loyalsock (9-4): The Lancers came back strong after the South loss and beat three playoff-bound teams while capturing the Williamsport Tournament championship. Allie Pagana and Kay Kay Lupo consistently reached base and that makes Loyalsock especially tough to beat when big hitters like Kayla Gee, Kendall Watkins and Allison Czap come up next. Gee went 3 for 4 against Williamsport with 3 RBIs while Watkins and Czap had three RBIs in the decisive sixth inning as Loyalsock overcame its second deficit in as many innings.
"I have faith in my team. When we're in situations like that anything is possible and we can come back and win the game," Czap said. "Our momentum in the dugout was awesome and I feel like we were up and we weren't going to let anything get us down."
Player of the week
Emily Sholder, St. John Neumann: Sholder made news in Game 1 against Bucktail Friday when she grounded out in the first inning. That was because it was the first time in 16 plate appearances she did not reach base. Sholder has been on a huge tear despite missing last season and started a new streak in her next at-bat, going 6 for 6 from there in the double header. The senior shortstop hits the ball hard, has good speed and went 12 for 13 with a grand slam, a double, six RBIs and 11 runs last week. As good as she was in basketball last winter, Sholder, who is hitting .684, has been possibly even better on the softball field.
Game of the week
Milton at Jersey Shore: Thursday's game will go a long way in determining the HAC-I championship. Milton won Round 1, 6-2 two weeks ago but Jersey Shore beat it in last year's district championship. The Panthers start a tough road in Jersey Shore, heading to Williamsport for three games the next two days at the 8-team tournament. If you're looking for District 4's best softball rivalry you will find it Thursday at Jersey Shore.