Central Columbia captured the Class AA state championship and Warrior Run reached the 2012 state final. One gets the point. Year after year, District 4 Class AA is loaded and if a team survives it has a great chance to go a long way.
Problem is surviving is the difficult part. The field might be the state's toughest and it grows even stronger next year. Class A champion South Williamsport joins the field as does HAC-I champion Milton. Before looking ahead to how entertaining the 2015 tournament will be, though, let's take a look back at 2014.
Loyalsock's Kayla Gee was named the Sun-Gazette's Softball Player of the Year.
Coach of the Year
Second runner-up-Craig Weaver, Loyalsock: The Lancers were placing four-time all-state catcher and standout second baseman Ashleigh Bair but remained a district title contender as Weaver had them playing their best softball down the stretch. Loyalsock won 11 straight games entering the district semifinals, captured the Williamsport Tournament for the first time and beat both state champion Central Columbia and district finalist Towanda. Weaver had a lot of success at Montgomery and, with many starters back next year, has Loyalsock headed in the right direction.
First runner-up-Mark Temons, St. John Neumann: Following the tragic death of coach Ray Perchinski, Temons came out of retirement to coach a hurting Neumann team. The long-time Muncy coach did a brilliant job too, helping the players have fun during a difficult time while making huge strides. Neumann made a seven-win improvement from last year, going 9-11 and coming within a victory of reaching districts for just the second time in program history. The nine wins also tied for the second-most in Neumann history as Temons helped both experienced players and young ones perform well.
And the winner is...Scott Stugart, South Williamsport: South has taken big steps in each of Stugart's last three years and the fourth-year coach helped South restore the strong legacy he talked about regaining the last few seasons. The Mounties captured their first district championship since 2006 while also reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time since that year. Stugart has pushed all the right buttons at South and has built a team that is as tough as it is talented and intelligent. The Mounties came from behind to win seven games in 2014, including four straight in the playoffs. Stugart does not get rattled and neither do his players.
Honorable mention: Ken Schauer, Cowanesque Valley; Mike Tate, Montoursville; Kenny Harer, Montgomery; Chris Ebner, Muncy; Quint Bower, Williamsport; Chris Glenn, Jersey Shore
Pitcher of the Year
Second runner-up-Alexa Singer, Wellsboro: A year ago, Singer offered a glimpse of what she could do and the sophomore unleashed in 2014. Singer went 11-5 with a 1.75 ERA and tossed seven shutouts as Wellsboro reached the district semifinals for the first time since 2008. Singer struck out 67 in 76 innings and opened her season by holding four straight opponents to fewer than five hits and throwing a two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in a 1-0 win over Sayre.
First runner-up-Kayla Gee, Loyalsock: The sophomore was instrumental to Loyalsock's second-half push as she started stifling a series of opponents. Gee finished 16-5 with a 2.07 ERA and 122 strikeouts while earning first team HAC-II honors for a second straight season. She allowed five hits or fewer in eight of nine Loyalsock wins late in the season, beating teams like District 4 Class AAA champion Mifflinburg, Williamsport, Towanda and Bloomsburg. Gee has won 28 games in her first two seasons while striking out 220.
And the winner is...Amanda Kustanbauter, Muncy: One of the best pitchers in Muncy history, Kustanbauter closed her terrific scholastic career with her best season. The senior went 14-5 with 0.93 ERA and allowed just 36 hits in 77 innings. She helped Muncy capture a share of a second straight HAC-III championship and won 33 games the last two seasons. Kustanbauter struck out 108 while allowing five hits or fewer 17 times. She struck out 12 against South in the district semifinals and threw a 4-hit shutouts with 10 strikeouts in a 4-0 quarterfinal win over Canton. Kustanbauter often excelled in big games and threw a nine-inning shutout over state qualifier Bloomsburg while also beating South and Montoursville during the regular season.
Player of the Year
Second runner-up-Lizz Cummings, South Williamsport: Cummings opened her season with a huge performance and never really stopped hitting. The junior center fielder became a force in her second season starting, hitting .417 with an area-high eight home runs, 30 RBIs and 32 runs scored. Also an outstanding defender, Cummings was a clutch hitter, batting a whopping .786 with runners in scoring position and giving the offense a huge spark at the top of the order. Cummings homered in seven different games, including twice in districts, and added nine doubles and three triples.
First runner-up-Kendall Watkins, Loyalsock: Few District 4 players have a quicker bat than Watkins, who has tremendous power for a sophomore. In only her second varsity season, Watkins hit .514 with six home runs, 28 RBIs and 31 runs. The third baseman also hit seven doubles and two triples while compiling a .916 slugging percentage. A versatile player who can run well and plays outstanding defense delivered some clutch performances and was at her best in the district quarterfinals, homering twice while helping Loyalsock rally for a 7-5 win over Wyalusing.
And the winner is...Kayla Gee, Loyalsock: In a close call, Gee takes the honor because of everything she provides. Combining her pitching with her hitting and defense, Gee built a fantastic resume and emerged as her team's MVP. Another of Loyalsock's super sophomores, Gee hit as well as she pitched and was part of a dynamic middle of the order. She hit .432 with 17 RBI and 17 runs while striking out just once in 22 games. One of the district's premier pitchers was a dramatically improved offensive threat in 2014 and delivered 10 multi-hit games, including three in which she had three hits.
Starting lineup: 1. Allie Pagana, IF, Loyalsock (.538, 42 H, 3 HR, 2 3B, 9 2B, 15 RBI, 35 R, 11 SB, just 2 Ks); 2. Mackenna Miller, C, Milton (area batting champion, .549, 39 hits, 17 RBI, 43 R, 3 HR); 3. Kendall Watkins, IF, Loyalsock; 4. Lizz Cummings, OF, South Williamsport; 5. Kaitlyn Cowfer, IF, Jersey Shore (.516, 3 HR, 7 2B, 1 3B, 28 RBI, 15 R); 6. Kalynn Wheeland, IF, South Williamsport (.419, .576 obp, 4 HR, 5 2B, 1 3B, 19 RBI, 28 R, .918 fielding); 7. Mikayla Bower, DH, Williamsport (.431, .488 obp, HR, 5 2B, 16 RBI, 12 R); 8. Brianna Stetts, OF, Jersey Shore (.457, 3 2B, 2 3B, 24 RBI, 15 R, 1 E; 9. Rachel Hite, OF, Montgomery (.441, .514 obp, 4 2B, 3 3B, 14 RBI, 18 R, 7 SBs, 1st team HAC-III)
Starting Rotation: Amanda Kustanbauter, Muncy; Kayla Gee, Loyalsock; Alexa Singer, Wellsboro; Rebecca Caputo, Jersey Shore (8-4, 1.93 ERA, 76 1/3 IP, 85 Ks); Taylor Batman, Milton 16-3, 3 SHOs)
Bullpen: Taylor Brooks, Williamsport (6-4, 2.15 ERA, 65 IP, 48 H, 56 Ks); Cayla Treaster, Montoursville (10-9, 2.35 ERA, beat South Williamsport); Anna Steer, South Williamsport (14-6, 3.07 ERA, 132 1/3 IP, 94 Ks, 4-1 in playoffs); Brooke Kohler, Wellsboro (4-1, 7 SVs, 1.19 ERA, 59 IP, 38 H, 68 Ks, .174 BA); Mikayla Bower, Williamsport (6-5, 2.13 ERA, 79 IP, 66 H, 69 Ks, 7 BB); Shanelle Ianson, Cowanesque Valley (7-4, 1.64 ERA, 85 IP, 61 Ks)
First Team Reserves: Taylor Brooks, OF, Williamsport (.379, .431 obp, 2 HR, 3 2B, 13 RBI, 19 R, 5 SB); Allison Czap, C, Loyalsock (.423, .460 obp, 30 H, 9 2B, 13 RBI, just 2 ks); Rachel Danneker, C, St. John Neumann (.442, .554 obp, 1 3B, 3 2B, 22 RBI, 24 R, 9 SBs, 0 strikeouts, only 1 E, threw out 54 percent of stealers); Crystal Good, C, Muncy (.467, .529 obp, HR, 2 3B, 8 2B, 15 RBI, 25 R, 13 SBs, .988 fielding, 1st team HAC-III); Kelsey Gantz, IF, South Williamsport (.434, .482 obp, HR, 3 3B, 6 2B, 27 RBI, 19 R, .515 risp); Kaylie Harer, IF, Montgomery (.477, .545 obp, 8 2B, 1 3B, 13 RBI, 23 R, 1st team HAC-III); Sarah Ingerick, IF, Wellsboro (.471, .493 obp, 2 HR, 2 3B, 6 2B, 17 RBI, 16 R); Kay Kay Lupo, IF, Loyalsock (.414, 6 2B, 1 3B, .482 obp, 15 RBI, 29 R, only 3 errors); Lexi Marchioni, OF, Montoursville (.346, 14 SB, .975 fielding, threw out 6 runners at second); Sarah Miller, OF, Muncy (.429, .554, 2 HR, 3B, 6 2B, 16 RBI, 25 R, just 1 K); Emily Sholder, IF, Neumann (.533, .672 obp, 34 R, 12 RBI, HR, 4 2Bs, 5 games of 3+hits, 13-13 SBs); Emily Shnyder, IF, Montgomery (.391, .426 obp, 2 HR, 6 2B, 20 R, 16 RBI, 1,000 fielding, 1st team HAC-III); Kelsey Stine, C, Montoursville (.324, threw out 16 runners stealing or leaning off base, 40 last 2 years)
Second Team: Jess Allen, IF, Jersey Shore (.363, 2 3B, 6 2B, 2 R, 8 RBI, 10 SB); Kiah Brink, IF, Milton (.426, 24 R, 14 sac bunts); Jordan Butters, IF (.339, .382 obp, 3 HR, 4 2B, 17 RBI, 12 R, .994 fielding); Kaitlin Caringi, IF, Williamsport (.296, .398 obp, 2 2B, 12 RBI, 13 R, 4 SB); Paige Carr, C, Wellsboro (.350, .400, 4 2B, HR, 16 RBI, threw out 5 of 10 runners); Maddie Dincher, IF, Neumann (.371, .506 obp, 22 R, 15 RBI, 5 2B); Reilly Gearhart, C, Montgomery (.358, .429 obp, 6 2B, 1 3B, 15 RBI, 16 R, 2nd team HAC-III); Janelle Konkle, IF, Montoursville (.306, 22 RBI, .963 fielding); Natalie Lamoreaux, IF, Muncy (.388, .531 obp, 12 RBI, 19 R, .970 fielding); Averie Lorson, IF, Jersey Shore (.333, 5 2B, 17 R, 7 RBI, only 4 errors); Kaliyah Moore, OF, Williamsport (.292, .363 obp, 2 HR, 4 2B, 18 RBI, 14 R); Courtney Schauer, OF, Cowanesque Valley (.338, 3 2B, 3 3B, 11 RBI); McKenzie Tebbs, OF, Williamsport (.327, .393 obp, 2 3B, 2B, 9 RBI, 7 R); Meghan Trenholm, OF, Neumann (.489, .521 obp, 21 RBI, 11 R, HR); Elle Watts, IF, Hughesville (.353, .436 obp, HR, 1 3B, 6 2B, 5 RBI, 6 R, .977 fielding, just 1 E); Cortney Zook, IF/C, Hughesville (.352, .364 obp, 2 3B, 1 RBI, 10 R, 5 SBs)
Second runner-up-Paige Lentz, South Williamsport: From the beginning to the end of the season, few area players showed more drastic improvement than Lentz. The freshman right fielder was a big reason South captured a district championship and scored or drove in the winning run in all three district playoff games. Lentz became a clutch hitter as the season continued and also adapted well to right field. She might move to the infield in coming years and has a bright future.
First runner-up-Juniel Ritter, Hughesville: The sophomore first baseman was key to Hughesville coming a long way during the season's second half. Ritter hit especially well down the stretch as Hughesville doubled last year's win total. Ritter hit .340 with a team-high three home runs, 15 RBIs and 11 runs while adding four doubles. Ritter hit a two-run home run in a late-season game at South Williamsport as Hughesville nearly pulled a big upset and she went 3 for 4 with a home run and four RBIs in a 14-4 win over Warrior Run. She is part of a good, young core that has the Spartans optimistic entering 2015.
And the winner is...Morgan Kriner, St. John Neumann: The freshman had little trouble adjusting to varsity softball and was instrumental to Neumann's strong season. Kriner developed fast in the circle, improving as the year progressed and going 7-5 with a 3.62 ERA and 32 strikeouts. Kriner also became a consistent hitter, batting .304 with three doubles, 18 RBIs and four runs. Kriner was third on Neumann in RBIs and threw a 7-hitter in a late-season must-win game against Montgomery, helping the Knights beat their HAC-III rival for the first time in more than a decade.
Other underclassmen to watch in 2015: Marlene Bassett, Montoursville; Cassandra Crouse, Neumann; Haley Gyurina, Muncy; Crissena Harer, Montgomery; Megan Helminiak, Neumann; Chloe Jennings, Williamsport; Lexi McHenry, Montgomery; Paige Ramin, Hughesville; Kariann Reisch, Loyalsock; Kortney Phillips, Montoursville; Cellina Salvatori, Loyalsock; Alana Stugart, South Williamsport; Shelby Wenner, Jersey Shore; Jess Willits, Jersey Shore.