Red Raider softball steadily improving

MONTGOMERY – Montgomery Little League Softball players stood side-by-side along the first-base line watching the high school team play Sullivan County Thursday.

And the current high schoolers provided the future players a quality instructional show.

Emily Shnyder threw a two-hitter and slammed two doubles while all 10 batters used delivered a hit, drove in a run or scored a run as Montgomery downed Sullivan County, 12-1 in five innings. The Red Raiders (6-7, 5-4 HAC-III) won their third straight and two weeks after appearing to have limited playoff hopes, suddenly look like a team that could do damage if they get there.

“As a team we’ve been trying to work really hard together and trying to come back from all our losses we’ve had,” said Shnyder, who took a no-hitter into the fourth inning. “It’s been tough but we’re all working together and trying to work our way back up.”

They are doing a good job. The starters made no errors and Montgomery scored at least one run in all four at-bats. Rachel Hite and Megan Bartlett both went 2 for 2 and scored five runs while Kaylie Harer reached base three times and scored twice. Montgomery has no seniors and starts four freshmen, but is meshing and looking determined to run its postseason streak to 10 seasons.

After starting 3-7, Montgomery had difficult games looming against Bloomsburg and Benton teams it lost to earlier in the season. The Raiders won both games this time, becoming just the second team to beat Benton in league play, and look like a new team now.

“Go back to the Bloomsburg game and we’ve been playing different softball since and it’s starting to show up in practice,” Montgomery coach Craig Weaver said. “Early in the season we were stinging the ball and other teams were making big-league plays on us, but now our hits are getting there.”

That was evident from the start as Harer led off the first-inning with a single and scored on freshman Reilly Gearhart’s two-out RBI single. Shnyder hit a two-out RBI double an inning later and Montgomery scored three two-out runs in the first two innings while building a 5-0 lead.

Montgomery unveiled another weapon in its growing arsenal when it used four bunts to fuel a six-run rally that made it 11-0. Hite first dropped a bunt single before Bartlett perfectly executed a suicide squeeze that scored the charging Corrine Shaffer (1 for 2). Harer followed with another RBI squeeze before Kaitlin Persing belted a two-run single. Gearhart capped the rally with another perfectly placed RBI squeeze.

Whether hitting the ball hard into the outfield or dropping it a few feet from home, Montgomery has started doing all the little things right.

“We were stinging the ball and then we went small ball again and that’s what we did at Benton,” Weaver said. “Everyone is contributing and they’re building on the experience they’ve gotten those last two games because they were nice wins.”

Brianna Baumunk played a nice game for Sullivan (2-12), making a brilliant shoe-string catch in center field to rob Gearhart of a fourth-inning RBI single before hitting a RBI fifth-inning single.

Shnyder produced her fifth straight multi-hit performance. The three-year starter is 11 for 17 during that span and also is throwing as well as she has all season. The junior pitcher has allowed just five hits in her last two starts.

“Coach has really been working on my swing. Last year, I couldn’t keep them out of the air and now everything is on the ground and line drives,” Shnyder said. “I’ve stepped up the past couple games because I know if we want to be playoff-bound I have to buckle down and pitch my hardest, too.”

The collective effort has been there all season and was epitomized by Alyssa Bashista hustling out an infield single on a ball hit to the pitcher in the fourth inning. Montgomery now is simply executing better than it did earlier in the season. It took a longer than the team might have liked but it controls its own destiny and is showing those future Raiders the right way to play.

“Everyone is doing a good job,” Shnyder said. “I feel like if we get into the playoffs anything is possible.”

Sullivan000 01-1 2 2

Montgomery146 1x-12 10 2

Emily Shnyder and Reilly Gearhart. Alyssa Blasi and Torrie Shultz. W-Shnyder, (6-7). L-Blasi.

Top Sullivan hitters: Brianna Baumunk 1-3, RBI; Addie Jordan 1-2. Top Montgomery hitters: Kaylie Harer 1-1, 2 R, RBI; Kaitlin Persing 1-4, 2 RBI; Shnyder 2-3, 2 2Bs, 2 RBI, R; Gearhart 1-2, 2 RBI; Corrine Shaffer 1-2, R; Lexi McHenry 2 R; Rachel Hite 2-2, RBI, 3 R; Megan Bartlett 2-2, 2 R, 2 RBI; Alyssa Bashista 1-1.

Records: Montgomery 6-7, 5-4 HAC-III. Sullivan 2-12, 2-8.