Williamsport softball CPL champs, top seed in districts
There was an agitation growing in Quint Bower’s voice as he walked, inning after inning, from this third-base coaching box back to the Williamsport dugout Monday.
The Millionaires were holding a one-run lead in a Central Pennsylvania League game against St. Mary’s. But after scoring that initial run, Williamsport was going through its turns at-bat rather meekly. The head coach wasn’t seeing desired adjustments from his girls with just a week left in the regular season.
As it turned out, the one run was enough for the Millionaires to get a win. The two insurance runs Alexis Bower added with a two-run home run in the sixth inning weren’t necessary as she also tossed a four-hit shutout in a 3-0 Williamsport win. The win capped a CPL championship for the Millionaires and also secured their spot as the No. 1 seed for the District 2-4 Class AAAA playoffs which begin next week. The top seed guarantees Williamsport a first-round bye and a home game for their first game of the tournament.
“It’s a catch-22,” Quint Bower said. “We want to play. But I want the bye to work on some things. We’ll definitely work on our hitting. Getting that bye and getting that home game is big because we didn’t want to have to travel to play that first game.”
A season which is now 18 games old holds very few secrets for Williamsport. It’s going into the district playoffs with maybe the preeminent pitcher in the field in Alexis Bower, the reigning Class AAAA Player of the Year in the state. It’s a solid defensive team which played an errorless game again Tuesday.
But if this Williamsport team is going to make a run deep into the playoffs, it’s going to be because the offense doesn’t have days like it did Tuesday. Against a tough, hard-throwing sophomore, Williamsport went 14 plate appearances between hits. In that time, only two batters reached base – one by error and one by fielder’s choice.
“It’s always sad when you get runners on and can’t get them in,” said Williamsport first baseman Samantha Fischer, who had a first-inning RBI single. “But we knew we’d step up at some point. We always do.”
The offensive help in the sixth inning came from Bower herself. She was the first player in the Williamsport lineup to really attack a pitch on the outer half of the plate and drive it to the opposite field. St. Mary’s pitcher Andria Copelli had lived on that outside corner, painting the black of the plate for strikes early in the count, and again for third strike calls.
Bower jumped on that pitch on the outside corner in her final at-bat, driving a ball up the right-center field alley. Kaitlin Caringi scored easily from first and Bower circled the bases before the ball even got back to the infield for a two-run home run. It was her fifth consecutive game with a home run.
Bower really was a one-person wrecking crew against the Lady Dutch on Tuesday. She struck out 14, allowed just four hits. It was the 10th shutout for the Millionaires this year.
But Quint Bower already knows what he has in Alexis, a dominant pitcher and a three-hole hitter that would be the best hitter on nearly any team in the district. He was hoping to see more from his offense than just six hits and three runs.
“It’s disappointing and very frustrating because we get runners on base, but we’re not making good adjustments during the game in the batter’s box,” Quint Bower said. “At this point in the season I’d like to see us make some adjustments to time and load our swings better to drive the ball.”
“We feel like our defense is pretty good right now, so we need to work on our hitting, especially the outside pitches,” Fischer said. “We need to throw our hands at the outside pitch and turn on the inside pitches.”
After qualifying for the state playoffs a year ago, Bower knows how close his team is to being able to make a run deep into the tournament this year. He says if the offense can average just three or four runs a game it can be very dangerous.
And for a team averaging nearly five runs per game this year, Bower doesn’t look at that request as being too much to ask. He also understands in the next coming weeks the Millionaires are going to see pitchers just as good as Copelli was on Tuesday, and likely even better pitchers.
He sees where the adjustments can be made, though. The Millionaires are leaving seven or eight runners stranded on base per game, Bower said in a conservative estimate. And if just one or two of those runners scores each game, Williamsport can have the offense it needs to better back Alexis Bower.
Tuesday, the Millionaires stranded just four runners on base, but three were in scoring position. Of course, they also had just eight total baserunners for the game.
“I definitely feel the offense is there. It’s a matter of the girls, for lack of a better word, bringing a sense of urgency to every game knowing we have to score runs,” Bower said. “Early in the season, I think they relied too much on Alexis shutting other teams down. We score three or four runs a game and we can go a long way.”
St. Mary’s000 000 0 – 0 4 1
Williamsport100 002 x – 3 6 0
Andria Copelli and Hayley McGowan. Alexis Bower and McKenzie Tebbs. W-Bower. L-Copelli.
Top St. Mary’s hitters: Rachel Ginther, 1-2; Jackie Lenza, 2-3; Cassie Daniels, 1-3. Top Williamsport hitters: Kaitlin Caringi, 1-3, run; Alexis Bower, 2-3, home run, 2 RBIs, run; Mikayla Bower, 1-3; Samantha Fischer, 2-3, RBI.
With runners in scoring position: St. Mary’s 0-4; Williamsport 1-5.
Runners left on base-in scoring position: St. Mary’s 6-3; Williamsport 4-3.
Pitches-strikes: St. Mary’s, Andria Copelli 73-56; Williamsport, Alexis Bower 101-71.
Batters faced-first pitch strikes: St. Mary’s, Copelli 25-15. Williamsport, Bower, 27-18.
Records: Williamsport (16-2, 6-0 CPL); St. Mary’s (9-6, 2-3 CPL).