Three area players having big freshman seasons

A year ago, Amanda Daneker, Alexis Bower and Tay Parker all earned all-state honors. Between them, the three players earned nine all-state selections during brilliant scholastic careers.

They are in college now, but the honors keep rolling in.

All three players received big awards last week, putting an exclamation point on each of their big debut seasons. A year ago, I wrote about how people should appreciate how special it was to having all three athletes playing within a 25-mile radius of each other. The more they flourish in college, the more it looks like those three were not only three of the best high school players to come through this area, but three of the best players, period.

Amanda Daneker, Coastal Carolina

A four-time all-state selection at Loyalsock, Daneker helped Coastal Carolina capture the Big South regular season championship and is shining in the conference tournament, hitting a three-run home run in a first-round win last Friday. Playing both mostly catcher, but also some first base, Daneker was named to the Big South’s Second Team last week and finished third in Freshman of the Year voting.

In addition to again throwing out 9 of 22 runners who tried to steal on her, Daneker also hit .308 with seven home runs, six doubles and 34 RBIs. Daneker was third among her team in batting average, fourth in hits and RBIs and tied for fourth in home runs. She started every game and hit a team-best .384 in conference games while also driving in a team-high 22 conference runs.

Daneker made huge strides throughout the season, overcoming a slow offensive start and has helped Coastal Carolina go 40-14. Combine that productivity with her work ethic and Daneker has the potential to be one of the Big South’s best players every year at Coastal Carolina.

Alexis Bower,

St. Francis

Another player with a ferocious work ethic, the three-time all-state selection from Williamsport has dominated in her debut season, showing no struggle going from high school to Division I softball. Bower was named the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year last week while also earning First Team all-star honors as a designated player.

Whether hitting, fielding or pitching, Bower has been the team’s most valuable player. Playing first base for the first time, Bower hit .305 with seven home runs and a team-high 35 RBIs, good for fourth in the NEC. Bower scored 31 runs, third in the conference, and had a .408 on-base percentage. That production helped Bower become the first St. Francis freshman to ever win Rookie of the Year honors.

Bower filled a huge void in the pitching circle, especially after the team’s other ace was lost for the season. She went 16-10 with a 2.36 ERA, 14 complete games, two shutouts and 93 strikeouts. A player who helped Williamsport capture two district championships and three league titles, Bower highlighted her season with a dominant performance against Penn State in which she pitched nine strong innings and hit the game-winning two-run home run.

Tay Parker, Bloomsburg

The best player in Warrior Run history is helping Bloomsburg carry on its strong softball tradition and, like Bower, has excelled at the plate and in the circle. Parker was named the PSAC-East freshman of the year last week and also earned Second Team all-star honors. She immediately made an impact, playing well from the first game on and, like the other two standouts, has a chance to do some real special things in college.

Parker developed into Bloomsburg’s ace and went 14-8 with a 1.71 ERA, leading the team in wins, innings, strikeouts (109) and shutouts (5). She struck out a career-high in a 4-2 PSAC tournament loss to eventual champion California and threw a five-hit shutout in her collegiate debut.

Parker pitched every Warrior Run game from her sophomore year on, but is a slick fielder too and played well at shortstop when not pitching. A player with outstanding speed and good offensive pop, Parker hit .328 with four home runs and 22 RBIs. The 2012 Class AA Player of the Year after leading Warrior Run to its first state final, Parker hit 10 doubles and went 5 for 8 in the PSAC Tournament.

More remarkable than what these three players did in their rookie seasons is that all three come from the same area. This area, and District 4 as a whole, plays some of the best softball in Pennsylvania.

Daneker, Bower and Parker are proving that to a much wider audience now.

EXTRA BASES: St. John Neumann shortstop Emily Sholder has had a big year, hitting above .600 and being a part of five double plays … Hughesville has shown a lot of improvement during the season’s second half and nearly beat South Williamsport last Thursday, dropping a 3-2 heart-breaker. Sophomore Juneil Ritter hit her second home run in four games during that contest … Montoursville has had a lot of comeback wins the last two seasons and added another last Thursday, turning a three-run fifth-inning deficit into a 4-3 win over Warrior Run. Freshman Marlene Bassett has had a nice debut season and hit a two-run double in that win after belting an RBI triple two days earlier against Loyalsock … Muncy senior Natalie Lamoreaux has made a successful return after missing last season with a torn ACL. She had four hits in two games last week…. Montgomery won four straight games before last weekend and overcame three deficits in a 14-10 win over Neumann. The Raiders trailed 5-0 in the first inning and 10-8 in the sixth before scoring six runs. In three wins last week, Kaylie Harer went 11 for 12 with five RBIs and eight runs.

Dr. Masse’s top five in area softball

(Records entering Monday)

1. Milton (14-2): The Black Panthers captured their 5th SVL/HAC-I championship last week and likely will be the top seed for the District 4 Class AAA playoffs. Milton has won a lot of blowouts but is proving just as effective in close games, winning two thrillers last week and four one-run games in the last two weeks. The Panthers edged Selinsgrove and Mifflinburg last week after being down and tied in the sixth and fifth innings, respectively.

2. Jersey Shore (13-4): Kaitlyn Cowfer has had a big year and it continued last week as she homered and hit a game-winning double in a thrilling 8-7, 11-inning win over Mifflinburg. The Bulldogs won two one-run games against Mifflinburg and could play it in the district semifinals like it did last year. The last three games in this series have been determined by one run. Jess Willits has been outstanding defensively in her first year catching and also has provided offensive pop and had five hits in wins over Selinsgrove and Shamokin.

3. Loyalsock (14-4): The Lancers are one of the district’s hottest teams, winning eight straight games. Loyalsock bookended a week that featured three wins over potential playoff teams with a 6-2 comeback win at Southern Columbia and a 9-0 home victory over their HAC-II rival. Pitcher Kayla Gee has allowed five hits or fewer in her last seven starts and shortstop Allie Pagana is having her best season. Second baseman Cellina Salvatori has really come on strong in her debut season. The sophomore has had at least two hits in six straight games. Left fielder Kariann Reisch has made a nice impact too and is one of the team’s most improved players.

4. Williamsport (9-7): The Millionaires continue surging and entered Monday having won 9 of 11 games. Williamsport cruised to 10-0 and 10-1 wins over Hollidaysburg and Selinsgrove last week as Mikayla Bower and Taylor Brooks continue forming a strong pitching tandem. They allowed only four hits in 12 innings while Bower went 3 for 4 with a home run, a double and three RBIs against Selinsgrove. Williamsport is receiving production up and down the lineup and Kaliyah Moore is providing some nice pop, homering for a second straight week against Selinsgrove. Meagan Horne had three RBIs against Hollidaysburg and Tiana McCormick added two hits in that win.

5. Wellsboro (13-4): The Hornets have struggled against Troy and Towanda, losing all four games, including two one-run decisions to NTL-leader Troy. Wellsboro has the potential to make a title run, though, and produced a nice 4-1 win over Coudersport last Thursday. Shortstop Sarah Ingerick is one of the area’s premier sophomores and went 3 for 3 with a triple in a 13-0 win over Liberty. Catcher Paige Carr is having a nice season too and has hit safely in four straight games.

Player of the week

Rebecca Caputo, Jersey Shore: The junior pitcher is excelling in the circle and at the plate. Caputo won three games last week, including a five-inning no-hitter against Selinsgrove in which she struck out 12. Caputo also was an offensive force, going 4 for 4 against Shikellamy and 3 for 3 against Selinsgrove with three RBIs.

Game of the week

Williamsport at Milton: Wednesday’s game is an intriguing one by teams that have won and/or reached district titles in each of the last three seasons. This will be a good test for both teams and should help them both with playoffs starting next week.