Mounties’ 5-0 start their best in 7 years

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Paige Lentz, 14, Isabella Bachman, 5, and pitcher Emily Hennigan, 28, congratulate each other after taking out two Hughesville runners in one play Monday at South Williamsport.

Each day it seemed the walls drew closer. The South Williamsport softball team really could not learn how good it was outside because Mother Nature kept it inside and players grew antsy. Four weeks passed before the Mounties could leave the gym and hit the field.

But, oh, how they used that time well.

Once outside, South un­leashed its frustration, showed its passion and started smashing. It all continued Monday against visiting Hughesville as every starter reached base at least once and South romped to a 15-4, five-inning win. Ashley Gardner went 4 for 4 with three RBIs, Emily Hennigan threw a four-hitter and went 2 for 2 with two RBIs and the Mounties (5-0) continued their best start since 2010, doing so with a roster that includes nine freshmen.

“It reinforces what we’ve been telling them. All this work does count,” South coach Scott Stugart said. “We might be inside and we’re not happy about it, but this will make us better down the stretch if we keep our mindset and work hard.”

“We were so excited to get outside. Being inside for so long you get cabin fever and you just want to get out there and play,” Gardner said. “When you get that chance you just want to go out and take advantage of it. You just go out with a bang.”

South’s offense has been downright cannon-like the last two games. The Mounties have scored 34 runs in those games and delivered 32 hits. South produced 16 hits yesterday by eight different players and every starter reached base at least once by the second inning.

Hughesville (3-3) scored twice in the top of the second and tied the game 2-2, but South erupted in the bottom half, scoring nine times. The Mounties added four more runs in the third inning and showed they are as deep as they are dangerous.

“These girls get a on a roll and they don’t rest,” Stugart said. “We talk about how you don’t always find a team that doesn’t get too high or too low. Sometimes you get teams that turn it off and think they have it made when they get a big lead. That doesn’t seem to be their mindset which is a coach’s dream.”

South is one of the area’s youngest teams and started seven freshmen and sophomores against Hughesville. But it also has four-year starter Paige Lentz and three-year starter Hanna Hennigan providing both production and leadership so it seems there is an ideal blend. It sure has seemed that way so far with South winning its last four games in convincing fashion and averaging 14 runs during that time.

Everyone did their part yesterday against three Hughesville pitchers. Freshman Lilly Eiswerth went 2 for 3 with four RBIs and sophomore Natayla Steppe hitting a two-run single that broke the second-inning tie. Lentz (2 for 3) helped ignite the nine-run, nine-hit second-inning barrage and Bella Bachman and Sarah Sullivan combined for four hits, two RBIs and five runs. In the second inning alone, South sent 13 batters to the plate and had four players combine for nine RBIs.

“It’s really fun because not only do we have weapons, but we’re also really close friends,” Gardner said. “We all play with each other in the summer and we’re with each other all year. It’s a matter of teamwork and us being able to combine and do what we do.”

Gardner played an outstanding game and showcased the team’s speed. The sophomore left fielder opened the first inning with a bunt single that nearly reached the pitching circle. She defied logic her next at-bat too, beating out an infield single to second base and loading the bases for Steppe who hit the go-ahead, two-run single. Gardner was 3 for 3 in the first two innings and South opened the second inning with five straight batters delivering a hit.

Gardner delivered again in the third inning, belting a two-run, two-out single that made it 15-2. Over her last two games, she is 6 for 7.

“They put three new pitchers in so adjusting to it was hard,” Gardner said. “You just have to go out there with the mindset that you’re going to hit the ball. See ball, hit ball. That’s what we say.”

They are doing what they say, too. Back to back triples by Eiswerth and Bachman started breaking things open in the second inning while Sullivan went 2 for 2 that inning. Lentz singled in both the second and third innings when South scored 13 runs, Alexis Schuler and Sidney Bachman scored five times and Hennigan did not allow an earned run.

It was the second straight game South finished with 16 hits. The Mounties have a tough game against Warrior Run today but also go in confident after scoring 22 runs in their last five at-bats. The defense was shaky at times yesterday, but South also made some great plays that saved hits and prevented runs. Lentz made a spectacular stop on what looked like a sure Makenna Budman third-inning single and turned it into a double play. Steppe went all out and made a sensational diving catch two innings later, robbing Emily Watts of a fifth-inning single.

Several of these current South players helped its Little League team finish second in the state three years ago. Past success, however, means nothing now. The Mounties are understanding that and are now trying to make a big high school splash. So far, so good.

“That’s just natural for young kids to think we’ve done it before and everyone kind of gets better from being older, but that’s not the case,” Stugart said. “You have to outwork the other kid from the next town and so on and they are realizing that. They are really working hard and doing a nice job.”

Hughesville 020 02–4 4 2

South 294 0–15 16 5

Kaitlyn Hauck, Olivia Miller (2), Rachel Baxter (1) and Emily Watts. Emily Hennigan and Hanna Hennigan. W–Hennigan, (2-0). L–Hauck.

Top Hughesville hitters: Hauck 1-3, R; Makenna Budman 1-3, R; Taryn Lambert 1-3, R. Top South hitters: Ashley Gardner 4-4, 3 RBI, R; Natalya Steppe 1-4, 2 RBI, R; E. Hennigan 2-2, 2 RBI; Lilly Eiswerth 2-3, 3B, 4 RBI, R; Bella Bachman 2-3, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Sarah Sullivan 2-2, 3 R, RBI; Paige Lentz 2-3.

Records: South 5-0, 2-0 HAC-III. Hughesville 3-3, 1-3.