Shields helps Williamsport win while having solid comeback year

The two metal plates and 16 screws inside her knee remind Cali Shields every day that she suffered a devasting injury last year.

The sweet swing Shields provides and the slick plays she makes at third base remind, she and her teammates that Shields still remains quite a dangerous softball player.

Shields contributed throughout Williamsport’s first four games this season, but Wednesday at Elm Park, she put an exclamation point on her return from last year’s broken leg. Shields crushed a mammoth two-run, first-inning home run, doubled and drove in three runs and Williamsport pounded out 15 hits as it thumped State College, 9-4.

“It hurt pretty bad last year,” Shields said. “It made me love the game so much more because I missed a whole season with my girls and just coming back makes me so happy. Now when I make an out, I’m not nearly as mad because at least I’m playing again.”

Williamsport sure is glad, too. Shields provides pop in the middle of the lineup and is versatile enough to play multiple infield positions. Shields was going to be Williamsport’s starting third baseman last season but everything changed when she slid into third in a preseason scrimmage against Jersey Shore.

Shields broke her tibia on the slide and, in an instant, her potentially promising season was over before it even started. Shields faced a long rehabilitation process but never lost hope and there is no outside indication that she suffered the injury a year ago. Occasionally, Shields says she feels her knee lock up, but she is back playing the game she loves and sure is making a big impact.

“It’s been a long road back for her and I couldn’t be happier to get her back on the field,” Williamsport coach Quint Bower said. “She really lit a fire under us today and then the team kept rolling.”

Shields went 2 for 3 with three RBIs and her third-inning RBI double broke a 2-2 tie, sparked a five-run inning and gave Williamsport (3-2) a lead it never relinquished. But the hit Shields delivered two innings earlier is the one that really showed she is back full strength again.

State College took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first but Sammi Reeder singled and stole second in the bottom half. Shields then worked a 1-1 count before turning on a pitch near the inside corner and launching it 230 feet way over the left fielder’s head. Shields hustled around the bases and completed the two-run home run while completely erasing the frustration of last year’s injury.

“It felt great. I was going pretty slow around second and was getting a little tired but I came through,” Shields said. “I was just looking for something to drive. I was looking for my pitch and that was my pitch right there so I hopped on it.”

“She did a great job,” Bower said. “She kept her hands inside and crushed that to left field. It was absolutely crushed.”

Shields’ blast provided a launching pad and Williamsport kept pouring it on, building a 9-2 fourth-inning lead. The Millionaires continued their early-season offensive onslaught and topped 10 hits for a fourth straight game. Eight players combined for 15 hits and nine players reached base at least once while five players delivered multi-hit performances.

Williamsport has scored 39 runs and delivered 56 hits the past four games and is receiving production throughout the lineup. Reeder (3 for 4, two runs) produced her fourth multi-hit performance from the No. 2 spot in the order, Elaina Stone went 3 for 4 with an RBI at No. 6 and No. 9 hitter Brittany Thomspon went 2 for 4 with two RBIs. Williamsport has both speed and power and three players beat out bunt singles.

“They are hitting well,” Bower said. “One through nine in the lineup, they’re smoking the ball and with the speed that we have if we get a bunt down they’re down the line as fast as any team I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching.”

Like she did in the first inning, Reeder ignited a rally when she hit a one-out double. Shields and Skyler Colarusso followed with RBI doubles and gave Williamsport a two-run lead. The Millionaires then scored three two-out runs and went up 7-2 as Stone singled, Kalindi Maggs hit an RBI single and Thompson laced a two-strike, two-run single.

Williamsport scored another two-out run an inning later when pinch-hitter Erika Talini singled and Stone hit an RBI single that scored Colarusso. Colarusso, who has made a smooth transition from third base to first base, capped her strong performance in the fifth inning, hitting an RBI single after Thompson and Reeder had dropped bunt singles.

Pitcher Mikayla Aldenderfer stifled State College during those three innings when Williamsport scored seven runs, allowing no hits. She also threw well when State College put runners on base and stranded two in the seventh inning while finishing with six strikeouts. The defense complemented the potent offense with Stone, center fielder Kaylee Horneberger and Reeder making impressive plays as Williamsport bounced back from a 10-6 loss Monday against Mifflin County.

“Our whole lineup is stacked and whoever is up to bat, we know we can all hit,” Shields said. “That loss really kicked us into gear. We knew we had to get it on and come out strong.”

State College 110 001 1–4 8 0

Williamsport 205 110 x–9 15 3

Ashley Thomas, Addie Wasikonis (4) and Avery Cymber. Mikayla Aldenderfer and Kalindi Maggs. W: Aldenderfer, (3-2). L: Thomas.

Top State College hitters: Kayla Hawbaker 2-3, 2B, 2 RBIs; Wasikonis 1-4, 3B, run; Thomas 2-3, 2 3Bs, 2 runs. Top Williamsport hitters: Sammi Reeder 3-4, 2B, 2 runs, SB; Cali Shields 2-3, HR, 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Skyler Colarusso 2-4, 2B, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Katie Miele 1-2; Erika Talini 1-2; Elaina Stone 3-4, RBI; Maggs 1-4, RBI, run; Brittany Thompson 2-4, 2 RBIs, run, SB.

Records: Williamsport (3-2).