Maybe only Mother Nature can keep Muncy pitcher Kat Ebner off the field.
Ebner certainly never lets pain, injuries and now even surgery keep from playing. So less than 24 hours after doctors removed a large cyst from deep inside her left shoulder, Ebner woke up ready to play softball against Hughesville. She paid the surgery no attention, but the game was rained out.
That Ebner was going to play following that surgery 11 days ago really reveals everything the senior represents as a softball player. She is talented and leads the area in wins with 14. But that determination and toughness is what has really helped Ebner elevate her game and become one of the area’s premier players.
“Mentally and physically, she is just a workhorse. Nothing slows her down,” Muncy coach Kevin Miller said. “I’ve seen her with so many injuries over the years, but it never stops her.”
“I see my teammates put in so much effort so I figure I have to be back there eventually because if I’m not there I feel like I’m not only letting down myself, but other girls,” Ebner said. “I don’t want to do that.”
She never has. Ebner has never missed a game as a four-year starter, is a lifetime .387 hitter and has won 41 games in the circle. Muncy has made the playoffs each season and romped to the Mid-Penn Conference championship this season. The Indians (14-2) won nine straight games entering Monday’s contest at Mifflinburg and Ebner is 14-2 with 1.13 ERA, six shutouts and 84 strikeouts.
And Ebner did most of that while dealing with intense pain. The cyst was in Ebner’s shoulder for 1 1/2 years, but she kept playing and kept helping Muncy win. Over the previous few weeks, the injury started to slow Ebner’s velocity and throw off her accuracy. It hurt more offensively because swinging aggravated the injury and caused more sharp pain.
Still, Ebner never gave in. In addition to mowing through nearly every lineup she has faced, Ebner also is hitting .419 with two home runs and five doubles.
“She must be super woman,” Muncy catcher Makenna Snyder said. “She feels pain, but she just shakes it off.”
Her teammates have seen Ebner overcome pain throughout their scholastic careers but even they were impressed with the way Ebner immediately bounced back following surgery. Ebner played her first game three days following surgery and struck out 11 against the Mid-Penn’s second-place team Bucktail. A day later, Ebner threw a one-hitter and struck out nine against Millville and last Thursday she threw another 1-hitter in an 11-1 win over Montgomery.
“Since the surgery I feel so much better,” Ebner said. “You can see the difference in my pitching. I came back and was throwing faster and it’s been a lot better.”
Ebner’s toughness goes beyond facing pain. She also has been a fighter whenever opponents mount challenges. Ebner has often been at her best in pressure situations the past three seasons and never shies away from a challenge.
Montgomery loaded the bases with one out and was threatening to make a big comeback Thursday after Ebner walked consecutive batters. But the senior came back strong and retired the next two batters. Ebner walked a season-high four batters but even on a day when she did not have her best stuff, Ebner battled her way through and allowed just one fourth-inning single.
“She looks forward to the pressure,” Miller said. “She thrives under it.”
That is good, too, since the playoffs start next week. Muncy is seeking its first District 4 Class A championship since 2009 and is hoping to build off last year when it reached the semifinals. This is the last chance for Ebner and she has proven time after time that she will do anything to make it a happy ending. Maybe some opponent will beat Ebner, but pain certainly will not.
“She’s quite the trooper,” Snyder said. “She does it all.”
AROUND THE AREA: Williamsport is starting to hit its stride and its offense erupted in wins over Jersey Shore and St. Mary’s. The Millionaires scored 20 runs and delivered 30 hits as Elaina Stone and Sammi Reeder both had four-hit games. Six Millionaires recorded multi-hit games and Erika Talini hit her first home run in an 11-4 win at St. Mary’s … St. John Neumann entered yesterday just three wins from reaching the postseason for the second time in program history. The Knights generated momentum for a busy week that includes double headers Monday-Wednesday by completing a season sweep of CMVT and winning, 7-3. First-year starters Breanna Minnier and Kaylin Brown each had three hits and freshman Maria Helminiak went 2 for 4 with two RBIs while Anne Weller threw a five-hitter … Brianna Herman homered and tripled and Jersey Shore routed Southern Columbia, 18-3 last week as Arizona
Schreck won her first game in the circle. Alyssa Stover went 3 for 4 and Ashlyn Wool was 2 for 2 … North Penn-Liberty’s Savanah Doney threw her second no-hitter this season as the Mounties blanked Athens 10-0. Doney also threw her seventh shutout, homered and drove in three runs. Brooke Harvey and Carmen Bates each had two hits as Liberty improved to 12-4 … Montgomery pulled within a win of reaching districts when Gabby Shrek went 4 for 4 and freshman Shea Strouse 3 for 4 in an 8-4 win at Benton … Emma Durst threw a 2-hit shutout as Williamson (8-7) took a big step toward reaching the playoffs for a second straight year and blanked Canton, 6-0. Kendra Colegrove went 3 for 4 and delivered her third straight multi-hit performance.
Dr. Masse’s top five in softball
1. Milton (13-1): The Black Panthers will be the top seed for the District 4 Class AAAA tournament a year after winning the Class AA championship. Milton has nearly every starter back from last year’s team and has won 10 straight games. The offense has been inconsistent at times but can break out at any time with quality hitters throughout the lineup. That showed in Friday’s 5-2 win over Shikellamy when Amanda Arnold, Kacee Reitz, Taylor Gessner and Emily Snyder all had two hits. It helps too, having Kylie Brouse pitching. The senior has thrown an area-high seven shutouts this season.
2. Wellsboro (15-1): The Green Hornets captured their third straight NTL-I championship last week and are as resilient as they are talented. Wellsboro has overcome multi-run deficits in three of its last six wins, including a 5-3 title clinching victory and an 8-7, eight-inning win over Loyalsock last week. It is an especially encouraging sign for a team with few seniors that has won 14 straight games. Tiana Lecker delivered the game-winning hit against Loyalsock as Wellsboro won a rematch of last year’s thrilling district semifinal in dramatic fashion. The offense came alive in that win, delivering 17 hits as Alyssa Yungwirth went 4 for 5 with two doubles and freshman Ryann Adams had two hits and two RBIs. Wellsboro captured the 2015 District 4 Class AA championship, reached last year’s final and looks like a serious AAA contender this season as it continues building on its growing tradition.
3. South Williamsport (12-2): The Mounties likely will be playing for a share of the HAC-III championship Friday at Bloomsburg. South is seeking its first league title in 11 years and put itself in that position by winning a 6-4, 8-inning thriller at Warrior Run last Tuesday. The Mounties, starting five freshmen, have avenged both their losses this season and scored three eighth-inning runs. They also again showed that their youth is a major strength with several players delivering strong performances like they did in big games when they were younger. Freshman Alexis Schuler was outstanding against Warrior Run, throwing eight gutty innings while going 4 for 5 with three RBIs and a key, two-run, eighth-inning single.
“Being this young, you never know how they’re going to respond,” South coach Scott Stugart said. “Sometimes walkoffs are a little easier than having to hold on. This was a little different for them and getting near the end of the season it’s something you can again point to for the girls and say, ‘you did this and you’re capable of it.'”
4. Loyalsock (10-5): The Lancers might win the honor of playing the most exciting games this season. Loyalsock has been involved in six walk-off contests and played in back-to-back walk-off games last week, splitting those contests. Last week, Loyalsock played in extra-inning games against Hughesville and Wellsboro and has played four extra-inning games this season. A day before losing to Wellsboro, the Lancers won a 17-16 slugfest against rival Montoursville in a game when both teams erased sizable deficits. Loyalsock clinched a playoff spot and its offense is as dangerous as any in districts. The Lancers delivered a season-high 21 hits against Montoursville and first baseman Elizabeth Haller continued her big season, going 4 for 4 with three runs. Sam Stopper also had four hits and homered against Wellsboro while Katie Welker and Rhiallie Jessell both collected three hits against Montoursville.
5. Warrior Run (11-4): The Defenders are a few hits and/or plays from being undefeated. They have lost all four games by two runs or one run and look as dangerous as any team in a rugged District 4 Class AA field. Freshman Madi Waltman and senior Megan Herriman provide a nice pitching combination and Herriman was outstanding in relief against South. She allowed no earned runs in seven innings of relief work and helped the Defenders force extra innings by throwing six straight scoreless innings. The Defenders feature a balanced lineup and have no holes. No. 9 hitter Megan Zimmerman showed that against South, going 3 for 4 with a double and a run.
Players of the week
Cali Shields, Williamsport and Madison Shaffer, Montoursville: Shields is having a big season after missing last year with a broken leg and is one of the area’s premier power hitters. Shields has hit some monster triples at Elm Park and likely would have six home runs this season if Williamsport’s home field had a fence. Shields did a lot of damage last week, going 4 for 6 with a home run, two triples, a double and seven RBIs. The two triples traveled at least 240 feet each and one hit the fence at Elm Park on a roll. Shaffer did something no area player has done this year and in quite some time, hitting for the cycle against Loyalsock. Shaffer, a gritty sophomore shortstop, went 5 for 5, hit her first varsity home run and had a career-high five RBIs as Montoursville overcame multiple deficits and forced extra innings before losing, 17-16.
Game of the week
Milton at Jersey Shore: Today’s game is the renewal of a fantastic District 4 rivalry and also a potential playoff preview if the Bulldogs qualify. Milton and Jersey Shore met in the old District 4 Class AAA championship six times in eight seasons from 2006-2013 with each winning three times. These are among the district’s most decorated programs and nearly every time they play the games are close and highly entertaining. This also is the second game of a District 4 title contender gauntlet that Jersey Shore faces from Monday-Thursday, including Loyalsock and Wellsboro.
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse