Russell wins at Elm, same place her mom succeeded
Heidi Russell once called Elm Park her playground.
It was on that field where the Williamsport pitcher established herself as one of the best in program history, helping the Millionaires capture 1987 and 1989 state championships as her father Bob Loudenslager worked as an assistant coach. Daughter and father had a different view Friday, but likely were even happier than they were decades ago.
This time it was Russell’s daughter Kylie pitching at Elm Park. And this time, Kylie Russell made it her field.
Russell threw a six-hitter, struck out five and ignited a go-ahead, fifth-inning rally Friday, helping Jersey Shore defeat Williamsport, 5-2. Russell won her seventh game as Jersey Shore scored five two-out runs and concluded its regular season at 16-2.
“It (playing softball) started when I was so young. It’s been in my family for so long and it motivates me a lot,” Russell said. “It’s an honor pitching here. My mom was an amazing pitcher and I like following in her footsteps.”
Russell has done a nice job building on the family tradition, putting together a breakout sophomore campaign. A year ago, Russell pitched junior varsity and has made major strides, developing into one of the area’s premier pitchers. Russell threw a six-hitter Thursday when Jersey Shore captured the HAC-I championship at Central Mountain and took a 3-hitter into the seventh inning against Williamsport. It also was the sixth time Russell allowed two runs or fewer during a season in which she has thrown two shutouts.
Like her mother, Russell does not simply try and overpower hitters. She is a true pitcher who can throw five pitches for strikes and who does an excellent job keeping hitters off-balance. Russell also can make her pitches dance, spot them well and work the corners. She threw an economical 94 pitches against Williamsport (9-6), walking just one and going to a three-ball count just twice.
“I feel like I’ve definitely improved,” Russell said. “I worked hard over the summer so I would be ready to come and pitch and be there for my team.”
“We couldn’t ask any more from her. She’s been doing a great job and she’s pitched in a lot of big games for us,” Jersey Shore coach Randy Smith said. “Going into this year we had two sophomore pitchers. We didn’t know what to expect even though Lexi (Schuler) threw for South last year. They’ve done an excellent job and we couldn’t be happier with their performances.”
Schuler helped spark the offense, going 2 for 3, driving in a run and scoring twice. She walked and stole second in the fourth inning, coming home when Arizona Shreck (2 for 3) ripped a two-out RBI single. After Williamsport tied the game on an Elaina Stone RBI double, Russell helped put Jersey Shore ahead to stay, hustling for a one-out bunt single. Pinch-runner Daytona Wentzel stole second and Brianna Herman put the Bulldogs up 2-1 when she blooped an RBI double into shallow center field.
Jersey Shore kept delivering big two-out hits in the seventh inning, scoring three times. Gabby Vuocolo sparked the big rally with an infield single before Schuler hit an RBI single. Alyssa Stover followed by slamming a two-run double deep into the right-center field gap and Jersey Shore led 5-1. Those two hits loomed large in the seventh inning when Williamsport pulled within 5-2 on a Sammie Reeder two-out RBI double and brought the tying run to the plate.
Russell induced a game-ending groundout on a close play at first as Jersey Shore entered the postseason on a high.
“I just keep telling them that you have to keep working hard and tracking that ball and making the pitcher throw strikes. We had been struggling for a little bit because they weren’t being patient and weren’t hitting good pitches,” Smith said. “They’re all workers. These girls have worked their butts off from Day 1. It’s good to see it paying off now and producing good results.”
Stone went 2 for 3, but was stranded at third base in the third inning when Williamsport had a chance to take a lead. Prior to Reeder’s RBI double, Williamsport hit just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position. It also left a runner at second with one out in the sixth inning when Jersey Shore led, 2-1.
“We just didn’t get the big hits when we needed them which has been our M.O. all year,” Williamsport coach Chase Smith said. “We get a runner on third and can’t get her in, or we get a runner on second with nobody out and can’t get her in. We know that’s our problem, we just have to figure out how to fix it.”
Millionaire pitcher Mikayla Aldenderfer did her best to give Williamsport a win, holding a strong Jersey Shore offense to two runs in the first six inning. She retired the side in two of the first three innings and took a 5-hitter into the seventh.
While the loss was frustrating, it made no impact on Williamsport’s league or postseason fortunes. The Millionaires have a big week coming and it starts Tuesday against Punxsutawney. A win there and Williamsport would earn a share of the Central Penn League championship. Williamsport then hosts Scranton Thursday in the District 2-4 Class 6A semifinals.
“This was a bragging rights game but it doesn’t really effect anything other than bragging rights,” Smith said. “Tuesday is a championship, Thursday is the playoffs and we told them this is what it’s all about. Every game is a big one. It’s going to be fun.”
Jersey Shore 000 110 3–5 8 1
Williamsport 000 100 1–2 6 0
Kylie Russell and Alyssa Stover. Mikayla Aldenderfer and Kalindi Maggs. W–Russell, (7-2). L–Aldenderfer, (3-2).
Top Jersey Shore hitters: Lexi Schuler 2-3, RBI, 2 runs, SB; Brianna Herman 1-3, 2B, BB, RBI, run; Alyssa Stover 1-4, 2B, 2 RBIs; Arizona Shreck 2-3, RBI; Gabby Vuocolo 1-3, run; Russell 1-3. Top Williamsport hitters: Mariah Wright 1-2, run, SB; Elaina Stone 2-3, 2B, RBI, SB; Jessica Brooks 1-3; Kalindi Maggs 1-3; Sammie Reeder 1-2, 2B, RBI.
Records: Jersey Shore (16-2), Williamsport (9-6).