Raiders win share of the Mid-Penn league title

MONTGOMERY — Abby Stryker hit a roller down the third-base line that looked like it would be a routine out. But the Montgomery senior exploded from the batter’s box, sprinted and beat out an infield single. She then stole second and charged home from second on an error, essentially making hustle that main run-producing element.

And that sequence helps explain how Montgomery is a league champion for the first time since 2010. Yes, the Red Raiders are talented, but they also are relentless competitors who embrace hard work like a chef does a perfect t-bone steak. That has provided a potent combination and Montgomery unleashed it again Tuesday, delivering 12 hits and defeating St. John Neumann, 13-2, in five innings while capturing a share of the Mid-Penn championship.

The Raiders (15-2, 13-1) shared the crown with Bucktail after splitting the season series and have won 14 straight games. The winning streak is the second longest in program history and the league title is the program’s second. The only other league champion is that 2010 which reached the Class A state final.

“It’s great to be back in contention with a team that works as hard as this team does. It’s a joy to coach the kids,” Montgomery coach Chris Glenn said. “I’ve never enjoyed coaching more than I have the last two years here with these girls. The work ethic is so great and the way they present themselves and carry themselves on the field and at practice is just amazing.”

“It’s awesome. This is a big deal for Montgomery and to be a big part of it is an amazing feeling,” Stryker said. “You try to lead with words and your actions. You don’t want to make mistakes but when you do, you show them that you keep your head up. It’s being a good leader to show them that and this group of girls are a very good group to play with.”

Stryker and winning pitcher Emily Snyder are the team’s only senior starters and the team is loaded with talented freshmen. Experienced, new player, starter, reserve … it has not mattered. Look at the boxscores this season and one sees every Raider making a big impact at some point. That is how Montgomery went from starting the season 1-2 to league champions, avenging their only league loss at Bucktail along the way.

It seemed fitting that Montgomery clinched a championship yesterday because the performance symbolized how this team has reached these heights. Every starter delivered a hit, the defense made no errors and Snyder combined with freshman Faith Persing on a three-hitter. The Raiders won their last 12 league games this season and scored at least one run in all four at-bats, putting up multiple runs three times and building an 8-0 second-inning lead.

“I knew it was going to be a good year. We had a big group coming up that was very athletic and I knew we could go far,” Stryker said. “All the girls are like family. That makes it great. It’s been awesome this year.”

That is how Montgomery looked yesterday, topping 10 runs for the 11th time during its winning streak. Snyder and Persing did not have their best stuff, but stranded eight baserunners and showed off their toughness while being backed by a strong defense. Right fielder Jenna Waring highlighted the team’s defensive prowess, making a perfect throw and robbing Breanna Minnier of a third-inning RBI single.

The offense continued scoring runs in bunches and produced five hits and five first-inning runs. Riley Fry roped an RBI single, Saige Whipple a double and Brynn McRae an RBI triple. Whipple later slammed an RBI triple to deep center field, a ball that would have been a home run at most fields, and McRae hit another RBI triple. Persing also tripled, while Morgan Tupper continued her super season, collecting two hits.

“I could put a sub in and I have full confidence that they’re going in there and will hit the ball and play at the level the other girls are playing at. Some of them have played on the field at the varsity level before, so it is nice to have depth,” Glenn said. “They want to get better and that makes us a better team. That’s why we can put somebody in when we need to and not miss. It seems like we’re running on eight cylinders all the time. It’s a very good feeling to be able to do that.”

Neumann (5-10) has some quality wins this season and showed big improvement since last week’s loss against Montgomery. Jenny Mertes and Maria Helminiak each went 1 for 1 and reached base six times. Juliana Kriner added a hit and Minnier added a fifth-inning RBI.

Montgomery simply had too much firepower and scored four runs in its final at-bat, building a 13-0 lead. Tupper, who produced her 12th multi-hit game, ignited the rally with a single before Whipple and McRae belted RBI triples. Persing sparked a three-run second-inning flurry with a leadoff triple and Taylor McRae scored her after ripping an RBI double. Snyder reached base three times, stealing two bases and driving in a run. Waring delivered first and fourth-inning RBIs and Fry had RBIs in both the first and second innings.

This championship sure had a lot of fingerprints all over it.

“I can tell that the girls are still working hard. Spring sports in Pennsylvania are tough and you start in the gym and you’re in the gym for three weeks before you even get in the field and a lot of times the first time you get out you’re playing a game, so it’s hard to keep interest and keep the enthusiasm and these girls are enthusiastic all the time,” Glenn said. “When we come to practice these girls are full of energy and ready to go. It’s great to see them put the work in that they have and have the success they have had.”

Montgomery 13, Neumann 2

Neumann 000 02–2 3 4

Montgomery 531 4x–13 12 0

Anne Weller and Breanna Minnier. Emily Snyder, Faith Persing (4) and Shelby McRae. W: Snyder, (13-2). L: Weller, (5-9).

Top Neumann hitters: Maria Helminiak 1-1, 2 BBs; Jenny Mertes 1-1, BB, RBI; Juliana Kriner 1-3; Minnier RBI. Top Montgomery hitters: Saige Whipple 2-3, 3B, 2B, RBI, 2 runs; Brynn McRae 2-3, 2 3Bs, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Morgan Tupper 2-3, 2 R, SB; Snyder 1-2, RBI, 2 SBs; Riley Fry 1-3, 2 RBIs, run; Taylor McRae 1-2, 2B, RBI, 2 runs; Persing 1-4, 3B, run; Jenna Waring 1-3, 2 RBIs; Abby Stryker 1-3, SB, run.

Records: Montgomery (15-2, 13-1 Mid-Penn), Neumann (5-10, 4-10).

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