With less than ideal conditions to start the 2013 spring sports season, Williamsport softball opened in 40-degree weather with a chilly breeze cutting through Elm Park.
Despite the uncontrollable conditions, which greet the start of most spring seasons, it's often times these first few games that impact the season at the end.
And Tuesday was no different.
In a game that will pay huge dividends later in the season a freshman connected with a game-winning hit and Alexis Bower was her usual dominant self as Williamsport squeezed out a 3-2 win over league rival Hollidaysburg at Elm Park.
In a game when Williamsport (1-0, 1-0 Central Penn League) was less than impressive, the Millionaires learned to mature quickly. They also learned a valuable lesson about the group of nine sophomores and freshmen they are expecting to help the 12 player roster.
"We are definitely offensively challenged and we're going to be that way for a little while with this young team," Williamsport coach Quint Bower said. "We have some tremendous talent on this team that can swing the bats, but they're scared at times."
The freshness of Williamsport's roster can't be argued. But, after watching the Millionaires open with a come-from-behind-win, the fear factor apparently can be.
Five of Williamsport's 10 hits came from freshmen or sophomores. And that included McKenzie Tebbs' (3-4, RBI) game-winner into right-center field.
After Williamsport erased Hollidaysburg's (0-1, 0-1) one-run advantage thanks to Bower's second double and a Samantha Fischer RBI single, Tebbs found herself in a position to be the game-winner. And the fresh-faced Millionaire delivered with a perfectly placed single into right field.
"It feels really good," Tebbs said. "I wasn't expecting it, but it was great. You just have to hit. That's all. You can't worry about anything else other than that."
As the all important first win of the season came in dramatic fashion, Williamsport might have received a jolt in its development of the young players. Tebbs, who answered her first varsity call with a game-winning hit, shouldn't have to worry about those big moments. Especially since she won't face any much bigger than Tuesday's.
"It's always important to come out and get your first win of the season. Especially when it's a league team," Quint Bower said. "To quote an old coaching cliche, 'sometimes it's better to be lucky than good', and we were lucky, because we weren't the better team on the field today."
Williamsport struggled to take advantage of scoring opportunities early in Tuesday's contest.
Taylor Brooks and Fischer each recorded a single to open the second inning, but were stranded after a groundout and fielder's choice ended the threat.
Williamsport stranded two more runners in the next inning after Bower drove a ball into right field for a double.
"We are a very young team, but this was a learning experience for all of us," Alexis Bower said. "Everyone out there is trying to get us. We have won the league the past two seasons, and this was a good learning experience for us, especially as a young team."
The learning experience almost proved disastrous when Hannah Mercer drove the first pitch of her fourth inning at-bat into deep center field. Mercer's hit easily scored Krista Shea, who led the inning off with a single. The hit also scored Mercer, who raced around the bases for an inside the park home run.
"I knew right when I threw it, it was a bad pitch," Bower said. "I knew I needed to step it up there and got the three strikeouts that I did. It definitely was a wake up call."
Besides the one mistake, Bower continued to play at the level that earned her Class AAAA Player of the Year honors in the State last year. Bower fanned 15 batters, connected with a home run and scored the game-tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"We fought hard today," Hollidaysburg coach Denny Carter said. "We knew how good their pitcher was and nothing has changed. She kept them in the game and that was the key to them coming back."
Hollidaysburg 000 200 0-2 4 2
Williamsport 000 010 2-3 10 0
Alyssa Dively and Taylor Herr. Alexis Bower and Shataya Buxton. WP: Bower. LP: Pheasant.
Top Hollidaysburg hitters: Hannah Mercer 2-3, HR, 3B, 2 RBI. Top Williamsport hitters: A. Bower 3-3, HR, 2B, RBI; McKenzie Tebbs 3-4, RBI; Samantha Fischer 2-3, RBI.
Records: Hollidaysburg 0-1 (0-1). Willilamsport 1-0 (1-0).
Next: Wyalusing at Williamsport, Thursday 4 p.m.