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Spitfire ready for successful summer

Opponents often marvel as they watch the Spitfire ASA team take the field without having warmed up and then conduct softball clinics.

Spitfire looks so good and makes it look so easy. But this team is not just successful because it is talented. This team is great because it relentlessly works to attain that status. It just often secretly conducts that work.

The three-time ASA Eastern National Champions practice for 90 minutes before leaving for that day’s tournament. They find an open field, stretch, take full batting and fielding practice and then arrive ready to win. They sure win a lot, too.

Spitfire has won Eastern National championships in three consecutive seasons in 14U, 16U and 18U. It will defend that 18U crown the weekend of July 11-12 and has started its summer strong again, winning three consecutive Keystone Select Tournaments before going 3-0 last Sunday at Elm Park in a tournament shortened by Saturday’s rain.

“Nobody knows it. We just show up at games and coaches are like, ‘We’re starting here,’ and we say, ‘We’re ready,’ and they look surprised. They don’t know we’ve been working for two hours,” Spitfire coach Jon Weaver said after a 9-0 win against the Panthers in Sunday’s finale. “The girls don’t complain. Other teams are complaining when it’s 8 in the morning and saying they are tired but that doesn’t happen here. They just do their thing and it’s really fun.”

ASA tournaments often start early in the morning and before all four this past month, Spitfire has conducted its pregame practices at 6:30 a.m. Most of the area is still sleeping and this team is charting its course for dominance. It is that dedication which has helped Spitfire go a remarkable 154-13-3 the past four seasons.

“It’s a nice feeling knowing we can travel and go far away and go against teams we don’t even know and still be successful beyond our home towns,” Central Mountain grad and Lycoming sophomore to be Morgan Wetzel said after going 2 for 3 with a triple, double and two RBIs against the Panthers. “I feel like some athletes in this area are very overlooked. There’s a lot of hidden talent in all the small towns around here.”

Spitfire has helped show that these little towns produce some big-time softball players and outscored three opponents, 26-2, last Sunday. This started out as primarily as a Loyalsock travel team when former Lancer coach and current Spitfire assistant Craig Weaver Jr. coached there from 2014-16. Soon the team spread out and now includes players from Loyalsock, Williamsport, Montoursville, Jersey Shore, Warrior Run, Central Mountain and Bellefonte.

Members this year include: Wetzel, Avery Eiswerth, Jayla Bartholomew, MacKenzie Weaver, Lexi Rogers, Kendra Bomgarder, Isabelle Griswold, Jordan McCarthy, Kaylah Thompson, Alyssa Stover, Maddie Tice, Summer McNulty, Jade Swartz and Tori Reichart. In addition to Jon and Craig Weaver, Eric McNulty also is a coach.

“They’re a great group of kids. They work their butts off and it shows,” Jon Weaver said. “They want to be here and you get everything out of them. They’re here because they want to get better. They all want to make plays and win.”

They all have done so, as have past Spitfire players during this dominant four-year run. There are no weak spots in the lineup. Rogers and MacKenzie Weaver each threw shutouts Sunday, and everyone can hit.

That was evident throughout Sunday’s tournament, especially in the finale. Weaver followed Rogers’ shutout with another one, tossing a three-hitter and being backed by an error-less defense. Eight players combined for 11 hits in five innings with Wetzel, Weaver (2 for 3), Rogers (2 for 2, home run, four RBIs) and Stover (2 for 3, double, RBI) all producing multi-hit performances.

Top, middle or bottom of the order, it does not matter. This is a loaded lineup and every player is a threat.

“Even though I’m a lot older I cannot tell the age difference because they are just so talented,” Wetzel said. “Even when we’re losing we still have that confidence to build it back up and come back with a win.”

“Everybody can hit and we’ve had two-out rallies with the bottom of the lineup because they hit just as well as everyone else. They all have a lot of confidence,” Jon Weaver said. “What I like is I can give somebody that is batting .600 the bunt sign and they don’t think anything about it. They lay it down. They do what we ask them to do. The players are great, the parents are great and we’ve never had an issue with anything. We love it.”

Like nearly every softball team in America, Spitfire had to catch up fast after not being able to play games from March through late May. The rust has not shown, though. This group has basically picked up where it left off last year and continues building momentum entering states. Spitfire has accomplished so much, but it still wants more and will keep grinding.

That is all this team knows. And that is why it often plays so long.

“It’s nice to have that confidence going into a weekend and knowing that you’re going to be there for a while,” Wetzel said. “You’re not just going to show up just to go home.”

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