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Loyalsock Little League has first night softball game at James Short Park

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Fans watch Loyalsock Little League’s State Farm and All-State major softball teams play under the lights at James Short Park on Tuesday night. It was the first game played under the newly installed lights at the field.

As the sun slowly set behind the first-base dugout at James Short Park’s softball field, the Loyalsock softball field lights at the far end of the park were slowly illuminating more and more. With no house lights on nearby to illuminate Northway Road and no street lights to brighten it, the softball field’s lights made it stand out all on its own amid a black backdrop of trees and the rest of Short Park in the distance.

For the first time in Loyalsock Little League’s history, the softball field can finally host its own night games.

“It’s a big deal for the community. You’ve got a township field, the high school plays on this field and Little League shares this field,” State Farm manager Jeremy Kennedy said. “So you have those three entities cooperating to make this happen. It’s really special.”

Kennedy’s team will be a note in the league’s history as being one of first two teams to play at James Short Park under the lights as State Farm lost to All-State on Tuesday night, 13-0, in four innings thanks to All-State scoring seven runs in the second inning.

But the score of that game wasn’t what mattered. Rather, it was the significance of finally being able to play a night game on the softball field.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Loyalsock Little League’s All-State major softball team warms up prior to the start of Tuesday’s game at James Short Park against State Farm. It was the first game played under the newly installed lights at the field.

“It’s kind of a pretty awesome thing for Loyalsock. Basically a great opportunity for kids at the Little League level, the high school level and the middle school level get more playing time now,” All-State manager Ryan Kresock said after his team won. “The girls were excited to just experience something like a big-league kind of setting.”

It’s a sentiment Kennedy and his players shared.

“They felt like they were rock stars out there underneath the lights. We’ve been pumping it up. One girl told me the first time under the lights was awesome,” Kennedy said. “The score doesn’t reflect how good of a time we had.”

While Loyalsock Little League currently will be playing on the field, the Loyalsock High School team uses the field during the spring and will be able to utilize night games now, as can the middle school program.

Loyalsock Little League president Vicky Kiehl said the lights cost approximately $53,000, but that doesn’t include the total cost for installation. For the past few years, the league had been raising funds for the lights and installation. Kiehl said $20,000 was awarded to the league through Little League International’s Grow the Game grant. The league also was donated $20,000 from both Loyalsock Township School District and the township itself.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette All-State infielder warm up before their game against State Farm in a Little League Majors Softball game for the first time under the lights at Short Park.

The league benefited from Larry Allison, who donated the crane services to set the light poles, and Doug McCoy from Leece Electric, who helped from the onset of the project. Leece Electric had been a sponsor of a baseball team for over a decade.

“I cannot express how excited I am to see the girls play under the lights (Tuesday), knowing that they will remember it for the rest of their lives,” Kiehl said. “That makes this project so worthwhile.”

Kiehl was in attendance Tuesday, watching from the third-base side of the field.

Loyalsock Little League also had drawings submitted to the township at no cost from Bassett Engineering and had CDC Excavation donate the trenching services. Kiehl thanked Double D Construction that helped with testing last summer, and PP&L volunteering to drill test holes.

Eric McNulty — who had the honor of turning the lights on for the first time Tuesday night — helped spearhead a fundraiser by the Loyalsock School District’s softball program that allowed the league to do the installation this year, according to Kiehl.

The field also had a new windscreen put up that ran along the entire outfield fence.

“Loyalsock Little League is so lucky to be a part of the Loyalsock Township community,” Kiehl said.

Tuesday’s first night game had somewhat of a big event feel to it. Speakers played music during State Farm and All-State’s outfield warm-ups prior to the game, walk-up music was played for each of the players and Bruster’s had an ice cream truck set up in one of the parking lots.

It may have just been a regular-season contest, but it felt like a primetime event for the players.

During Tuesday’s game, two young girls sat near the first-base dugout and were taking photos during the game on their phones. One remarked how bright the lights were.

“That’s because they’re brand new, they just put them in,” a nearby parent told them.

The lights at James Short Park will shine bright for awhile, and so will the memories of countless softball players who will play underneath them in the coming years.

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