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Memories stand out to Williamsport Big League softball players even 30 summers later

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth part in a six-part series looking back at the 1990 Williamsport Big League softball team which won the World Series. This summer marks the 30-year anniversary.

There’s a lot of memories that stick out to members of Williamsport’s 1990 Big League World Series softball team that won the world championship in Mesa, Arizona. For some, it was the camaraderie among the players and having known each other since they were kids and playing up until they won in 1990 as 17- and 18-year-olds.

For others, it was specific instances like when Sue Scruggs hit a solo-shot home run against Columbus, Georgia, to tie the World Series championship game.

That summer was three decades ago, but those memories are all crisp in their minds.

“We talk about this team all the time. We had played together for a really long time by then and really, it was a family and that’s indicative of the fact we’re really good friends today 30 years later from the World Series, and even longer than when we started playing together,” Williamsport pitcher Jen Allison said.

Majority of those players stuck together since they were 11- and 12-year-old Little Leaguers and worked their way up through the Old Lycoming Little League until reaching the Big League division. They played through numerous state and regional tournaments and even some World Series together before winning it in 1990.

“That’s a long time (to look back),” Williamsport pitcher Heidi (Loudenslager) Russell said with a laugh. “I guess just the way that we won our games which was just playing like a team.”

When the team arrived in Mesa, Arizona, the team couldn’t practice twice a day since in the afternoons the temperatures brushed 100 degrees. Williamsport had just one practice a day in the morning. The games didn’t get played until 7 p.m. when the temperature finally started to drop. It was a bit of a change of pace for Williamsport, which was used to your typical central Pennsylvania weather in July and August.

At one point while in Mesa, manager Bob Loudenslager told his team that they could maybe skip practice the next day.

“We were so superstitious,” Allison said. “We all said no way. We’re already not practicing twice a day, we have to have them. It was a little unnerving after practice, probably 110 degrees. It was like a brick oven. We definitely wanted to practice.”

“It was just so much fun and it was something that we had been working for since we were 12. We were being groomed and trained to win the World Series. That was always the goal,” Williamsport third baseman Dina (White) Henry said. “That was something we had worked so hard and so long for and it was just an amazing experience.”

Stories like that are the dozens those 1990 players can recall when thinking back about that incredible summer.

“Honestly what sticks out is just the amount of fun we had. We were all friends on that team,” J.J. (DeSanto) Holtzapple said. “I honestly am not good with remembering scores or games played, but I remember the fun that we had going to Maryland for regionals, then we flew out to Arizona. … It was just a great summer.”

There was also a ton of community support for that team in 1990. Some of the parents were able to fly out and be in Mesa to watch Williamsport win all three games it played and cap the summer with a 7-0 record. But those who didn’t get to attend gave Williamsport a champions’ welcome back home. The team flew into Washington, D.C., but had to take a bus home from there. It was a long ride back from D.C., but one that culiminated with a warm welcome at the Old Lycoming softball field off Lycoming Creek Road.

The games weren’t broadcast on television, so parents had to listen to the games on the radio or read a write-up the next day in the newspaper.

“We got home really late and all the parents at the Old Lycoming ball field lined their cars all around the parking lot with headlights facing toward centerfield,” Allison said. “They all turned on as we turned in and they were honking their horns. There was a news station there and they interviewed a couple of girls coming off the bus.”

Loudenslager remembered getting off the bus and giving a bit of an impromptu speech to those parents in attendance.

“It was terrific to see the crowd show up at Old Lycoming because that’s where they brought us back,” Loudenslager said. “All the people at the games and those who weren’t and the supervisors at township were there. There was quite a crowd there. We had a little megaphone and I know I had to talk a little bit to the parents.”

Later on, that team was recognized at a banquet at Little League and the team invited the parents that housed Williamsport’s players while in Waldorf, Maryland, for the Eastern Regional. The families noted how well behaved the Williamsport players were during the tournament, and it’s something that stood out to Loudenslager years later.

He still has dozens of photos and newspaper clippings in a binder at his house to remember that amazing summer.

Thirty years may have passed since that celebratory welcome back at Old Lycoming’s field, but to Loudenslager and his players, it’s as if it happened just yesterday.

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