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Williamsport’s 1990 title was part of winning stretch

Ellen (Kennedy) Laubach remembers traveling with her family to watch her two sisters, Melissa and Maureen, compete as softball all-stars in 1984 and 1985. She was a few years behind her sisters, but got to watch both of them reach the summit as champions in the Big League World Series.

Dina (White) Henry’s sister was also on those two teams. It was motivation for both White and Laubach to get to the top themselves.

At the time, it was just a nice accomplishment to win back-to-back Big League World Series championships. No one knew those seeds planted would produce more than a decade of incredible softball in the Williamsport area.

“Ellen and I were there. We witnessed that because our families were watching our sisterS. That was really cool to do that two years in a row, which was just incredible,” Henry said. “Then wouldn’t you know it, five years later we did it too and our sisters were now watching us.”

“We traveled with them through their journey,” Laubach said. “It was a great accomplishment.”

And one of just many for Williamsport.

Old Lycoming reached the Senior League Eastern Regional tournament in 1986 and the Senior League World Series in 1987. Numerous members of the 1990 team which won in Mesa, Arizona, were on the Big League team which lost in consecutive Eastern Regional tournaments in 1988 and 1989 to eventual world champion Maine.

Those players broke through and redeemed themselves in 1990 by defeating Columbus, Georgia, in the championship game, rallying from a four-run deficit.

A lot of those players were 18 years old and, for them, 1990 was the end of the road. It was the last title the group of players won together. But they helped solidify Williamsport’s position as a softball powerhouse to begin the 1990s after an incredible run since the ’80s.

“We were like ‘we have to get back to the World Series and win this,'” Williamsport pitcher Jen Allison said of the heartbreaking regional losses in 1988 and 1989. “We had been so successful, but we had been missing that lost piece.”

Allison, like many of her teammates, are more than glad they were part of that 1990 team that won the world championship and continue the solid tradition at Williamsport.

“I loved being part of that tradition. The girls on 1984 and 1985 team like Ellen Kennedy’s sisters and Dina White’s sister and I can remember being a little kid wanting to go to the field and watch them play because I knew how good they were,” Allison said. “I didn’t live too far from the ball field and I convinced my parents to let me walk down. It’s really cool to be part of that era of girls softball.”

Many of those players also went on to win state championships in high school with Williamsport in 1989 and 1992.

It was an amazing era of softball which produced championship-quality teams about as frequently as Daryl Hall and John Oates were cranking out Billboard hits in the ’80s.

“That was the start of it (in 1984 and 1985), but then came right into my kids I had, right into them and we picked up there and built on that,” Williamsport manager Bob Loudenslager said. “I think that just the fact we were in five World Series — 1987, ’90, ’94, ’95, ’96 — and ’84 and ’85, locally, we were known.

“I think that just made everybody try harder for awhile.”

Loudenslager was a huge reason Williamsport’s tradition was as amazing as it was. After he coached the 1990 team to the title in Mesa, he again coached Williamsport to the World Series in three consecutive years from 1994-96. Williamsport also had Eastern Regional appearances in 1991, coming up shy of a possible repeat title.

Loudenslager’s team won the 1994 Big League World Series title, which ultimately was the final softball title Williamsport won. Dana (Wascher) Naughton was a left fielder on that 1990 team which won the championship and she watched her sister Dawn win a title in 1994.

“I got to go back and experience it with her when they won it, I was so happy for my sister,” Naughton said. “It was neat to heave her follow in my footsteps.”

In 1995 and 1996, Williamsport reached the Senior League World Series in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and lost in the championship game in 1996.

“It was a time where it was exciting to play because we knew we’d always have a chance. Obviously we didn’t win every year, but we always had a chance,” Williamsport shortstop J.J. (DeSanto) Holtzapple said. “That started from the 1980s up through when I graduated (1992) and past then. It was a good time to play.”

There’s no denying that it was the decade for Little League Softball in the area.

From 1984 through 1996, Williamsport and Old Lycoming failed to reach a regional tournament just twice: 1992 and 1993. During that 13-year span, reaching a regional tournament was just about as reliable as the sun rising each morning. Williamsport appeared in an impressive 11 regional tournaments, seven World Series and walked away with four World Series championships and two high school state titles.

“It was a good time for Little League Softball: the 80s and early 90s. It was probably the best time for Little League Softball around Williamsport and probably will never be like that again,” Loudenslager said. “We’re lucky to have lived through that era. These same girls that played probably feel that same way. It was a great time.”

Loudenslager nearly gave up coaching after 1990, but in his own words “I stayed with it.” And it’s a good thing he did because he helped the great softball tradition continue for a few more summers.

“We were so proud to play softball at Williamsport, especially back then,” Williamsport outfielder Beth (*Fausnaught) Sweeting said. “It was a fantastic program that Bob Loudenslager had built.”

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