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Decade’s best No. 3: Loyalsock’s Amanda Daneker became one of area’s best

Her softball journey started as a 3-year-old. In the family backyard, Amanda and her older brother Pat played catch.

And just like that, Amanda was hooked.

Her father Rees was a long-time coach and Pat eventually pitched in the Majors with the Chicago White Sox, but Amanda, too, would scale the heights of greatness. Shadowing father and brother along their baseball paths, Amanda soon started blazing her own trail.

Her playing days now done, Daneker will be remembered as one of the best players in area history and possibly the area’s best catcher ever. Labeling anyone the best ever at a position is a bold statement, but Daneker certainly has the resume to back it up.

A four-year starter at both Loyalsock and Coastal Carolina, Daneker hit like Mike Piazza and played defense like Ivan Rodriguez. A good debate would be which of these two amazing statistics is more impressive: Daneker hitting above .500 in four years at Loyalsock, or allowing just one runner to steal a base against her over her last three. She was an offensive force who erased opposing running games and acted like a coach on the field. A three-time first-team all-state selection, Daneker played the game at a level few area players did before and since, topping 100 hits, 100 RBIs and 100 runs.

Simply put, Daneker was the whole package.

“Amanda is a great catcher and she’s worked for everything,” Loyalsock teammate Ashleigh Bair said in 2013. “I can’t say enough good things about her.”

“Amanda is not only a great player, but also a great person,” former Loyalsock coach Tom O’Malley said that year. “She has great character.”

That talent was enhanced as she watched Rees coach and Pat play. Daneker quickly fell in love with the game and was a quick study. She started forging her own identity at various youth levels and made an immediate and dramatic impact as a freshman at Loyalsock in 2010.

“Going with my dad and seeing those teams playing or watching my brother play was one of my favorite things,” Daneker said. “I just kind of picked up on it.”

District 4 quickly understood how fast she had learned. All Daneker did that freshman year was establish herself as the district’s premier weapon behind the plate. She also hit .431 with 26 RBIs, 21 runs and nine doubles. The crazy thing is that would be Daneker’s “worst” high school season.

Daneker would never hit below .554 again and just one more player would be able to say she stole a base against her. Only a sophomore, Daneker already was a team leader who struck out just once while hitting .554 with a .603 on-base percentage and 15 RBIs.

The progression continued as a junior when Daneker hit .603 with five home runs, 31 RBIs and 30 runs. No one stole a base against her and Daneker helped Loyalsock win its last three games to reach the district playoffs, coming up big in those games and a district playoff first-round victory. Not many area softball players have earned major Division I scholarships but by that season, Daneker already had committed to play at Coastal Carolina where she would become one of the Big South Conference’s best catchers as well as a three-year captain.

“I’m very excited. It’s a great feeling to go down there and accomplish one of my goals which was to go Division I and to go to a school like that is a Godsend,” Daneker said that year. “I pretty much knew that was the school I wanted to go to. I loved it.”

Loyalsock loved having Daneker for another year. Despite having her college future mapped out and having established herself as one of the state’s best players, Daneker never became satisfied. Hers was a relentless pursuit to become the best player she could be. In doing so, Daneker made her teammates better as well and Loyalsock captured the HAC-II championship in her final season, sweeping the regular-season series from defending Class AA Eastern Region champion Warrior Run.

“I’ve seen a lot of people and their work ethics and I will put hers against anybody. It’s unbelievable how hard she works,” O’Malley a former Major Leaguer and Japanese League legend said. “She wants to get better every day and improve every day and that’s an unbelievable trait she has. She rubs off on everybody else on this team.

Daneker enjoyed her best season in 2013, hitting .600 with five home runs, 11 doubles, three triples, 34 RBIs and 34 runs. Over her final three seasons, Daneker struck out just six times and her .683 on-base percentage was among the state’s best. She ignited a crucial 5-2 win against Warrior Run, going 3 for 3 with a double and triple and also played a major role in the 3-1 rematch victory which gave Loyalsock its first league title since 2008.

Then there was the defense. In addition to eliminating opposing running games, Daneker was a wall behind the plate. She gave the pitchers a security blanket because Daneker blocked anything in the dirt. Nothing went past her and pitchers could throw any pitch they wanted in any situation, knowing Daneker would catch it. That played a major role in freshman Kayla Gee flourishing that year as Loyalsock reached its first district final in five years.

The stats, though, could measure only so much. There was no price tag one could place on Daneker’s knowledge or leadership. She called all the pitches, helped set the defense and pushed her teammates to give their all every day. She knew opponents as well as they knew themselves. Her teammates knew having Daneker on the team gave Loyalsock a big advantage.

“Having Amanda back there, she keeps everyone calm and relaxed, especially the pitchers,” Bair said. “She knows what to throw and she calls timeout when we’re in jams and talks to the pitcher and calms them down. She keeps everyone focused and calm so it doesn’t get out of hand.”

Those same qualities helped Daneker continue shining at Coastal Carolina where she played excellent softball despite battling a persistent elbow injury. Just as important, Daneker set an example that Loyalsock players have built on since she graduated.

Daneker raised the bar as high as it can go as a catcher during her scholastic career. Her effort has paved the way for other Loyalsock catchers like Rhiallie Jessell and Summer McNulty over the last five years to become all-state players who excelled as hitters, defenders and leaders.

There may never been another Daneker, but in trying to emulate her work ethic and her passion, other area players can soar mighty high.

“She is a great leader and a great player,” O’Malley said. “When the other girls see how hard she works they just want to follow in her footsteps.”

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