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Decade’s best No. 5: Madi Waltman established herself as a Warrior Run great

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a series looking back at the Top 10 softball teams, coaches, games and players from the last decade.

Madi Waltman attacked the Warrior Run record book the way she did opposing batters, practices and the offseason. Whatever she was doing, Waltman was going all-out, never taking a day, pitch or at-bat off. And in just three seasons she established herself as one of the program’s all-time greats.

The sad part is one will never know how much more she would have achieved. She might have rewritten the program record books. She might have helped Warrior Run capture its first state championship. She most certainly would have put together another sensational season.

The COVID-19 pandemic erased all those possibilities and Waltman lost her senior season this past spring when the PIAA, in accordance with Gov. Tom Wolf, canceled the 2020 season. It was a sad, frustrating close to an absolutely spectacular scholastic career and Waltman can take comfort in knowing she did everything possible to make sure she and her team shined while she was there.

“She’s gritty,” Warrior Run coach Garth Watson said in 2019. “In the offseason she did strength and weight training on own and she’s a tough kid.”

Driven, selfless and immensely gifted, Waltman packed what would be a remarkable four-year high school career into three memorable seasons. The current freshman Lock Haven pitcher went 38-15 in three years with a 1.64 ERA and 545 strikeouts in 355 innings. She threw two perfect games, seven no-hitters and produced one of the decade’s most memorable streaks, throwing 59 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in 2019. Waltman was virtually untouchable last year, striking out 314 and winning 21 games while helping Warrior Run reach the Class AAA state quarterfinals for a second straight season.

Oh yeah, Waltman also was an elite hitter. The three-year starter nearly reached 100 hits as a junior, finishing with 96. Waltman never hit lower than .360 and finished with a career average of .403 while driving in 70 runs, including at least 20 each season. Had the 2020 season not been canceled, Waltman might have topped 125 career hits, 125 RBIs and 800 strikeouts.

“I know whatever happens, the people behind me are going to have my back,” Waltman said in 2018. “It is about having fun playing with my family.”

Waltman helped her family have a lot of fun from 2017-19, helping it win 54 games, reach two district championships and win state tournament games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history. It started with a strong opening act as a freshman. There was a learning curve after moving up from junior high, but Waltman was a quick study and was instrumental in Warrior Run making a six-win improvement, going 16-6 and reaching the district semifinals. The freshman went 5-4 with two saves, a 2.80 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 70 innings. She also hit .360 with 10 doubles, a team-high 22 RBIs and 17 runs.

Waltman was really good that first season. She was downright dominant the next two.

That Waltman was becoming a force immediately as she surrendered just three runs in her first five games while striking out 40. Her grand entrance as one of the state’s premier players came at Short Park when Waltman overpowered eventual district champion Loyalsock, striking out 11 in a dominant 7-1 victory against one of the decade’s best area hitting teams.

“I worked really hard in the offseason to increase velocity and things like that,” Waltman said afterward. “I just feel more comfortable with what I’m throwing this year.”

“She put a ton of time in the offseason,” Watson said. “When you can hold Loyalsock’s offense to one run it’s not what they’re doing wrong, it’s what she was doing right.”

What Waltman did right was complement her speed with excellent off-speed pitches and even better placement. She was a pitcher, not a thrower and finished 12-5 with a 1.75 ERA, striking out an area-best 159 and throwing two postseason shutouts.

Waltman led Warrior Run to the state tournament for the first time since 2013 and put on a pitching clinic in a midseason win against undefeated South Williamsport. On a cold, windy day Waltman threw a perfect game, striking out 12 against a team which was 21-2 in two seasons leading up to that game.

“It’s exhilarating,” Waltman said. “As it went on, I realized that nobody had been on base yet. I just really depended on my catcher Jade Swartz who is a stud and I really depended on my defense and they pulled through and made great plays.”

“Madi has been pitching so well. She pitched really well last yeaer, but this year is so much different. She’s dominant,” third baseman Gina Beyer said. “She’s confident and she just has that killer instinct. She’s ready to go after people. It’s pretty awesome. I definitely wouldn’t want to hit against her.”

Not many wanted to pitch against Waltman either. The sophomore hit .458 with a home run, six doubles and 23 RBIs, needing just two years to reach 60 hits.

Waltman remained one of the district’s premier hitters in 2019, anchoring a potent lineup and hitting .409 with eight doubles, 25 RBIs and eight multi-hit games. She also produced a 12-game hitting streak and collected a career-high 36 hits.

Still, Waltman generated her loudest buzz pitching. That is what happens when one produces one of the best seasons in Warrior Run history. Waltman was as brilliant as any district pitcher last decade during her final season. The countless hours spent lifting and practicing throughout the offseason helped Waltman go 21-4 with a 0.88 ERA and 314 strikeouts in 173 innings. So overpowering was Waltman that she threw 15 shutouts and put together that 59 2/3 scoreless innings streak which lasted until the sixth inning of the district championship. Waltman became just the third Warrior Run player to top 300 strikeouts in a season and allowed threw hits or fewer 19 times while holding opponents to a .118 batting average.

“She gets it,” Watson said. “She knows that if you can hit your sports and put the ball where you want, you’re going to have a good day.”

Nearly every day was a good one with Waltman pitching. That included when she was not feeling well. Waltman was every bit as feisty as she was overpowering and showed it in a 5-3 win over eventual state semifinalist Bloomsburg. She was sick and pitching in the rain, but Waltman still struck out 15.

A week later, pitching in near 90-degree weather, Waltman was battling leg cramps from the second inning on, but still put forth a valiant 10-inning effort and helped the Defenders beat HAC-II champion Loyalsock. She might not be feeling great, but on those days Waltman could still play great.

And when there was no margin for error, Waltman was often at her best. She threw an eight-inning shutout against North Penn-Liberty in a 1-0 district quarterfinal win, striking out 18 for the second time that season. A few days later she threw a 10-inning shutout as Warrior Run blanked Central Columbia, 1-0 and again reached the state tournament. Once there, Waltman threw a three-hitter and struck out nine while adding our RBIs as Warrior Run thumped District 3 champion Kutztown, 11-3.

COVID-19 prevented Waltman from helping Warrior Run winning any more games. But it could not dull the brightness that she produced at Warrior Run. She might have only had three years, but that was all Waltman needed to become a Warrior Run legend.

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