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Decade’s best No. 7: Muncy’s Hannah Cole was exceptional center fielder

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

As players, coaches and fans collectively gasped while watching the ball carry so far, Hannah Cole saw nothing.

Cole knew she had made strong contact, but had no idea she had launched a blast which likely had Babe Ruth smiling somewhere. Cole lost track of the ball as it came off her bat and sailed high and far. Cole landed on second base, thinking she had hit a double.

The ball landed way beyond Montgomery’s high right-field fence, carrying over multiple rows of parked cars and nearly hitting the school far in the distance. It was an awesome display of power, but it also was not out of the ordinary. Cole was a hitting machine at Muncy. She also was a defensive wizard, a four-time all-state selection and easily one of the best players in program history.

This was a player who hit the bottom of Elm Park’s right-field fence 300 feet away and nearly did it twice. This was a player who never hit lower than .556 during her three years played last decade (2010-12). This was a player who was a natural.

“She combined power, speed, instinct and a great arm to be one of the finest players to ever walk a high school softball field in Lycoming County and District 4,” Muncy coach Mark Temons said. “She could have been an all-state shortstop, an all-state catcher, any position at all.”

Cole was such a force in center field that Temons could have his right and left fielders hug the lines because Cole had everything else covered. Her arm was so strong that Cole occasionally threw out runners at first base who shockingly were robbed of singles. A five-tool player, Cole also was an excellent base runner and could steal home on throws back to the pitcher.

“I noticed that the catcher had been simply tossing the ball back to the pitcher and neither paying much attention to Hannah at third. When we didn’t plate her with the next two batters I whispered to Hannah, ‘steal home, they aren’t watching. Can you time it?'” Temons said. “She smiled and nodded. The take sign was given to the hitter and Hannah watched the catcher’s return throw and took off, sliding in with no tag.”

Cole made the improbable seem routine and helped Muncy reach districts all four years there. As a freshman she played a major role in Muncy capturing the District 4 Class A championship and helped it win playoff games the next three years as well. She earned a scholarship to Division I St. Francis, but joined the ROTC instead.

Already one of the area’s premier players as a freshman, Cole went to another level once the new decade started. She hit .569 with three home runs, 17 RBIs and 21 runs as a sophomore in 2010. Cole compiled a .656 on-base percentage, belted 14 extra-base hits and stole 15 bases. It was impressive, but she was just getting warmed up.

A year later Cole won the Sun-Gazette Player of the Year and became one of the state’s most feared hitters. Cole hit .587, smashed seven home runs and produced a .698 on-base percentage. She added seven doubles, 25 RBIs, 25 runs and had a 1.379 slugging percentage. Her swing was flawless and powerful and balls often jumped off her bat like they were made of rubber.

Temons recalled opponents saying, “Is that her?” when seeing Cole for the first time. The more popular refrain was, “back up.” At the time Elm Park did not feature high school softball fences. The men’s slow-pitch league fences were 300 feet away and they still barely kept Cole’s drives in the park.

“The opponent had heard of her power and moved well beyond where a fence would have been. The first at-bat Hannah simply hit a line drive over the left fielder’s head that one-hopped the men’s fence for a home run,” Temons said. “The next at-bat the outfielders went further back and she drove a deep drive to left-center that landed at the base of the fence for a home run. Her third time up the outfielders simply moved back to the 17702 zip code. Hannah drove a line shot into the gap and even with the outfielders back and relays set up, she raced around the bases to score standing.”

Cole was so feared that she was intentionally walked in scrimmages and she capped her brilliant career with another phenomenal season in 2012. Despite frequently being pitched around, Cole still hit .556 with a .680 on-base percentage. She added seven more home runs, nine doubles, 23 RBIs, 35 runs and 20 stolen bases. Over those last three seasons, Cole produced 17 home runs, 65 RBIs and 81 runs.

That stellar career almost ended prematurely when Cole nearly suffered a broken wrist late in the season. While diving for a ball, Cole’s wrist rolled under her. She was rushed to the hospital and left wearing a sling. Cole already was a National Guard Reservist at this point, though, and pain was no match. The swelling went down the next day and Cole did not miss a game.

Just a week later, Cole delivered the decisive blow in a 3-1 District 4 playoff win against St. John Neumann. She was used to be intentionally walked and thought she would be after going up 3-0 in the count. Coach Mallory Hafer, however, gave her the green light and when Cole saw something close to the outside of the plate she jumped. It was not a bad pitch, but Cole went the opposite way with it and drove a two-run home run over the right-field fence.

“The pain is not going to stop me, definitely not,” Cole said. “It’s the playoffs and it’s when you want everything to come together.”

Cole brought it all together every year and stands alone as Muncy’s most decorated softball player ever.

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