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Chris Masse on softball: Montgomery’s Faith Persing honed her skills after lost season

Although there was not a high school season last spring, Faith Persing sure worked like there was.

Persing was expected to be one of Montgomery’s top pitchers as a sophomore before COVID-19 wiped out the season. The Red Raiders had lofty goals after coming so close to winning both a District 4 Class A championship and state tournament game the previous year.

She could do nothing about that lost opportunity, but Persing could do everything possible to make herself better when the next one came. So, she worked with her pitching coach, honed her skills daily and played travel softball.

And now Persing is owning this coveted high school opportunity.

The hard-throwing junior has been downright special through the season’s first half. Entering Monday’s District 4 Class A championship rematch against Bucktail, Persing was 9-0 with a 0.50 ERA. As impressive as those numbers are, this area has long been pitching-deep and there have been similar statistics in the past.

Where Persing has really separated herself is when looking at some other measurables. In her first 49 innings, Persing surrendered just nine hits. She also struck out 107 and walked three. None of the first nine teams Persing faced collected more than three hits off her and she went more than 20 innings at one point without allowing a hit.

Oh yeah, Persing also has thrown four no-hitters. She struck out 35 on consecutive days in quality wins against Bucktail and Northwest last week. That included fanning a career-high 19 while no-hitting Northwest in a 5-0 victory.

Persing throws hard, but what has made her so good so far is that she is a pitcher, not a thrower. Persing understands the game well, moves the ball around, utilizes multiple pitches and spots them all well.

Also the team’s leadoff hitter, Persing has been locked in offensively, hitting three home runs in her last six games, including the last two. Montgomery’s success has been a team effort with each player doing her part but it’s hard not being blown away by what Persing did throughout the first half.

The thing is, Persing is not looking back, only ahead. Ditto for her team. The statistics are head spinning but all that offseason work was to produce wins not individual numbers.

Now the work continues.

WELL-POSITIONED

Muncy (9-2) has won seven straight games and remains within a game of Montgomery in the Mid-Penn. The Indians have clinched a District 4 Class AA playoff berth and likely will either still be within a game or tied with Montgomery when the rivals collide Thursday in Montgomery.

That Muncy is in the hunt for a league title speaks to its development. A team with just two seniors has played some outstanding softball during its streak and has both a bright present and future. It is the latest step forward for a program which had to replace nearly every starter in 2018 before returning to districts a year later and now becoming both a league and district threat.

Nolah Moyer and Rory Oden both have pitched well and Muncy has utilized a balanced offense, scoring 78 runs during its streak. Casey Fry went 4 for 4, Oden and Lily Frederick each had two hits and Moyer struck out 13 in a 7-3 win Friday against Northwest.

“The more we play, the more we learn to support each other,” Oden said after throwing two shutout innings in a 10-0 win against Sullivan County. “I feel like we’re really jelling this year.”

EXTRA BASES

St. John Neumann won its first game last Wednesday, defeating Benton 18-8. Freshman Gigi Parlante shined, earning the win and going 4 for 4 with a triple and two doubles … Emma Pfirman had two hits, Delaney Herbst tripled and Katelyn Stover threw a five-hitter as Jersey Shore snapped a two-game losing streak and defeated Milton, 6-2 … Warrior Run looked strong in its first game in 11 days, scoring nine fifth inning runs and defeating Southern Columbia, 17-5. Liona Dion has been a strong hitter from her No. 9 position and produced two hits … Sullivan County overcame a four-run deficit, 50 mile per hour winds and snow flurries to defeat Neumann, 21-11 last Friday. Mallory Dickinson went 2 for 2 with a triple and three RBIs. Dickinson has reached base in five straight at-bats, going 3 for 3 with two walks.

DR. MASSE’S TOP 5 SOFTBALL RANKINGS

(Records entering Monday)

1. LOYALSOCK (10-1) — A big week starts today with Loyalsock hosting rival Montoursville before going to Central Columbia Thursday. Central is the only team to defeat Loyalsock this season and the Lancers have won six straight since, scoring 84 runs in those games. The Lancers hit throughout the roster in two victories against Southern Columbia and South Williamsport last week with Hannah Winter and Katy Schon homering in the 14-0 win at Southern. Jocelyn Cruz and Kathryn Schluter have done an excellent job turning the lineup over and providing production at the bottom of the order while Mallory Rodarmel has helped solidify the middle. Allyia Kennedy has hit well, too, and was 2 for 3 with a triple and three RBIs against Southern.

2. WILLIAMSPORT (11-1) — Being behind does not rattle the Millionaires who have come from behind to win three of their last six games. Williamsport showed its flair for the dramatic again last Tuesday against Mifflin County, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh to walk off with a 5-4 win, its second in as many weeks after erasing a six-run deficit against St. Mary’s. Isabelle Griswold has been outstanding hitting in the middle of the order and was 4 for 6 with two doubles and four RBIs. Kendall McAnelly shut down Punxsutawney in an 8-2 win and did not allow an earned run. Layla Waldman threw well against Mifflin County and improved to 4-0.

3. MONTGOMERY (10-0) — Sammi Ulrich has provided Montgomery some valuable production and is second on the team with 13 RBIs. Brynn McRae is another junior having a strong season and entered the week hitting .429. What could be especially encouraging for Montgomery is knowing its offense really has not broken out yet. If the Red Raiders heat up down the stretch offensively, they could be right where they want to be entering the postseason.

4. CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (9-1) — The Wildcats get a shot at revenge today when they play Danville, the only team to defeat it this season. A win would tie Central Mountain with Danville for first in the HAC-I. The Wildcats have won five straight since the first meeting, including the last four via shutout. Adalynn McKeague and Allison Lininger both have been dealing while backed by a stellar defense. Riley Houser and Caitlyn Watson sparked the offense in a 6-0 win against Shikellamy with each driving in three runs. Houser went 3 for 4 with a double and Watson 2 for 3 with a double.

5. LEWISBURG (6-4) — Alexis Walter and Kim Shannon have found their grooves, and both pitched well last week. Walter tossed a three-hit shutout in a 7-0 win against Hughesville before Shannon pitched a gem in a 2-1 loss against Central Columbia (11-1). Lewisburg has played both Central and Loyalsock tough and could be a formidable foe if it reaches the District 4 Class AAA playoffs. Erin Field put together a strong week and went 5 for 11 with three RBIs. Walter and freshman Carley Wagner each had two hits in a 14-4 win against Jersey Shore.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Myla Kelley, Williamsport and Gracy Beachel, Warrior Run

Kelley has done a super job sparking the offense from her lead-off position and went 5 for 7 in two wins last week. The junior outfielder is hitting a team-best .564 with six triples, 18 runs and 11 RBIs. Beachel put on a show against Southern Columbia, walloping a grand slam and two doubles. Beachel is a three-year starter who helped Warrior Run reach the state quarterfinals in 2018 and 19 and who also provides strong defense at third base.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Williamsport at Loyalsock

Round 1 did not live up to the hype between these area heavyweights but here’s thinking the rematch Saturday at Short Park will be a much more competitive again. Loyalsock blasted Williamsport 15-0 in four innings last nine days ago and the Millionaires likely are a tad motivated for this rematch. This reporter believes the exciting game many expected to see nine days ago will unfold this time.

Chris Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse

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