Lewisburg looks to build on softball program’s success after state final loss to Avonworth

MARK NANCE?Sun-Gazette Correspondent Lewisburg’s Carley Wagner celebrates after scoring in the first inning against Avonworth in the PIAA Class AAA final.

STATE COLLEGE — Lewisburg and Avonworth were in the same boat.

Both softball teams were in their first Class AAA state final ever. Only one could walk away with their first championship in hand.

In the end, it was the Antelopes who donned the gold medals after beating the Green Dragons, 7-2 at Penn State University’s Beard Field on Thursday.

“This is the farthest that a Lewisburg softball team has ever gotten, so I think that’s something to be talked about in future years,” sophomore catcher Sydney Bolinsky said. “And I just think that this experience was big for our community, coming together to support us.”

Bolinsky gave the Green Dragons (19-4) an initial lift in the opening frame with a two-out single to drive in Carley Wagner, who led off with a walk.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Lewisburg’s Alexis Walter is congratulated by coach Ken Wagner after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against Avonworth in the PIAA Class AAA championship.

Lewisburg went 26 years without a District 4 title until winning it this year. Ahead of the championship, the Class AAA semifinals previously marked the furthest the program had gone before taking that distance up a notch.

“That’s a credit to them,” Green Dragons coach Ken Wagner said. “They’ve spent the time in the weight room, they’ve spent the time in the gym, in the batting cage and it’s all them. We just direct them a little bit and they follow through with it.”

It showed at the plate throughout the entire postseason. Ahead of the state final, Lewisburg won 19 of its last 20 games and was collectively batting .328. Six starters were hitting .328 or higher and three were above .400.

Throughout the postseason, the Green Dragons outscored opponents 33-3 en route to the big stage, avenging a season-opener loss to Central Columbia and knocking off defending District 4 champion Loyalsock in districts.

“I take a lot from it,” senior pitcher Alexis Walter said. “We learned together to stay as a team, stay strong and always fight together.”

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Lewisburg second base fields a ground ball for a put out at first base as Avonwort's 22 heads to second base.

Walter relieved Kimmy Shannon in the circle in a bases-loaded situation with no outs in the bottom of the fifth. Shannon finished with three strikeouts, Walter fanned one and both allowed a combined eight hits.

In the top of the fourth inning, Walter ripped a home run and rounded the bases as the ball bounced off Beard Field’s scoreboard. From there, the Antelopes (21-5) rifled off seven unanswered runs with four of them in the sixth inning.

And while Lewisburg’s lead slipped away late, what the players coming up in the feeder system saw were the shoes they’d be filling one day playing on the highest stage of high school sports.

“If the seventh and eighth-graders keep working, my goal is to hopefully have one or two starters out of every age group that comes up,” Wagner said. “Hopefully get one or two starters, that way we don’t get decimated by nine seniors graduating.”

The Green Dragons are returning six starters, including Shannon.

“It’ll make a difference,” Wagner said on retaining many of this year’s players. “It’ll help, especially when you have a pitcher like Kimmy.”

Lewisburg often finds its programs competing in state finals. A boys soccer program that made back-to-back appearances with a title in the former after an undefeated season — and four championships since 2015 — as well as powerhouse track and field and cross country programs.

Softball has joined the ranks of that conversation for the first time ever. And despite coming up a game short, Lewisburg might have another beacon of success on the rise to nestle in with the rest of its athletics.

“I think it gives us recognition and it allows them to say, ‘Hey, I can do that too,'” Bolinsky said on the players coming up from middle school. “And have faith in the program itself, that we’re going to be able to come up, they’ll be a part of something successful and it’s not just like another team.”


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