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Montgomery ace Faith Persing named Sun-Gazette Player of the Year in softball

ALBRIGHT STUDIO/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Montgomery’s Faith Persing winds back to throw out a pitch during the 2022 high school softball season. Persing was named the Sun-Gazette Player of the Year, marking the second time the senior has earned the honor.

Montgomery provided the exclamation point for one of the best area softball seasons ever. Montgomery’s historic Class A state championship highlighted a tremendous year in which five area teams captured district championships, two reached state finals and five advanced to the quarterfinals.

So many other teams produced excellent campaigns as well and eight teams won 16 or more games. It truly was a banner year which makes picking area all-stars and award winners such a grueling task. This may be the deepest team in since the Sun-Gazette started releasing all-star teams in 2004. The depth is such that there are those not selected who likely would be first teamers in other years and the second team vs. the first team would be a scintillating contest.

Drum roll please…

Sun-Gazette Player of the Year

Second runner-up–Sydney Bolinsky, Lewisburg and Nolah Moyer, Muncy: The sophomore known as “Syd the Kid,” blossomed into one of the state’s premier catchers and played a monster role in helping Lewisburg reach the Class AAA state championship. A rock behind the plate who has a good arm and brilliantly works with the pitchers, Bolinsky also went on a postseason rampage and produced a series of clutch hits. The sophomore finished the season batting .438 with a .541 on-base percentage, three home runs, nine doubles, 20 RBIs and 29 runs. Moyer and Bolinsky are teammates during the summer and Moyer is another sophomore who is excellent now, but who might be really special the next two seasons. The left-hander ignited a dangerous offense, hitting .521 with three home runs, 10 doubles, three triples and 32 RBIs. Moyer collected hits in nearly every game and might have been even better in the pitching circle. The left-hander went 14-6 with a 1.55 ERA and finished second among area pitchers with 161 strikeouts, helping Muncy reach its first state tournament since 2017.

First runner-up–Cailtyn Watson, Central Mountain: A catcher the previous two seasons, Watson moved to shortstop and anchored a stout infield while continuing to be one of the area’s top hitters. A tough out from the lead-off spot, Watson hit .434 with a .527 on-base percentage, three home runs, seven doubles and 33 runs. The three-year starter helped Central Mountain capture HAC-I and District 6 Class 5A championships, while reaching the state quarterfinals, consistently producing in timely spots. Watson was the MVP for a team which won a program-record 21 games, delivered 12 multi-hit performances and finished her scholastic career with 84 hits and 81 runs in just three seasons.

And the winner is…Faith Persing, Montgomery: This was an easy call and so should Persing being the state’s Class A Player of the Year for a second straight season. Her pitching will be highlighted later, but her offense alone makes Persing stand out. Despite missing her sophomore year because of COVID, Persing still reached the exclusive 100-hit club, producing 106 hits and 13 home runs in three years. Everyone hit well in Montgomery’s lineup and Persing was the catalyst, batting .475 with a .571 on-base percentage, 38 hits, three home runs, 10 doubles, four triples, 26 RBIs and 30 runs. She was especially potent in the playoffs and hit .475 or higher each season at Montgomery. A fast runner with great instincts, Persing also was a weapon on the bases. And there is her pitching…

Sun-Gazette Pitcher of the Year

Second runner-up–Alizabeth Schuler, South Williamsport and Kimmy Shannon, Lewisburg: Schuler was as good as advertised, bursting onto the scene as a freshman and helping South capture its first district championship since 2014 and first at the AA level since 2006. Possessing nerves of steel, Schuler overcame an early-season injury to go 12-4 with a save and 2.22 ERA while striking out 103 in 104 innings. Schuler excelled in big games and surrendered just two runs and seven hits during districts, while striking out 20. Schuler also hit .381 with three home runs, 18 RBIs and compiled a .956 fielding percentage. After capturing a swimming state championship last winter, Shannon made a smooth transition to the field and was dominant throughout the playoffs, winning five straight decisions entering the final. The sophomore left-hander has great movement on her pitches and was 12-2 with a 1.34 ERA, surrendering 63 hits in 97 innings while striking out 80. Shannon twice reached season-highs for strikeouts during states and threw a one-hit shutout against District 11 champion Palisades. She also hit .324 with three home runs, seven doubles and 18 RBIs.

First runner-up–Adalynn McKeague, Central Mountain: Yet another underclassman who has dominated early and could be even better the next few years, McKeague produced a superb sophomore campaign. McKeague went 13-3 with a 1.24 ERA, limiting 77 hits in 107 innings and striking out 155. As tough as she is talented, McKeague shined in pressure situations, threw a nine-inning shutout against North Hills in states and tossed six shutouts. McKeague has flourished in her first two seasons, going 22-5 with a 1.16 ERA and striking out 251.

And the winner is…Faith Persing, Montgomery: Talk about a resume which reads like a Dickens novel. Persing takes this honor for a second straight season after not just repeating last year’s masterful showing, but building on it. Arguably, the best player in program history, Persing takes her place among the area’s all-time great pitchers after going 18-4 with a 0.79 ERA and 240 strikeouts. The senior complemented her power with brilliant off-speed pitches, pounded the strike zone and was money in big games. Persing allowed just 64 hits in 131 2/3 innings and was 7-0 in the playoffs, throwing four shutouts, surrendering just three runs and holding opponents to 20 hits while striking out 85 in 47 innings. She is 10-1 the past two years in the playoffs and threw 10 shutouts, as well as three no-hitters this season. Persing went 37-6 the last two years, struck out 500 batters and produced a 0.68 ERA. She also threw 24 shutouts and 10 no-hitters. Possessing an iron will, Persing had the whole package and produced a scholastic career which will not soon be forgotten.

Sun-Gazette All-Star Team

(Only teams who reported scores to Sun-Gazette included)

Starting lineup

1. Faith Persing, P, Montgomery; 2. Caitlyn Watson, IF, Central Mountain; 3. Sydney Bolinsky, C, Lewisburg; 4. Allyia Kennedy, OF, Loyalsock (.456, .500 obp, 3 HR, 5 2B, 2 3B, 18 RBIs, 26R, 10 SB); 5. Ally Chilson, IF, Williamsport Ally Chilson, IF (.358, .462 obp, 3 HR, 7 2B, 19 RBIs, 16R, .978 fielding, 7 multi-hit games); 6. Nolah Moyer, IF, Muncy; 7. Myla Kelley, OF, Williamsport (.403, .452 obp, HR, 9 2B, 18 RBIs, 20R, .952 fielding, career .415 hitter, 8 multi-hit games); 8. Jenna Waring, OF, Montgomery (.446, .510 obp, 2 HR, 7 2B, 2 3B, 25 RBIs, 20 R); 9. Makenzie Wagner, IF, Bucktail (area-best .603, .649 obp, 41 H, 3 HR, 7 2B, 3 3B, area-best 39 RBIs, 34R, 16 multi-hit games, hit in 19 of 21 games, 30 SB)

Sun-Gazette Pitching Staff

Starting rotation: Faith Persing, Montgomery; Adalynn McKeague, Central Mountain; Kimmy Shannon, Lewisburg; Alizabeth Schuler, South; Nolah Moyer, Muncy

Bullpen: Emma Poorman, Bucktail (8-2, 1.63 ERA, 66 IP, 38 H, 91 Ks, 113 career RBIs); Isabelle Engel, Jersey Shore (11-5, .459 average, 10 RBIs); Marissa Helmrich, Loyalsock (7-5, 2.93 ERA, 83 2/3 IP, 63 H, 123 Ks, 219 Ks in 2 years); McKenzi Tice, North Penn-Liberty (7-4, 1.85 ERA, 79 2/3 IP, 64 H, 100 Ks); Alexis Walter, Lewisburg (7-2, 1.75 ERA, 55 IP, 41 H, 53 Ks)

First Team Reserves

Claire Alexander, IF, South (.324, .403 obp, 2 HR, 5 3B, 2 2B, 15 RBIs, 24R, great defense); Olivia Beck, C, South (.351, .439 obp, HR, 4 2B, 10 RBIs, .973 fielding); Aubri Blair, IF, Williamsport (.340, .444 obp, 2 HR, 6 3B, 3 2B, 10 RBIs, 20R, 7 multi-hit games); Haley Burrows, C, Bucktail (.492, .590 obp, 19 RBIs, 42R, HR, 6 3B, 5 2B, 32 SBs, 10 multi-hit games, hit in 19 of 21 games, 17-game hitting streak); Erin Field, IF, Lewisburg (.440, .506, 37H, 9 2B, 5 3B, 20 RBIs, 30R); Hannah Klotz, OF, Montoursville (.387, .506 obp, 14 RBIs, super defense); Grace Lorson, OF, Jersey Shore (.443, HR, 2 3B, 6 2B, 14 RBIs, 22R); Shelby McRae, C, Montgomery (.318, .456 obp, 5 HR, 4 3B, 8 2B, 26 RBIs, 25R); Abby Robertson, OF, Williamsport (.368, .442 obp, 11 2B, 15 RBIs, 13R, 15-game hitting streak, 0 Es, 7 multi-hit games); Mallory Rodarmel, OF, Loyalsock (.393, .500 obp, 4 HR, 4 3B, 7 2B, 25 RBIs, 20R); ; Brianna Trueman, C, Montoursville (.386, .507 obp, 13 RBIs); Lizzie Weller, IF, St. John Neumann (.571, .618 obp, 2 HR, 6 2B, 3B, 19 RBIs, 27R, 11 SBs, 8 multi-hit games, .958 fielding)

Second Team

Madaline Bordas, OF, Wellsboro (.508, .548 obp, 3 HR, 10 2B, 25 RBIs, 27R, hit in 18 of 20 games, season-ending 15-game hitting streak, 10 multi-hit games); Ryan Brouse, OF, Lewisburg (.333, 436 obp, 5 2B, 2 3B, 16 RBIs, 17R, 0 Es); Emma Coolidge, IF, Wellsboro (.510, .579 obp, 5 HR, 3 2B, 18 RBIs, 21R, 8 multi-hit games); Rylee Dyroff, IF, Lewisburg (.397, .488 obp, 2 HR, 8 2B, 19 RBIs, 21R); Casey Fry, IF, Muncy (.442, .532 obp, 2 HR, 2 3B, 2 2B, 26 RBIs); Izzy Gush, IF, Muncy (.478, .543 obp, 8 2B, 4 3B, 21 RBIs); Harley Kunes, OF, Central Mountain (.389, .458 obp, 3 HR, 5 3B, 3 2B, 20 RBIs, 23 R, 8 multi-hit games); Gigi Parlante, C, Neumann (.468, .545 obp, 2 HR, 3 3B, 16 RBIs, 24R, 7 multi-hit games, 9 SB); Emma Pfirman, IF, Jersey Shore (.413, 10 2B, 10 RBIs, 16R); Sara Stroup, IF, Hughesville (.444, .561 obp, .500 with risp, 2 HR, 9 EB hits, 11 RBIs, 18R, 11 SB); BrookeLynn Walters, C, Hughesville (.356, .482 obp, .385 with risp, HR, 14 RBIs, 16R, 11 SB, 1 E allowed just one stolen base last 12 games); Hannah Winter, IF, Loyalsock (.425, .475 obp, HR, 4 2B, 14 RBIs, 16R)

Sun-Gazette Coach of the Year

Second runner-up–Chase Smith, Williamsport and Tom O’Malley, South Williamsport: Smith not only helped Williamsport knock down the Hazleton wall which had blocked it for so long, but also into the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2011. The Millionaires surged at the perfect time, winning seven straight games entering the quarterfinals and hammering eight-time defending champion Hazleton, 8-2 in the District 2-4 Class AAAAAA championship. The Millionaires then routed 2021 state runner-up Haverford (23-2) in the opening round of states, showing off their balance, aggressiveness and depth. O’Malley fielded one of the district’s youngest teams, featuring six freshmen starters, and led it to South’s first district title in eight years. The Mounties made big strides throughout the season, winning 11 of 12 games entering the quarterfinals. Like he did at Loyalsock, O’Malley has put together a lineup which is tough top to bottom and the future looks especially bright. Counting Loyalsock, O’Malley’s teams have won two district titles in his last three years coaching.

First runner-up–Ken Wagner, Lewisburg: Helping author one of the more remarkable turnarounds in recent memory is Wagner who has helped a program only eight years removed from a 57-game losing streak reach the Class AAA state championship. A calming influence and steady hand, Wagner’s confidence never wavered following a 2-0 start and Lewisburg won 19 of its last 21 games, while capturing its first district championship since 1996 and reaching its first state final. The Green Dragons hit another gear in states, smoking three straight opponents by a 33-3 margin and did so with six starters being underclassmen.

And the winner is…Chris Glenn, Montgomery: He has won at every coaching stop and Glenn won really big this season, pushing all the right buttons while guiding Montgomery to its first state championship. Glenn’s team made massive strides throughout the season and closed it on an eight-game winning streak, outscoring opponents, 64-3. Preaching the team concept, Glenn fielded a team as close-knit and unselfish as it was talented and all those qualities shined throughout at the perfect time. A program which had not won a playoff game in six years before Glenn’s arrival in 2018 has gone 75-18 in his four years and enjoyed one of the best runs in Montgomery athletics history.

Honorable Mention: Jason Chapel, North Penn-Liberty; Fred Caldwell, Central Mountain; Craig Weaver Sr., Muncy; Chris Lorson, Jersey Shore; Mike Poorman, Bucktail

Breakthrough Player of the Year

(A player of any grade who made huge strides this season)

Second runner-up–Sage and Abby Lorson, South Williamsport: These freshman cousins provided South a powerful duo and likely will over the next three years, too. Sage settled into the clean-up role, hitting .317 against a demanding schedule, while hitting three home runs, driving in 19 runs and scoring 15 times. Her early home run set the tone in a district semifinal win against Northwest. Abby capped one of the most exciting games this season when she crushed a walk-off grand slam in a 5-1, 10-inning win against Montoursville. Hitting behind Sage, Abby produced a .306 average, slammed three home runs, drove in 17 runs and scored 17 times.

First runner-up–Nicole Belton, Williamsport: Her stats are impressive, but only tell part of Belton’s story. She was good before, but even better this season. The senior second baseman was the glue which held Williamsport together, consistently doing all the right things at the right times. One of the best second basemen around, Belton produced a .961 fielding percentage and served as a second lead-off hitter from the No. 9 spot in the order. Belton hit .364 with a .493 on-base percentage, five doubles, 14 RBIs and 18 runs.

And the winner is…Anna Luxenberger, Loyalsock: This area is loaded with outstanding underclassmen and Luxenberger is another. The sophomore first baseman shined from the clean-up spot and hit .419 with a team-high 26 RBIs. A player who also could take on a larger pitching role next season, Luxenberger built off the promise shown a year ago and compiled a .455 on-base percentage while adding four doubles, 19 runs and eight stolen bases. Loyalsock loses some strong players from this year’s team, but Luxenberger provides a reliable building block moving forward.

Game of the Year

Second runner-up–Loyalsock 6, Montoursville 5: It looked like Montoursville would take out its nemesis in the District 4 Class AAA quarterfinals, building a 5-2 lead after 6 1/2 innings. The 2021 champions, however, would not relinquish the crown without a fight and stormed back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings. There, senior Grace Shaible provided a Hollywood-like ending to her final game at Short Park, driving a walk-off single into right field as Loyalsock moved on to the semifinals with Hannah Winter excelling in the circle in relief.

First runner-up–South Williamsport 3, Muncy 2: Both teams are young and their District 4 Class AA championship showdown could be the first of several playoff encounters the next few seasons. It certainly was a fun one with Muncy fighting off the mat to stagger South, only for the Mounties to deliver the knockout blow in thrilling fashion. Two outs from defeat, Muncy scored two runs in the top of the seventh with freshman Leah Vest coming off the bench to scorch a two-run, two-run triple. Schuler than stranded her with one out to preserve the tie. Claire Alexander delivered her latest clutch hit, ripping a lead-off single, stealing second and going to third on a wild pitch. Aleigha Rieppel then delivered South the championship, hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly.

And the winner is…Montgomery 1, Tri-Valley 0: For a second straight year, it feels like Montgomery and Tri-Valley played the state championship game multiple rounds before the official one was held in State College. Tri-Valley rallied to win last year’s quarterfinal in eight innings and captured the crown, but Montgomery earned its coveted rematch after repeating as district champions and drew Tri-Valley. Playing again at Central Columbia, Persing and Emma Maurer staged a classic pitcher’s duel for eight innings. Persing held a team hitting a collective .474 to just four hits and was backed by superb defense. Maurer struck out 19 but Montgomery started wearing her down and Sloan Wooten belted a lead-off double to open the bottom of the ninth. A batter later, Kaitlyn Raemsch rocketed a walk-off double and Montgomery prevailed. More work was to be done, but Montgomery dominated from there, outscoring its final three state tournament opponents, 27-2, producing 39 hits along the way to making history.

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