Tightening the Wheels
The Abington Heights junior high softball team entered the season with high hopes of claiming its fourth straight division championship.
A misstep early in the season invigorated the Lady Comets, who ended the season with a long winning streak and that precious division crown.
“Our loss to West Scranton in our second game of the year propelled us to our 10-game winning streak,” junior high head coach Cleve Elmy said. “That loss was all the motivation we needed because we had to win every game and we really buckled down and became focused.”
Any thoughts of being able to coast through the season were dashed and a reassuring talk got the ship headed in the right direction.
“I believe that we lost to West Scranton Intermediate in our second game of the year because we were really trying too hard and we were not patient when hitting,” Elmy said. “We lost focus and the wheels came off in that game. After that loss, my assistant coach Allyson Bray and I sat them down and told them to just go out there and play with confidence, relax and, most of all, have fun playing with their teammates.”
Elmy already knew he had a talented group of players.
“After the team was selected, we met to discuss each player’s team and individual goals. Their number one team goal was to win the Division II championship for the fourth year in a row,” Elmy said. “The girls were pretty confident that they could accomplish this goal because many of them made a large contribution to our team winning the championship last season. We were confident that we were going to be in the running again for the division championship. We knew that West, Valley View and Dunmore were going to challenge us this year.”
East Scranton and South Scranton rounded out the division and, with hard-nosed competition expected from the rest of the league, Elmy established high expectations for them to chase.
His strategy worked.
“I believe that the team exceeded my expectations because all 19 girls worked very hard in our off-season program,” Elmy said. “They really improved their strength and conditioning as indicated by the nine home runs, 10 triples and 16 doubles we hit this year.”
It wasn’t all about offense. The Lady Comets had outstanding pitching.
“Naudia Solan had a great year on the mound for us replacing Kaylee DeMatteo,” Elmy said. “She finished the season with an 11-1 record after pitching very little last year as a seventh-grader. She was lights out in our game against Valley View as she tossed a four-hitter, struck out seven and did not walk a batter. Also, Naudia led our team in hitting with a .658 batting average [17-for-38] with two home runs, four doubles and one triple.”
Her batterymate was no slouch for the Lady Comets.
“Ashlynn Fitzgerald [was a] leader on the field and played solid on defense as our catcher,” Elmy said. “She batted .372 with one home run, two triples and seven doubles.”
There were many others who played key roles in the title run.
“Anna Van Wert [was an] excellent leadoff hitter with a .542 batting average and played a strong defense in left field,” Elmy said. “Cassidy Bartkowski [was an] excellent shortstop with a powerful, accurate arm. [She was] fast and quick on the base paths and batted .342 with two home runs and a triple.”
“Maddie Brown [was a] hard working first baseman,” he continued. “She batted .465 with one home run, two triples, and one double. Nina Kozar [was the] best power hitter in the league. She batted .523 with two home runs, four triples, and eight doubles. Hannah White [was a] steady player who batted .360 and handled the hot corner at third base. Sam Petty was a consistent player on defense with a strong arm. She batted .313.”
Elmy believes a fifth consecutive title is a very realistic goal for the team.
“We have a good group of seventh-graders, who are really developing into good players,” he said.
If the program continues to sustain itself like it has the previous three title defenses, a fifth crown is achievable for the Lady Comets.