The End Zone Seat: It Was a Great Ride
I’m on the edge of glory
And I’m hanging on a moment of truth
Out on the edge of glory
And I’m hanging on a moment with you.
For 18 days in late May and early June, 12 young women wearing Green and Gold took all of us on a wondrous ride—a journey that ended just nine outs away from a trip to the PIAA Class A softball championship game.
It was easy for the girls and their faithful fans to be disappointed after Monday’s 3-2 loss to Minersville in the state semifinal, a game that saw the Lady Rams leading 2-0 through the middle of the fifth inning.
But that would be a mistake.
Because more often than not, life’s greatest rewards come not from reaching the destination, but from the journey.
And what a journey it was.
Brianna Jennings and a vastly improved defense behind her won five straight shutout games en route to the District Four title and two more victories in the PIAA tournament.
Dating back to the final regular season game with Loyalsock, Jennings threw 37 scoreless innings before Minersville ended the streak with two runs in the fifth inning Monday.
During the post-season, the senior hurler allowed just 21 hits over 37 innings with 51 strikeouts and only 10 walks.
Entering the season, Bri, who will take her strong right arm to the University of Delaware in the fall, was a given.
The defense was a concern from the very start of the season.
In the season opener at Maine-Endwell, a 5-3 win, Wyalusing committed six errors.
Fielding miscues continued to plague the team during the early portion of the season as it dropped two games in the Northern Tier League East.
But the coaching staff never gave up its efforts to get the right girl into her best defensive position.
“We moved the kids around and moved them around and moved them around,” Lady Ram head coach John Loomis said.
“We concentrated on getting them where they should be no matter how many games it took.”
The team that took the field Monday against Minersville was much improved over the outfit that opened the year.
According to Loomis, settling on Bobbi Jo Loyack at third base was a key move.
The rest of the infield stepped up.
Laci Holdren, as expected, continued to improve at shortstop.
Second baseman Cathryn Pugh was “nothing short of sensational” at times.
Arielle Kneller, filling the huge shoes left by Erica Crawford at first base, was solid.
Gabby Edsell was a rock behind the plate, whether it was catching Jennings’s explosive fastball, throwing out runners on the basepaths, tracking down foul balls or tagging out runners at the plate.
Throughout the playoffs, the outfield came up with big plays. Chelsea Epler in left, Lauren Chadwick and Mackenzie Martin platooning in center, and Caitlyn Doerner in right all made plays that kept Wyalusing’s season going.
Epler made a run-saving play in the 2-0 win over Northeast Bradford in the district title game.
Doerner’s play that saved a run in a 1-0 win over West Branch in the PIAA opener will forever be known as “The Catch.”
They needed all that pitching and defense, because the offense wasn’t particularly explosive most of the year.
But in the playoffs, heroines emerged.
Freshman Ciera Holland, the designated player, seemingly with ice water in her veins, came up with clutch hit after clutch hit in the playoffs.
Holland had six hits and drove in seven runs during the six-game post-season.
Edsell consistently found herself on base and scoring runs.
Jennings, who was pitched around a great deal of the season, ended her high school career with a towering 210-foot opposite field home run against Minersville for an early 1-0 lead.
Don’t forget the bench of Cassie Nedley and Emily Faulkner, who didn’t expect to see much or any playing time in the playoffs, but stuck around, supporting their teammates and doing their share in practices. In their way, they contributed as much to this year’s success as the starters.
Credit also has to go to the coaches—Loomis and his assistants Bob Dibble and Brian Jennings.
Loomis recognized that.
“We put a lot of time in,” he said. “I think we’ve given them one night off (despite all the rain this spring).
“Give credit to Bobby and Brian. Those guys want to be there. The girls want to be there.”
When it appeared there wasn’t much left to play for after losing for the second time to Northeast Bradford in the regular season, they kept working the team, seeking improvement.
With the defense coming around, but the offense still sputtering, they spent extra time in the batting cage that paid off.
Even Holland, who has the potential to be a star of the future, agreed the work paid off.
“We’ve been working on hitting a lot lately,” she said after her three-hit, four-RBI day against Old Forge in the state quarterfinals.
It’s true, the Green and Gold Nation won’t be filling the stadium at Penn State this Friday for the title game.
But what the team learned on this marvelous journey that entertained all of us may be worth more than any PIAA medal.
Perhaps the most important lesson is hard work and dedication is still the surest path to success.
Thank you, girls.