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WVHS Softball: Lady Rams Hope to Contend for Title

Wyalusing Valley softball fans have every reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season.

After all, the Lady Rams have seven returning starters back from a 2010 campaign that saw them finish with a 16-5 record and a District Four, Class AA semifinal appearance.

Of the seven returners, senior pitcher Brianna Jennings made the Class AA All-State honorable mention list as well as being a first-team All-Northern Tier League East selection.

Catcher Gabby Edsell was also an All-NTL East first-teamer. Bobbi Jo Loyack, Laci Holdren and Lauren Chadwick were second-team All-NTL East selections.

Plus, Kate Pratt, who tormented Wyalusing batters and pitchers for the past four years, has taken her talents from Troy to Mansfield University, opening the door for the rest of the league to have a shot at an NTL crown.

But Lady Ram head coach John Loomis is more concerned about another 2010 graduate.

He knows he can't replace Erica Crawford, who was a second-team All-State first baseman and first team All-NTL East selection.

Not only must Loomis find a replacement for Crawford's bat, which drove in 33 runs, but he understands that "the best defensive first baseman I've ever seen" will be impossible to replace in the field.

With Jennings's obvious pitching talents—she has already signed to pitch at the University of Delaware—Loomis is confident she can "dominate" the NTL's batters.

Jennings had a minuscule 0.786 E.R.A. last year, while fanning 206 batters in 143 innings of work.

She's also no slouch at the plate where she batted .408 and drove in 15 RBIs.

What he doesn't know is whether he can put a defense behind her to prevent unearned runs that can be fatal in a low-scoring sport.

Sophomore Arielle Kneller will start the season at first base. A tall lefthander, Kneller has the physical tools to do the job defensively. While she didn't hit for average as a catcher/right fielder last season, she did come up with some clutch hits, including eight RBIs.

With Edsell, a senior, Wyalusing is in good shape defensively behind the plate. She also drove in 15 runs, tying Jennings for second on the team last season.

Entering the season, Loomis has Holdren, a junior, at shortstop and Loyack, a senior, at second base.

Holdren proved to be a versatile defensive player last year, moving where she was needed.

Loyack made her mark with the bat, hitting .315 with 10 RBIs.

Junior Cathryn Pugh and sophomore Mackenzie Martin are competing to replace Erin Goodwin at third base. Whichever one wins that job, the other will likely head to the outfield.

Pugh drove in nine runs and belted a pair of home runs last year.

In the outfield, Chadwick, a junior, will provide strong defense in center field. She also proved to be a threat at the plate, hitting .372, and on the basepaths where she scored 22 runs.

With Kneller moving in from right field, three girls have been trying to win a starting berth—seniors Caitlyn Doerner and Chelsea Epler and sophomore Cassie Nedley. Doerner is new to the squad and Epler and Nedley didn't see much action other than pinch hitting and running last season.

Ciera Holland, a freshman, will be a utility player, who could see action in the infield, outfield or as a catcher.

"The girls are really going to have to work hard if we are going to compete in the league," Loomis said.

The NTL East is always competitive and even if Troy comes back to the field after a long period of dominance, there will be potential stumbling blocks for Wyalusing's title hopes.

Northeast Bradford returns a veteran squad with two very good pitchers. Towanda, with Alison Wickwire in the pitching circle, is also capable of beating anyone on a given day.

This season, if Wyalusing qualifies for the District Four playoffs, it will compete as a Class A team.

One rule change will be noticeable to fans. The pitching rubber has been moved back three feet this year.

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