Wyalusing softball repeats as Class AA champs.

By: Chris Manning | Towanda Daily Review | May 31, 2018 | Photo courtesy Chris Manning

Wyalusing softball repeats as Class AA champs.

TURBOTVILLE – Last year Wyalusing squeaked by South Williamsport to win the District IV, Class AA softball title.

On Wednesday they left no doubt who the better team was.

The Rams pounded out 12 hits as they beat the Mountaineers 11-1 in six innings to repeat as district champions. This is the first time since 2005 that Wyalusing has both won a district title and an NTL title in the same season.

“Awesome,” is how Wyalusing coach John Loomis described the win. “It was a total team effort.”

On the mound freshman Hailey Jayne bent but didn’t break, allowing just one run and stranding six South batters.

“I do better under pressure,” Jayne said. “It makes me throw better and just having good defense is really good.”

Nobody has been more impressed by Jayne this season than her coach.

“Hailey Jayne pitched out standing,”’ Loomis said. “She’s a competitor and she’s focused.”

She threw 101 pitches, striking out seven while allowing five hits, three walks and one earned run to get the win.

At the plate it’s tough to find a standout because so many girls had big days.

Melody Keller and Madalyn Valoroso both went 3-for-3 while Kristie Epler was 2-for-4. Valoroso finished with four RBI while Epler knocked in three runs. Callie Bennett, Hailey Jayne, Autumn Dietz and Catherine Brown also had hits while Emily Champluvier walked three times. Bennett, Sarah Bird and Dietz each had an RBI as well.

“We’ve been in a slump,” said Jayne. “We hit good at the beginning of the season then we were down and now were back up again.”

It was evident they had put that slump behind them once the game started.

“The kids were ready,” Loomis said about his team’s performance at the plate. “They put a lot of time in, my assistant coach Brett Jayne put a lot of time in hitting with them. They’ve worked really, really hard putting time in but a total team effort. They all really played well.”

In the field, though, it was the Kristie Epler show. The centerfielder had two home run saving catches where she ran into the fence, the first of which nearly knocked her out of the game.

“I just knew I had to get those catches because if I didn’t it would set them in their momentum that they needed,” described Epler.

Her coach and pitcher were impressed with her grit.

“Time and time again Kristie Epler has been outstanding in championship games,” remarked Loomis. “I thought her making the first big catch took the life out of South a little bit. Then she made another one and the kid is just remarkable in championship games; she showed a lot of poise.”

“It was such a big moment,” added Jayne.

In spite of the final score it was South starting off hot as Ashley Gardner hit Jayne’s first offering to home to the fence for a double.

Then with two outs Hailey Holtzapple brought her in with a single to give the Mounties a 1-0 lead. They would take that lead into the bottom of the second when the Ram bats got started.

Jayne led things off with a come backer off the pitcher for an infield single. Kneller followed that with hit to put runners on first and second. After an out Champluvier walked to load the bases for Valoroso, who drove in two runs with a single. Two batters later Valoroso was driven in by an Epler single to put Wyalusing up 3-1.

In the top of the third Sydney Bachman led off for South and hit Jayne’s first pitch to deep center field. The Mountaineer fans watching from beyond the outfield fence erupted at what they thought was a home run but Epler reached over the fence, caught the ball and pulled it back while hitting the metal barrier at full speed. She held on to the ball and, after a few minutes, caught her breath and stayed in the game.

“I didn’t know the fence was right there,” admitted Epler. “When I hit it it kind of scared me so it kind of took the wind out of me.”

She wasn’t the only who had the wind knocked out of her as the catch took whatever momentum South had and killed it. They went down in order to finish out the at bat.

The Rams threatened in the bottom half of the inning while South got a runner in scoring position in the top half of the fourth but neither team scored to keep it 3-1. In the bottom of the fourth Wyalusing got going again as Champluvier led off with a walk followed by back to back errors loading the bases for Epler with no outs. She came through with a double to score Champluvier and Valoroso. The Rams then went small ball as Bennett and Bird had back to back bunts to bring in Brown and Epler, extending the lead to 7-1.

Wyausing went right back at it in the bottom of the fifth as Kneller led off with a single. Three batters later Valoroso hit her in with a single to make it 8-1. Then in the top half of the sixth it was Mookie Sauers’ turn to get a home run taken away from her as he rocket was caught by Epler as she backed into the fence, robbing another South batter of a home run.

In the bottom half of the sixth Wyalusing finished South off. Bennett led off with a double followed by Bird and Jayne reaching on errors. Bennett scored on the error off the bat of Bird. After a Kneller sacrifice fly moved Bird and Jayne up Dietz’s infield hit scored Bird, making it 10-1. Champluvier walked followed by Valoroso hitting a ball to the fence to score Jayne and invoke the mercy rule, a rarity for a district final.

“I just love having that title underneath us for two years in a row,” Epler said.

“I’m so proud of my team,” Jayne added.

Garnder was 2-for-3 to lead South while Sydney Bachman, Holtzapple and Sauers had hits.

Emily Hennigan scored the loss, going 4 2/3-innings to allow eight hits, two walks and eight runs, six of them earned, while striking out three.

Sauers finished out the final two-thirds, allowing four hits and three runs, only one of which was earned.

“I give South credit, I thought their program has a lot of class,” Loomis complimented.

Wyalusing will now face the District II champion on Monday.

“We’re just going to continue what we’re doing,” Loomis said. “We’re going to continue to work hard on defense.”

However, he was still excited about what they had accomplished so far.

“It’s a great season for us to win the league and a district championship,” Loomis remarked. “It’s a great program, the kids all get a long and it’s been a lot of fun.”

His players, though, are ready for whatever challenge is coming next.

“I feel like we were too nervous last year,” said Epler. “Since we have that one under our belt and since we’re a better team this year we’ll be a lot better there.”