Softball: Wildcats eager to compete in district championship
By SHAREIK FLOWERS
MILL HALL- Central Mountain has developed into a powerhouse-softball program in recent seasons. Through dynamic pitching– fused with a consistent offense– the Wildcats have boasted a complete roster and will face DuBois in its third straight district championship appearance on Wednesday.
“They’re excited,” Central Mountain coach Fred Caldwell said of the team’s attitude entering the game.“This is what you work for all year, which is to play in the district championship. This is the first step in the chain of goals that we set for ourselves.”
Central Mountain secured a bid in the title game with an opening-round beat down versus Hollidaysburg last Thursday. The Wildcats tallied 11 unanswered runs en route to an 11-1 five-inning win versus the Golden Tigers. All nine members of the lineup recorded a hit–and the week of practice leading into Wednesday has sparked optimism for a second district crown in the last three seasons.
“The last couple of practices have been very good,” Caldwell said. “The girls have been very upbeat and have worked hard. I think they realize that DuBois will be tougher this time, than when we faced them the first time, and I think they know they got their work cut out for them.”
SIZING UP DuBois
Central Mountain and DuBois split its previous two matchups. The Beavers dropped the Wildcats, 3-2, in last season’s district contest, but the Wildcats responded with a lopsided 14-0 win against DuBois late last month. DuBois won five of its six remaining games to close the season– as Caldwell anticipates an improved Beavers team on Wednesday.
“They were just down and they did not seem to be able to play as well as I think they can,” Caldwell said of the first matchup. “We were fortunate to hit their pitcher well, and early. But I think that they have three different pitchers they’ve used throughout the year, so I have no doubt they’re going to rebound. They’re a good team and I think that there record speaks for themselves.”
DuBois (11-9) rotates between a trio of pitchers in Sage Weibel, Aleigha Geer and Allie Snyder. Weibel has team-high 42 strikeouts this season, but Snyder has managed an impressive 24 strikeouts in just 14 innings.
“They have good pitching and have some girls that hit the ball very well,” Caldwell said. “They’re a disciplined team at the plate and they do a good job of putting the ball in play.”
HEART OF THE ORDER
The top of Central Mountain’s lineup has anchored the team’s offense–and they’ll likely need to produce Wednesday to capture another district crown.
Leadoff hitter Alyssa Fisher is batting .333 and leads the team with five doubles. Next batter up, Caitlyn Watson began the season on the JV roster but was bumped up to varsity after showing promise at the lower level. She’s emerged to tie for a team-high .442 batting average in her freshman season.
Autumn Dershem shares the team-high .442 average with Watson–and Morgan Wetzel is one point off. She’s hitting .441 with a Wildcat-high three home runs.
Collectively, CM is hitting .326 as a team.
“I think the whole lineup has come through at different times, but the top of the lineup has certainly been the strongest,” Caldwell said. “Morgan provides a lot of power, and we’ve been using Autumn Dershem as a designated player, mainly in hitting roles, and she’s been doing fantastic. All the girls are hitting the ball now much better than they were in the first half of the season.”
Central Mountain’s roster is loaded with athletes and coaches who’ve had big-game experience the past few seasons.
The Wildcats boast eight seniors, many of whom have been with the program during this three-year streak in the district title game. And first-year head coach Fred Caldwell arrives from Bellefonte after leading the Raiders to three consecutive district crowns.
“When you start getting into the playoffs, and going to states, experience matters,” Caldwell said. “You don’t want your players to be in shock and awe in the first time they play on a big stage. So we’re very blessed to have eight seniors who have seen this the last couple of years, so I’m sure the seniors will provide the leadership that we need and show us how to win.”
KEYS TO VICTORY
Caldwell’s hoping the team brings its A-game with them and produce the consistent effort they’ve showcased all year.
“We have to do the things that we’ve been doing well all season,” Caldwell said. “If our pitching is on, and our hitting is where it has been, I think we’ll be fine.”
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN WILL WIN IF
“We play our game,” Caldwell said.