For the love of the game: Softball team excels with passion, attention to detail
For most teams, a two-run win over a team that leads its section would be cause for unqualified celebration. Then again, the Lampeter-Strasburg softball team, now 14-0, has few qualities of most teams.
|Jordan Weaver has led the Pioneers from the circle,
overpowering opposing hitters
Having outscored opponents 161-10 on the season, it can be easy -- almost obvious -- to look ahead, but the team is trying to stay focused on the next game, as difficult as that can be.
"We're trying to take it one game at a time and not overlook opponents," explains senior pitcher Jordan Weaver, the staff ace who has accepted a scholarship to pitch at Mount St. Mary's next spring. "We looked past yesterday."
Yesterday, the Pioneers eked out a 6-4 win over the Pequea Valley Braves, far from the comfortable blowouts to which this team has grown accustomed. In some ways, the narrow victory may serve as a wakeup call.
"We have to take care of business," says Robin Feaster, another senior leader. "We do take things for granted sometimes and we shouldn't."
|Some phrases mentioned by coaches in the dugout meeting after yesterday's narrow win over Pequea Valley
Heading back to practice today, the coaches began with a detailed review of the game. No one seemed alarmed, but a sense of purpose existed. Last year, the L-S softball team lost in the second round of the district playoffs, something they would like to avoid doing this year.
|Bri Garber has been a top-of-the-order catalyst for
the Pioneers, not to mention a leader off the field
If any team is poised for a run in the playoffs, it would seem to be this one. Led by a triumvirate of seniors -- Weaver, Feaster, and second baseman Bri Garber, who will head to West Chester next year on an athletic scholarship -- coach Tim Shoff, now in his 16th season as head coach, says this team compares to some of the best teams he has had, including those around 2006-07, which won the District 3 Class AAA championship.
"They're [this year's team] right there with 'em [the teams from 2006-07]," he says. "We're better in a lot of ways, especially athletically."
Shoff credits the players for hard work in the offseason and throughout their developmental careers through the L-S system and long before for helping them get to this point. He also mentions that with leaders like Weaver, Garber, and Feaster, it is hard to go wrong, but that from top to bottom, this team is strong.
|Coach Tim Shoff is impressed with his team's work ethic and
humility, comparing them with some of the best teams he
has coached over his 16-year stint as head coach
"It's a talented team," he says. "It starts in the circle -- Jordan is the key -- but it takes a team, a quality 1-13. They've been receptive to coaching, they've been pretty humble so far, they're doing well."
Even Feaster, whom Weaver describes as rather stoic (in contrast to herself), acknowledges that it is exciting to be in the position where the team is, exceeding even Shoff's high expectations entering the season. Feaster espouses confidence moving forward.
"As long as we hit the ball, we know we'll do well," she says, before quickly adding, "we also need to play defense."
Now would be the time to play peak softball with league games comprising five of the final six on the regular season slate including two big games to close the season against Manheim Central (Friday, May 6 at 7:00 PM at Garrett Park) and Donegal (on the road on Monday, May 9). Presently, the team ranks second out of 33 in the District 3 Power Rankings, trailing Susquehannock by less than two ten thousandths of one point.
At this point, the rankings do not seem to matter as much as the process.
Shoff, who is retiring from teaching middle school language arts at the end of this school year but currently plans to continue coaching, seems enamored with what's happening on the field.
"This team really likes the game."
Schedule for remainder of season
Northern Lebanon (H)
Manheim Central (H)*
*Game is at Garrett Field in Willow Street
--Benjamin Pontz, LSNews.org Editor-In-Chief; Photos by Pontz and Lauren Mast, LSNews.org Director of Sports Photography