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Bellwood-Antis softball team experiences year of progress

For most teams, finishing 10 games under .500 would be viewed as a disappointment, but the 5-15 final record of the 2006 Bellwood-Antis softball team was in no way indicative of the progress the program made throughout the season.
The Lady Blue Devils, who had picked up only a handful of victories over the past five years, were competitive in many of their games, and with five starting freshmen and only two departing seniors, there is no reason to believe the progress will not continue into 2007.
“The biggest step this season was getting the confidence we need,” Bellwood-Antis Manager Alex Sitman said. “Five wins has allowed us to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the girls are already enthusiastic about next year.”
Second baseman Christine Pfahler and left fielder Dani Riley will be the only players not returning to next year’s team.
“Christine was a very good leader on the team, and Dani was one of our most improved players,” Sitman said. “They worked hard for three years to get to this position, and we’re going to miss them, but fortunately unlike years in the past, we have younger girls ready to step in and start to learn the positions.”
Pfahler and Riley both played key roles in an 8-7 victory over Glendale and a 5-3 triumph over West Branch. Riley hit a walk-off two-run single with two outs and two strikes on her to down Glendale, and Pfahler had three RBI to go with a double in the win over West Branch.
Tamara Askey proved herself to be a clutch hitter as well with a triple against Bishop Guilfoyle to score the go-ahead run in a 4-3 victory on the road. Askey also collected the team’s only homerun in a tournament at Southern Huntingdon.
Freshman Emily Derr was on the mound for all of Bellwood-Antis’ five victories and showed flashes of solid hitting in the batter’s box.
Derr battled control and stamina problems early in the year, but seemed to be on the verge on conquering those issues as the season finished up.
Tory Baldauf led the team in batting average and defensive putouts while batting second and playing shortstop for most of the season. In two games against West Branch, Baldauf was an amazing 6 for 7 at the plate for an average of .857.
Perhaps the team’s hottest hitter in the stretch run, Leah Snyder patrolled right field for most of the season and made a game-saving catch in Bellwood-Antis’ season ending 7-5 victory at Williamsburg.
The Lady Blue Devils’ major downfall came during one-inning letdowns. More than 10 innings featured the opposition scoring five or more runs that often put close games out of hand.
“What I’m looking for next year is to get the girls to that point where they don’t give up that one big inning,” Sitman said. “We want to be able to compete with the Tyrone, Claysburg and Southern Huntingdon, because those teams put a good lick on us, but we need to get to the point where we can walk on the field and compete with them.”
With star fielders Baldauf and center fielder Pam Weyant, along with a lineup with another year of experience, there is no reason to expect anything but improvement from the Lady Blue Devils next year.
“We’re starting to close the gap,” Sitman said. “We ended the season strong real good positive note, and that’s going to carry over to next year.”