The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

May 15, 2013

Jon Gerardi's column on high school softball: Lourdes no longer a pushover

Red Raiders earn another district berth

Lourdes softball program hasn't exactly been a powerhouse in recent memory.

After all, last year was just the first time the Red Raiders had a winning record in the past 20 years.

So perhaps it comes as a surprise to some that Lourdes is vastly improved. Scott Long, however, knew the potential the team had when he took over as coach three years ago.

You could say a simple switch in his defense helped spark the turnaround, too.

For the first two years of Emily Long's high school career, she was a shortstop and second baseman. And while the Lourdes infield was solid, the outfield caused some problems.

So in Scott Long's second year, coming off a 9-11 season, he told Emily she would be moving to the outfield, and that's where she's been ever since.

The result?

A solid outfield anchored by the speedy Long and an overall talented team that has the Red Raiders sitting at 14-6, a two-win improvement from last year.

"Before (her junior year), she didn't play the outfield at all, so it was a new move for her. Generally in the lower levels, the outfield isn't as important, but higher levels, the outfield becomes very important," Coach Long said. "She plays very well and she takes a lot of base hits away because of her speed."

Long also has been solid for the Red Raiders offensively, leading the team with 34 runs scored, three home runs, a second-best 27 hits and a team-leading .443 batting average.

That team-high average is an improvement as well for Long, who was hitting below .300 her first two seasons.

"She put a lot of time in. She hits all year round and I think that was the difference," Coach Long said. "Her attitude is exceptional when it comes to playing softball. She's ready to play anytime, anywhere and she just puts the time (in)."

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