One lived up to every expectation and maybe a little more. The other helped turn around a moribund program in just one season.
Turns out the toughest decision of the 2018-2019 scholastic season came at the end.
Who was the The Daily Item Softball Player of the Year?
How about both players? Warrior Run’s Madi Waltman and Line Mountain’s Kya Matter will share the honor this season.
Once again, Waltman was the area’s top workhorse. The 2018 Player of the Year struck out 314 hitters in 173 innings this season, while also leading the Defenders with a .396 batting average, two homers and 25 RBIs.
However, perhaps the most significant aspect of Waltman’s success was her toughness. She helped the Defenders stay in the Heartland Athletic Conference-Division III race, beating Loyalsock in 10 innings, while battling cramps in early May. Then, in the district playoffs, Waltman pitched 20 innings over two days to keep the Defenders in the hunt for a district title, but she ran out of gas in the 10th inning in a loss to Bloomsburg.
“(Pitching) twenty innings in two days isn’t an easy thing to do,” Waltman said. “Having the day of rest (on a Sunday) was nice. It’s everything. I go full-out with everything in my body (on every pitch). I feel it everywhere the next day.”
“Madi’s a trooper, probably the toughest I’ve ever coached,” Warrior Run coach Garth Watson said.
When Bloomsburg touched Waltman for two runs in the sixth inning of the district title game, it snapped her streak of 59 scoreless innings.
For her part, Matter pitched Line Mountain to its first-ever District 4 softball championship along with their first Tri-Valley League playoffs.
As the weather turned warmer in May, Matter reached a different level. She tossed 47 1/3 innings of scoreless softball before Susquenita touched her for an unearned run in the fifth inning.
Included in that run was a performance in the District 4 Class 2A final that won’t soon be forgotten. She tossed a one-hitter with 17 strikeouts against defending district champion Wyalusing. Rams two-hole hitter Laci Norton had struck just two times all season, but she whiffed three times against Matter. Madalyn Valorso had struck out once all year, yet Matter struck her out twice.
The scary part for opposing teams is that both Eagles catcher Aspen Walker and coach Butch Fessler believe Matter’s best is yet to come. Despite her tremendous success, the sophomore was more worried about what wasn’t working in the district championship.
“My rise ball wasn’t working. I was mad,” Matter said.
Both players are poised for success again next season.
Warrior Run is certainly positioned for a run to the state quarterfinals for the third straight season. The Defenders return eight of nine starters next season, graduating just first baseball Amber Pentycofe.
“We just are going to reload and plan on coming right back,” Watson said.
As for the Eagles, who also return eight of nine starters, they will have an outstanding shot at defending their Tri-Valley League title and district championship. Only center fielder Katie Mace graduates.
Coach of the year
Line Mountain hadn’t won much over the years — just one district win this decade.
The Eagles, coming off a 4-13 season, figured to be one of the most improved teams in District 4 this season, but grabbing the school’s first league and district title?
That didn’t come until later in the season.
“I thought we would qualify for districts,” Fessler said. “I can’t say I knew we had a chance at this until the pieces started to come together.”
The Eagles’ success earned Fessler the Coach of the Year nod.
They started the season 4-0, but lost four of their next five games to drop to 5-4. Line Mountain then won 13 games in a row before falling to Tri-Valley League-foe Susquenita in the first round of the state playoffs.