Times Leader Softball All-Star Team

Jess Higgins - Senior, pitcher
Higgins was the top pitcher for the Trojans, who claimed the District 2 Class 2A title and advanced to the PIAA Championships, where they fell to eventual state champion Loyalsock in the second round. Higgins posted an 11-4 record in the regular season with a 1.56 ERA, notching 102 strikeouts and walking just 16 in 103 innings.

Jen Harnischfeger - Sophomore, infielder
The sparkplug, leadoff hitter for the Trojans was a nightmare on the basepaths for opponents. She always seemed to be on base and get things started for Nanticoke. Harnischfeger hit .533 in the regular season for the Trojans, while posting a .632 on base percentage

Trojans fail to get past Loyalsock

If Nanticoke Area has a dejavu experience next season, it would ease the pain of Friday’s 8-3 loss to Loyalsock in the PIAA Class 2A softball quarterfinals.
The Trojans got a gutsy performance from standout pitcher Jess Higgins after she was hit in the shin with a line drive in the first inning. She stayed in and pitched the rest of the game with a noticeable limp.
In 2002, Nanticoke was in a similar situation when star pitcher Jess Brenner got injured in the quarterfinals of the state tournament and wound up losing the game to eventual state champion Kutztown. The next year, Nanticoke earned the gold medal at states.
Loyalsock, which ran its unbeaten record to 26-0 and has a good shot of claiming a state gold, will face Brandywine Heights in Monday’s semifinals. Brandywine beat St. Pius 6-0 on Thursday. Nanticoke, which ended its season at 16-5, only graduated two seniors Friday night with Higgins and Shannon Kowalski.
“I think this group is special and the kids coming up are going to help next year too,” Trojans Coach Gary Williams said. “But anything can happen.”
The Lancers got off to a quick start scoring three times in the bottom of the first inning all after Higgins was hurt due to a blast off the bat of power-hitting pitcher Porshia Wilson.
Higgins immediately dropped to the ground and was looked at but stayed in the game. Wilson was thrown out at first by Nanticoke third baseman Alicia Luczak, but the next three Loyalsock hitters got hits. The big hit was a two-run double by second baseman Kim Donovan.
“I couldn’t believe she even got up after that,” Loyalsock coach Scott Smith said. “That was a shot and I’ll tell you what, that pitcher was just unbelievable. To come up after a shot like that. You really have to give it up to that girl for going out there because that really was impressive.”
The Trojans got a run back in the top of the fifth as Jen Harnischfeger hit a run-scoring single.
But the Lancers answered back scoring four more in the bottom of the frame on four RBI singles weakly hit to left field. Three of the four were hit consecutively as Loyalsock opened a 7-1 lead.
“Nanticoke is a good team and we knew they had good hitting coming into this game,” Smith added. “We wanted to get up on them early and got three early runs right off the bat, but they kept battling back. Three runs isn’t enough against a good team. You need to keep trying to get more because a good team is going to keep battling back.”
Nanticoke cut the lead to 7-3, scoring two times on four hits in the sixth, as Amanda Cardone doubled in Kowalski and Katie Brown singled in Cardone.
Entering the game, Nanticoke’s main concern was Wilson, a 6-foot-3 hard-throwing right-hander.
Even though she gave up just two hits before the sixth, the hitters did a good job of making contact as they only struck out five times.
“I was proud of our kids,” Williams said. “We put the ball in play and didn’t strike out much. That’s what we wanted to do, but sometimes game plans don’t always work. But I’m proud of them, they never quit.”
Cardone was Nanticoke’s top hitter going 2-for-3 with a run and RBI.
Wilson, Donovan, Kerri Datres and Alexa Maddy had two hits apiece for the Lancers.

PIAA Class 2A Quarterfinals
Nanticoke 000 012 0 — 3
Loyalsock 300 041 x — 8

WP – Porshia Wilson, 7IP, 6H, 3R, 2ER, 1BB, 5K; LP – Jess Higgins, 6IP, 11H, 8R, 8ER, 1BB, 1K; 2B— NAN, Amanda Cardone; LOY, Kim Donovan. 3B— LOY, Raychelle Kuhns. Top hitters – NAN, Cardone 2-3; Jen Harnischfeger, Shannon Kowalski, Katie Brown, Alicia Luczak all had singles. LOY, Kerri Datres 2-3, Porshia Wilson 2-3, Alexa Maddy 2-3, Kim Donovan 2-3.

WVC coaches select all-stars
The Times Leader Staff - Edited by GNA Webdesign

The Wyoming Valley Conference softball coaches recently selected their all-stars for the 2008 season.
Earning the Most Valuable Player award were Dallas’ Aly Evans (Division I West), Northwest’s Michelle Cragle (Division II) and the Nanticoke tandem of Jess Higgins and Jen Harnischfeger, who were selected co-MVP in Division I East.
In addition to Higgins, a pitcher and Harnischfeger, a shortstop, those selected to the Division I East squad were: catchers, Amanda Cardone, Nanticoke
Honorable mentions: Sarah Bertoni and Shannon Kowalski

Trojans march on

By Kaylee Ziolkowski - Citizens' Voice

Nanticoke Area catcher Amanda Cardone and Pen Argyl’s Anne Knorr wait for the call from the home plate umpire during their game in the first round of the PIAA Class AA softball championships

During the regular season, Nanticoke Area’s position players didn’t get the recognition they deserve as most of the spotlight fell on the senior pitcher, Jess Higgins.

But in team’s first state tournament game against Pen Argyl, all eyes were on first-year catcher, Amanda Cardone.
Cardone, who made the transition from shortstop to fill the catcher’s slot this year, connected for a bases loaded double in the bottom of the fifth to lift Nanticoke Area to a 3-0 win over the Green Knights in the first round of the PIAA Class AA Championships.
“As soon as I stepped up to the plate I knew I was going to hit it,” Cardone said. “It was right over the plate and a little high and I pulled it.”
Morgan Thomas lead off the inning with a single to right field and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Sara Bertoni then reached base on a walk and Higgins followed with a single up the middle, but the runner was held at third. Shannon Kowalski followed with a hard one-hopper to second base and Thomas was forced out at home. Cardone then stepped in with two outs and launched a 0-1 change-up over the head of the left fielder to score Bertoni, Higgins and Kowalski.
Cardone assisted by Thomas, also showcased a defensive stronghold, highlighted by a play-at-the-plate in the top of the second inning. With runners on first and second, Pen Argyl leadoff hitter, Sam Young lined a ball up the middle. Thomas threw a one-hopper from deep center, Cardone blocked the plate and applied the tag to Pen Argyl’s Anne Knorr.
“That play was really a big momentum swinger for us,” Cardone said. “I think if we missed that then we would have gotten down on ourselves and it would have made the fight much harder.”
Higgins tossed another gem with seven strikeouts and scattering four hits. She also helped her own cause at the plate going 2-for-3.
“Higgins is turning into a really tough pitcher,” Nanticoke Area head coach Gary Williams said. “We wanted to keep the ball on the outside part of the plate so they couldn’t pull anything and she did a great job.”
Eight out of nine Trojans reached base safely in the contest and threatened runs almost every inning. They stranded seven runners in the game, five of which were in scoring position.
On the other hand, the Green Knights failed to capitalize on runners in scoring position, stranding eight runners in the game. Their biggest threat came in the top of the sixth when two Nanticoke Area errors and another base-hit from Knorr loaded the bases for Pen Argyl. But Higgins kept her composure and ended the inning with a strikeout.
“We’re going to make mistakes because I don’t think a perfect game is our style,” Williams said. “But fighting through those mistakes is a mark of a good team. Confidence will have to be key for these girls.”
The Trojans will now face undefeated District 4 champion Loyalsock, a 2-1 winner over Pequea Valley, on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.

NANTICOKE AREA — 000 030 X — 3
PEN ARGYL — 000 000 0 — 0
WP: Jess Higgins 7IP 4H 0R 0ER 1BB 7SO
LP: Deliala Schriner 6IP 7H 3R 3ER 3BB 4SO
2B: Cardone

Confident GNA prevails
Cardone stars with defense, 3-run hit

It always seems to happen in baseball or softball that a player makes a big defensive play then gets a big hit.
Someone must have told Nanticoke Area catcher Amanda Cardone that’s how things are supposed to work out.
The junior made a key tag on a runner at the plate in the second inning, then accounted for all of her team’s runs by smacking a three-run double in the fifth, as Nanticoke defeated Pen Argyl 3-0 on Monday at Wilkes University’s Ralston Complex in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A tournament.
The Trojans (16-4) advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals against Loyalsock at a place and time to be announced. The undefeated Lancers (25-0) defeated Pequea Valley 2-1 on Monday to advance.
“I just think we can make it all the way,” Cardone said. “We’re confident and all you need is confidence.”
Said Nanticoke Coach Gary Williams on his catcher’s bold statement: “That’s great. I want her to feel that way. They are down to the last eight teams in the state and I think believing you can win it all is as important as your skills.”
Cardone is allowed to talk the talk because she walked the walk on Monday.
With no score in the top of the second inning and the Green Knights (18-7) threatening with runners on first and second and two outs, Sam Young banged a base hit to center field. Anne Knorr was waved around and the throw from Trojans center fielder Morgan Thomas was on the right side of the plate.
But Cardone fielded the throw, reached around and tagged Knorr in time for the out to keep the Knights off the board.
“I just saw her coming and was like, ‘OK, I gotta get this out or I’m gonna get punched in the face or something,’ ” Cardone said. “So I just got it and tried my best and guarded the plate.
“If they would have got that, we probably would have got a little down on ourselves, but I knew we would have picked ourselves up.”
Three innings later, this time with Nanticoke threatening with two outs and the bases loaded, it was Cardone who picked up the team by producing at the plate.
After hitting the ball hard off Pen Argyl pitcher Deleila Schriner two times before but just getting a single, she got a pitch to her liking over the outside part of the plate and pulled it to left field over the fielder’s head to score all three runners.
“As soon as I got up there, I knew I was going to hit ‘em in,” she said. “I’m confident, definitely. I knew she was slow and where she was pitching, so I knew where it was going to go. I just had to hit it.”
While Cardone was the biggest star of the game for the Trojans, she wasn’t the only one.
Jess Higgins threw another solid game from the circle, fanning seven and allowing just four hits and a walk.
The Trojans scouted Pen Argyl and wanted to keep their pitches away from the hitters. Higgins hit the outside part of the plate perfectly and gave up only four singles, three by Knorr, the designated player.
“Jess is a great pitcher. She pitched one of the best games I caught for her all year,” Cardone added. “She pitched very hard, very accurate. She threw like she wanted it.”
The only other time Pen Argyl put pressure on the Trojans was in the top of the sixth as a pair of Nanticoke errors and a single by Knorr loaded the bases. But Higgins fanned pinch-hitter Jaclyn Parsons to end the inning.
It was the second time in two games that the defense almost cost the Trojans a lead, but Williams knows that’s not such a bad thing.
“What I told them is that we made a few mistakes offensively and defensively, but they are starting to show the marks of a good team that can fight through their mistakes,” he said. “That’s the mark of a good team I guess to fight through those mistakes.”

PIAA Class 2A First Round
Pen Argyl 000 000 0 — 0
Nanticoke 000 030 x — 3

WP – Jess Higgins, 7IP, 4H, 0R, 0ER, 1B, 7K; LP – Deleila Schriner, 6IP, 8H, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 4K; 2B— NAN, Amanda Cardone. Top hitters – PA, Anne Knorr 3-3. NAN, Jess Higgins 2-3; Amanda Cardone 2-3, 3RBI; Jen Harnischfeger, Katie Brown, Clarissa Tarnowski, Morgan Thomas hit each.

Kaylee Ziolkowski

What: Class AA first round
Who: Nanticoke Area (15-4) vs. Penn Argyl (18-6)
When: 5 tonight, Monday, June 2, 2008
Where: Wilkes’ Ralston Complex
At stake: Winner advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals to play Loyalsock/Pequea Valley winner

Scouting Nanticoke Area: The Trojans will rely on the leadership of senior hurler, Jess Higgins. She’s 12-4 with 111 strikeouts and 19 walks in 110 innings. This is Higgins’ first appearance in a state playoffs, but during her last two outings, she held a strong command of location and only surrendered one run per game.
Leadoff hitter, sophomore shortstop Jen Harnischfeger is arguably the strongest bat in the line-up. She’s batting over .500 and is followed by freshman second baseman Sara Bertoni, who delivered a crushing blow to Carbondale in the District 2 title game. Higgins (.375) follows in the three-spot followed by power hitters Shannon Kowalski and Amanda Cardone (.346).
Nanticoke Area head coach, Gary Williams enjoyed three strong seasons (2002-2004) in the state playoffs winning Class AA state gold in 2003.
Scouting Penn Argyl: State playoffs are new territory for Penn Argyl coach Bill Schankel and his squad. The young team knocked off Northwestern Lehigh in the District 11 final.
The Green Knights’ biggest threat is leadoff hitter and third baseman Sam Young. She had three hits in the district final and is batting .370 with three home runs. First baseman Jess Simpson poses a power threat with seven doubles and three home runs.
Freshman pitcher Deleila Schriner is 10-2 with a 2.30 ERA. She pitched a three-hit shutout in the district final.

Higgins pitches Trojans to title - Congratulations!!!

Nanticoke Area senior hurler Jess Higgins has been chasing a district title ever since her freshman year. She watched as so many opportunities slipped through her fingers during her career, but with a little help from freshman teammate Sara Bertoni, Nanticoke Area finally reigned supreme in District 2.
Higgins threw a complete game three-hitter with nine strikeouts to lead the Trojans to a 2-1 win over Carbondale to win the District 2 Class AA championship Wednesday at Mid Valley High School.
“I tried to keep a clear mind and focus on every pitch to every batter,” Higgins said. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world to finally win. But we’re definitely not done until we bring it all home.”
Early on it seemed that the Trojans were in for a tough game as Carbondale pitcher, Makenzie Lynn, rang up nine of the first 15 batters with a seemingly unbeatable riser.
“I knew it was going to be a pitcher’s duel,” Nanticoke Area head coach Gary Williams said. “In the beginning we couldn’t lay off the rise she was throwing. It was breaking at just the right time.”
But fortunately for the Trojans, Lynn lost some control of her power pitch toward the end of the fourth inning and was forced to bring it into the strike zone. Alicia Luczak immediately jumped on the first pitch in the top of the fifth and connected for Nanticoke’s first hit of the game. Luczak then gave way to pinch runner Megan McHugh, who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Morgan Thomas. After a quick pop-out to the shortstop, Bertoni stepped to the plate and launched a 2-2 pitch into center field to easily score McHugh from second.
“I definitely feel a lot of pressure being a freshman and batting in the second spot,” Bertoni said. “I was just going to the plate to make contact and when I saw the ball in the air my heart stopped.”
The Trojans tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Shannon Kowalski led off the inning with a triple and eventually scored on a sacrifice-fly from Amanda Cardone.
The Chargers, however, refused to go down without a fight as Katie and Makenzie Lynn registered back-to-back singles to score Samantha Jordan, who reached on an error. Higgins was able to fight her way threw several sticky situations as the Chargers stranded six runners throughout the game, four of which were in scoring position.
“Our team has a tendency to lose confidence in themselves at times,” Williams said. “Jess Higgins did a great job of bearing down and coming up with big outs from the mound and we played solid from there.”
Nanticoke Area will now face the winner of District 11 tournament Monday at a site and time to be determined.

Nanticoke reaches Class AAA final
By Kaylee Ziolkowski - CV

For most high school pitchers, taking the mound for a District 2 semifinal game is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not to mention nerve wracking. But for Nanticoke Area hurler, Jess Higgins, it’s just another day at the office.
Higgins tossed a complete game four-hitter to help lead the Trojans to a 3-1 win over top seeded Northwest Area on Friday. With the win, Nanticoke Area advances to the Class AA District 2 championship game against the winner of Carbondale/Hanover Area and Elk Lake on Wednesday at a site to be determined.
“Northwest is an excellent hitting team so I threw a lot more location pitches during warm ups,” said Higgins, who has taken the mound for the Trojans in every game this season. “Then I just took it one pitch at a time and one batter at a time.”
The Trojans struck early, with Jen Harnischfeger leading the game with a single. She stole second, reached third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a Higgins grounder to the right side.
“The team really came through as a whole today,” Nanticoke Area coach Gary Williams said. “Everyone did what they were supposed to and good things happened.”
The Trojans tacked on two more runs in the seventh, hightlighted by a double from Morgan Thomas and another single from Harnischfeger.
The Rangers, who stranded four runners throughout the game, were able to scratch out a run in the bottom of the seventh inning when Mandi Black led off the inning with a double and scored on a single from Leah Subsak. But Higgins was too much for the Rangers to handle as she forced the last batter to hit a slow rolling ground ball to finish the game.
Thomas led the Trojans on the night going 3-for-3 while Harnischfeger finished 2-for-4 and scored two runs.
Michelle Cragle was the hard luck loser on the mound for the Rangers.
NANTICOKE AREA 100 000 2 - 3
NORTHWEST AREA 000 000 1 - 1

Nanticoke turns corner, beats Hazleton
Trojans never held lead until bottom of the fifth, when they scored three runs.

Gary Williams knew his team wasn’t playing its best early Friday against Hazleton Area, but the longtime Nanticoke coach had a feeling the girls were going to turn the corner.
And that’s exactly what the Trojans did to pull out a 6-4 Wyoming Valley Conference Division I East win over the Cougars.
After committing three errors in the first three innings, the Trojans stuck with their game and played soundly the rest of the contest to knock off the Class 4A powerhouse, scoring five runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
“They showed a lot of grit out there, and they just came together,” Williams said. “They just played hard, and eventually good things started to happen.”
The Trojans (5-0) never held a lead until the bottom of the fifth, when they sent nine batters to the plate and scored three runs. Shannon Kowalski and Jen Harnischfeger each had run-scoring singles for Nanticoke, which trailed 4-3 entering the frame.
“It was a great game and back and forth,” Cougars coach Jason Turri said. “(Nanticoke) hit the ball really hard today and we made some mental mistakes that hurt.”
The Cougars (4-1) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Briana Dudeck, who reached base three times and scored each time, led off with a triple and scored on a groundout by Kelcey Landis.
The Trojans returned the favor and tied the score when Harnischfeger, their leadoff hitter, singled to start the bottom of the first and came around to score. The sophomore shortstop also had a pair of stolen bases in the contest to help solidify herself as one of the best top-of-the-lineup players in the WVC.
“I told her at the beginning of the year – and I don’t usually do this – but she’s my playmaker,” Williams said. “I told her go make things happen and she does. She’s a great player.”
Turri knows the same can be said about Dudeck, also a sophomore.
“She’s doing a great job, and every game she’s always on base, whether it’s a walk or error, and ignites our offense,” he said. “She’s our sparkplug and really starts us up.”
The Cougars scored single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but couldn’t muster much off Nanticoke pitcher Jess Higgins, who picked up her fifth win of the season. The senior, who fanned six and retired the last seven hitters she faced, also went 2-for-3 at the plate.
“Knowing we can come out and play with Hazleton and beat them puts so much confidence in us,” Higgins said. “It really picks us up.”

The division title can possibly be up for grabs when the teams meet again on May 14, the last scheduled day of the regular season.
Hazleton Area 101 110 0 — 4
Nanticoke 100 230 x — 6

WP – Jess Higgins, 7 IP, 7H, 4R, 4ER, 1BB, 6K; LP – Brittany Kringer, 6 IP, 11H, 6R, 5ER, 2BB, 7K; 2B— NAN: Morgan Thomas. 3B— HAZ: Briana Dudeck. Top hitters -- HAZ: Dudeck 2-4, Ashley Dinko 2-2. NAN: Jen Harnischfeger 3-4, Amanda Cardone 3-4, Higgins 2-3.

Trojanette Softball Outlook - Times Leader

State Classification: 2A

Coach: Gary Williams

Home field: Nanticoke Little League Field, behind the high school

Last year: 11-3

Key players: Jess Higgins, Sr., P; Jen Harnischfeger, So., P/IF; Jess McDermott, So., P; Shannon Kowalski, Sr., IF/OF; Amanda Cardone, So., SS; Jackie Hauer, Jr., 2B; Katie Brown, So., OF; Morgan Thomas, Jr., OF; Danielle Havens, Sr., OF; Amber Rinehamer, Jr., OF; Sara Bertoni, Fr., P/IF; Katie Blockus, Fr., 1B; Alicia Luczak, Fr., 3B; Clarissa Tarnowski, Fr., IF

Coach’s comments: “I think we should be talented enough to strive for a league title and hopefully that carries to success in the district playoffs. We have a lot of experienced players coming back and talented new kids that will make an impact for us this year.”