By Matt Bufano - Citizens Voice

This season, Nanticoke Area found itself at the heart of many of the biggest moments in Wyoming Valley Conference softball.
And at every turn — losing a nine-inning conference championship, but finding redemption in winning a district title and two state playoff games — Trojanettes slugger Jenna Lipowski was in the mix.
Particularly in the District 2 Class AAA playoffs, the 15-year-old Nanticoke native had a performance for the ages.
In four games, Lipowski went 11 for 13 (.846) with 13 RBIs and three home runs, including a dagger grand slam she hit in the sixth inning of a 6-1 victory over Berwick to win the District 2 title.
No one in the conference was remotely close to matching Lipowski’s power output, as she finished the season with a .521 batting average, 10 home runs and 38 RBIs.
Lipowski also hit three home runs in one game; hit safely in 16 of 22 games; had 13 multi-hit performances; and was the three-hole hitter all season for the 16-6 Trojanettes.
But Lipowski wasn’t always so dominant at the dish, saying her first home run ever came when she was in eighth grade.
Having come a long way in a short amount of time, Jenna Lipowski, the daughter of Marc and Karen Lipowski, has been selected The Citizens’ Voice Player of the Year for 2015.

Jenna Lipowski recently discussed her season with staff writer Matt Bufano.

Q: After not hitting a home run until eighth grade, walk me through that transition from not being a power-hitter, to leading the WVC in home runs.
A: I quit basketball before ninth grade to go to my batting lessons. After that, I just started going to the gym, lifting weights and working out a lot. I’ve been training with (hitting instructor) Dennis Smeding like three times a week. I work really hard at my hitting.
Q: Last year, you hit four home runs and Nanticoke Area was pretty good. This year, you hit 10 home runs and Nanticoke Area gets all the way to the state semifinals. What was the difference?
A: We practiced really hard during the winter. We had a lot of conditioning and then we did a lot of hitting in the gym when we couldn’t be on the field because of the rain. We just stayed focused at practice and tried to do our best.
Q: What was your favorite memory from this season?
A: Probably hitting the grand slam to help us win against Berwick in the District 2 championship. It felt really good. I was just happy that I could help our team advance. Our team really worked well that game, really good team effort.
Q: When you bat, your teammates in the dugout go crazy, screaming and cheering you on. What are they saying and what’s the origin of all that?
A: Everyone on the team has a nickname and they usually say “Boom-Town” when I come up because that’s my nickname. Usually I hit really good when they do that.
Q: What are your expectations going forward?
A: Hopefully to win a state championship and definitely win districts again. Maybe the conference, too. Even though we lost the conference (to Wyoming Area), we did a really good job. It was probably, personally, one of the best games that I ever played in.
Q: Were there any pitchers who gave you some trouble this year?
A: Yeah, Gwen Glatz (from Wyoming Area) was pretty good. Also the left-handed pitcher (Elyse Cuttic) from Bethlehem Catholic in our last game was pretty good. All her balls were on the outside and she was pretty fast.
Q: What are your personal goals in softball and in life?
A: I want to go to college to study physical therapy and play softball. I want to play Division I, but that’s my dream. D-II or D-III is fine with me.

WVC Softball All-Stars Announced
Times Leader

Here are the coaches' all-stars:

WVC Softball All-Stars

MVP: Jenna Lipowski, Nanticoke

First Team: Leandra Ramos, Nanticoke; Gwen Glatz, Wyoming Area; Lindsey Kwiatkowski, Tunkhannock; Chloe VanGorder, Lake-Lehman; Sarah Coolbaugh, Wyoming Area; Molly Hampsey, Tunkhannock; Traci Kromko, Tunkhannock; Talia Szatkowski, Dallas; Emily Wolfgang, Wyoming Area; Rachel Roccograndi, Nanticoke; Jenna Lipowski, Nanticoke; Maddie Perez, Dallas; Bree Bednarski, Wyoming Area; Miranda Bohn, Nanticoke.

Second Team: Sydney Faux, Tunkhannock, Maddie Kelley, Dallas; Maddy O'Donohue, Nanticoke; Kelly Snyder, Dallas; Paige Mokychic, Tunkhannock; Cassie Konopki, Lake-Lehman; Cassie Novakowski, Nanticoke; Kylee Saba, Dallas; Kendra Saba, Dallas; Heather Nametko, Wyoming Area; Kailey Reposa, Tunkhannock; Danielle Krispin, Tunkhannock; Lauren Maloney, Wyoming Area; Grace Gober, Wyoming Area; Kiera Brown, Nanticoke; Sydney Kern, Dallas; Amy Bolton, Dallas; Julianna Scappaticci, Wyoming Area.

Honorable Mention: Sarah Traver, Tunkhannock; Karlie Bulford, Tunkhannock; Jenn Bulford, Tunkhannock; Morgan Briggs, Nanticoke; Vanessa Tocket, Nanticoke; Kristi Skok, Wyoming Area; Jess Parente, Wyoming Area; Lexi Oplinger, Lake-Lehman; Abbey Hogan, Lake-Lehman; Sadie Trudgen, Dallas; Olivia Johnson, Dallas.

PIAA: Nanticoke Area falls in softball semifinals
Stephen Pianovich - Citizens Voice

In Nanticoke Area’s first two games of the state playoffs, the team jumped out to big leads and kept the opponent off the scoreboard in the early innings.
The Trojanettes were on the other side of that trend Tuesday against Bethlehem Catholic.
Thanks to three first inning runs — all of which came without any hits — and an 11-strikeout performance from Elyse Cuttic, Bethlehem Catholic ended Nanticoke Area’s season, 5-0, in a PIAA Class AAA semifinal at Blue Mountain High School. The Trojanettes end their season at 16-6, with a District 2 title and a top-4 state finish.
Nanticoke Area got off on the wrong foot because of an unusually erratic opening frame from sophomore pitcher Leandra Ramos.
Bethlehem Catholic’s first three batters all reached base on walks, totaling just 14 pitches between them.
A wild pitch scored the game’s first run, and the Golden Hawks went up 3-0 as Nanticoke Aera shortstop Rachel Roccograndi could not handle a sharply hit grounder off the bat of Courtney Shupp.
Ramos eventually found her groove. She didn’t walk anyone after issuing four free passes in the first inning, retired nine in a row at one point and pitched into the fifth inning.
Bethlehem Catholic did not get its first hit until the fourth inning, when the team hit three singles but left the bases loaded.
The Golden Eagles added five more hits in the fifth and sixth against Ramos and reliever Miranda Bohn, scoring one run in each inning.
One run, however, would have been enough for Cuttic, who helped Bethlehem Catholic reach the state title game for the second consecutive season.
The hard-throwing southpaw struck out at least one hitter in each frame, including the side in the second and allowed only five total baserunners.
“She was fantastic,” Nanticoke Area coach Ryan Stetz said of Cuttic. “She moved the ball in and out, she got the ball up on our hands a little bit. She shut us down while other teams could not this year, that’s a credit to her.”
Cuttic also mixed some offspeed pitches with her overpowering fastball to keep the Trojanettes off balance. Another reason for her success could’ve been because she was left-handed, and the only lefty Stetz recalled his team facing in 2015.
Nanticoke Area catcher Maddy O’Donohue agreed with her coach, saying “I think the fact she was a lefty screwed a lot of people up.”
O’Donohue, a senior, had the best day at the plate of any Nanticoke Area player, going 2 for 3 with a triple. She singled with two outs in the seventh and Stetz put in a pinch runner, allowing O’Donohue to receive an ovation as she jogged off the field for the final time in a Nanticoke Area uniform. Stetz said he owed it to the catcher, whom he said “put the program on her back.”
“Our team was like my family. Moving away from them is going to be hard, it’s going to be really hard,” a red-eyed O’Donohue said after the game. “It was a lot of fun. It was one of the best seasons I ever had in my life, I don’t know what is going to live up to it.”
While it was a bittersweet ending to O’Donohue’s high school career, she is the lone senior in Nanticoke Area’s starting lineup. In fact, seven of the 10 players Nanticoke Area used Tuesday were underclassmen.
The Trojanettes’ six-game playoff winning streak came to an end Tuesday, but it was an experience that was both memorable and beneficial for the program.
“I think (the playoff run) has a great impact on them,” Stetz said referring to Nanticoke’s returning players. “But we’re going to start over next year, we’re going to put this year behind us. We’re going to enjoy that we’ve gotten this far, and I think it gives us a great starting point in the future.”

PIAA Softball: Trojanettes advance to Class AAA semifinals with win over Chichester
Stephen Pianovich - Citizens Voice

Just about 24 hours after letting a five-run lead slip away before rallying for a win in the opening round of the state softball playoffs, Nanticoke Area found itself in a similar position on Thursday.
This time for the Trojanettes, however, there was no drama with a five-run lead. Just a trip to the PIAA Class AAA semifinals.
Powered by a four-run first inning and strong effort in the circle from Leandra Ramos, Nanticoke Area downed Chichester, 6-1, at Allentown’s Patriots Park. Riding a six-game playoff winning streak, the red-hot Trojanettes will face District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic on Monday at a site and time to be determined with a trip to the state finals on the line.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride,” junior shortstop Rachel Roccograndi said of her team’s run through the playoffs. “We had our ups and our downs. (Wednesday) being 6-5, we were a little nervous. But getting that win pumped us up and (Thursday) we had that same energy.”
Wednesday’s win was a 6-5 triumph over Twin Valley in which the Trojanettes blew a 5-0 lead, but went ahead again in the bottom of the sixth.
They got out to an advantage again with a big first inning on Thursday. Six of the first seven Nanticoke Area hitters to face Chichester’s Meghan Wimmer reached base, and the first four of them came around to score.
The Trojanettes sent nine hitters to the plate in the first inning. Jenna Lipowski, Miranda Bohn and Vanessa Tocket joined Roccograndi in recording hits and all four ended with multi-hit afternoons, accounting for eight of the team’s nine hits.
“Honestly, I didn’t think we’d score that much in the first inning,” Roccograndi said, “but we did, and I couldn’t have been happier.”
Ramos, a sophomore, went to the circle with a big cushion and said the first inning “took a lot of stress off her shoulders,” and she worked through the first three innings without allowing a runner past second base.
Chichester’s bats heated up a bit as the game progressed, but any time Ramos ran into a jam, her defense was there to help. The Eagles’ Jenna Cassidy led off the third inning with a double, but was thrown out when Nanticoke Area caught her being too aggressive rounding second base.
Roccograndi turned an unassisted double play to end the fourth inning, helping Ramos escape a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
“They were on fire today. They were great,” Ramos said of the Trojanettes’ defense. “I was very proud of them.”
Ramos also got plenty of the outs on her own, striking out eight batters.
The lone Chichester run came in the bottom of the seventh, when Wimmer smacked a two-out RBI double. Ramos got the next batter to ground out, sending the Trojanettes to the Class AAA Final Four.
Nanticoke Area will now get a little time to prepare for Monday’s semifinal.
“We’ve had the same approach, we try to stay pretty even keel,” Nanticoke coach Ryan Stetz said. “We don’t get too high when things are going well, we don’t get too low when things aren’t going well.”

Nanticoke Area 410 000 1 — 6
Chichester 000 000 1 — 1

2B: Roccograndi (NA); O’Donnell, Cassidy, Wimmer (Chi)
Nanticoke Area IP H R ER BB SO
Ramos, WP 7 8 1 1 1 8
Chichester IP H R ER BB SO
Wimmer, LP 7 9 6 6 4 7

Nanticoke Area softball survives scare in PIAA Class AAA opener
Matt Bufano - Citizens Voice

Having played softball since she was four years old, Nanticoke Area catcher Maddy O’Donohue has played on her fair share of teams.
This 2015 Nanticoke Area squad, though, is special because it operates like a close-knit family, she said.
No finger-pointing, no getting down when the going gets tough — just high spirits no matter the obstacle.
This was all on display Wednesday, when Nanticoke Area blew a five-run lead, but showed its resiliency in pulling out a 6-5 win over Twin Valley in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament.
The win advances Nanticoke Area to today’s quarterfinals, where it will play (1-2) Chichester at 4 at Patriots Park in Allentown.
After Nanticoke Area pulled ahead 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Twin Valley countered with a five-run fifth, in which the damage could have been even worse.
The initial starter Leandra Ramos, who was pulled in favor of lefty reliever Miranda Bohn, re-entered the game after Bohn was roughed up. Ramos got out of the inning leaving two potential Twin Valley runs on base.
“We never get down on each other. We just pick each other up and we just keep going,” O’Donohue said. “I remember in the middle of that inning, I heard (a Twin Valley player) say, ‘We got their confidence.’ You don’t have our confidence. We keep our confidence up with each other.”
The Trojanettes came out fighting in the bottom of the sixth, ultimately featuring Keira Brown’s infield single to score Morgan Briggs, who proved to be the game-winning run.
Sandwiched between the singles by Briggs and Brown was Rachel Roccograndi’s double to left center.
Roccograndi, the leadoff hitter, finished with two doubles and a single. She also stole home on a wild pitch in the first inning to put Nanticoke Area ahead 1-0.
“I was definitely feeling it,” Roccograndi said. “My first at-bat I hit the ball really well and I just wanted to keep that energy going throughout the game.”
O’Donohue’s defense behind the plate was also paramount. She was rarely tested by base-stealers in league play and she showed why, throwing out two runners trying to steal second base Wednesday.
“She’s a phenomenal catcher. She’s been there for three years as a starter,” said Nanticoke Area coach Ryan Stetz. “She is just playing really good and she’s a very strong reason why we’ve gotten this far.”
Stetz also called O’Donohue a veteran leader in an otherwise youthful dugout, as she is the team’s lone senior.
No. 5-hitting second baseman Cassie Novakowski played a strong game, singling, walking, scoring a run and throwing a perfect strike to O’Donohue from shallow right to throw a runner out at home in the fourth.

District 2 Softball: Lipowski's slam powers Nanticoke Area to AAA title
Matt Bufano - Citizens Voice

Nanticoke Area coach Ryan Stetz touts third baseman Jenna Lipowski as being arguably the best hitter in District 2, if not Pennsylvania.
With the spotlight as bright as ever, playing for a District 2 championship, Lipowski showed why Stetz’s praise is justified.
On Thursday, Lipowski collected three hits, including a grand slam, to lead the Trojanettes to a 6-1 win over Berwick in the District 2 Class AAA Championship.
“Great victory for Nanticoke,” Stetz said moments after winning his first District 2 title as head coach. “We wanted to be at this spot. Berwick gave us a great game and we’re just happy we came out with the win today.”
The win advances Nanticoke Area to the PIAA playoffs, where its first round game will be against District 3 runner-up Twin Valley.
Lipowski’s dagger grand slam came in the sixth inning — with Vanessa Tocket, Rachel Roccograndi and Keira Brown on base — when Nanticoke Area held a slim 2-1 lead.
Lipowski, a sophomore who leads the WVC with 10 home runs, said she was looking for a pitch down the middle. She got that pitch and proceeded to drive it over the center field fence.
“I was pretty pumped. I knew we had it after that,” said Nanticoke Area pitcher Leandra Ramos, whose four innings as starter put the Trojanettes in position to win.
As with most games this season, Ramos worked in tandem with left-handed freshman reliever Miranda Bohn in the circle. Ramos pitched the first four innings, and Bohn closed out the final three frames.
I’m just glad that she pitched her heart out at the end,” Lipowski said of Bohn.
Ramos and Bohn combined to allow just four hits over seven innings.
Lipowski and Ramos were each comfortable in having Bohn secure the win, as Ramos said, “Once she gets in, it’ll throw them off.”
At the plate, Ramos and Bohn delivered as well, each hitting singles.
Ramos’ base hit was a two-out single in the second inning to score Cassie Novakowski and put Nanticoke Area ahead 1-0.
All six Nanticoke Area runs were scored with two outs.
“We’ve been doing that a lot this year,” Stetz said. “I don’t know why or how (we score with two outs), but we hit the ball hard.”
Berwick’s lone run came in the third inning, an RBI double by Kylene Welsh to score Reganne Whitmire.
After the game, Stetz humbly deflected praise to his players, most of whom have played together for at least eight years.
Ramos has shared the diamond with most of her teammates dating back to Little League and said of the District 2 championship: “I really wanted this.”
“Feels great (to win) with this team,” Ramos said. “I’ve been with all these girls for so long.”
Lipowski is one of those teammates who dates back to playing Little League with Ramos, and is excited to have a chance at a state title.
“It feels really great,” Lipowski said. “I’m excited that we won and everything. Just pumped to go next level.”

Nanticoke Area 020 004 0 — 6
Berwick 001 000 0 — 1
B: Kylene Welsh (Ber), Courtney Hummel (Ber).
HR: Jenna Lipowski (NA).
Nanticoke Area IP H R ER BB SO
Ramos, WP 4 3 1 1 1 1
Bohn 3 1 0 0 0 2
Berwick IP H R ER BB SO
Lynn, LP 7 7 6 4 6 3

Nanticoke’s grand slam delivers a District 2 softball championship

Nanticoke’s Jenna Lipowski doesn’t get many inviting pitches to hit. Such is the life of one of the premier power hitters in District 2 softball.
Then comes a situation like Thursday when there is no choice other than to challenge the sophomore. Berwick attacked and Lipowski’s counter punch delivered a knockout.
Lipowski’s grand slam in the sixth inning tore open a one-run game as Nanticoke defeated Berwick 6-1 to win the District 2 Class 3A championship at Wilkes University.
Nanticoke (14-5) won its first district title since winning the D2-2A crown in 2012. The Trojans will open play in the PIAA Class 3A state playoffs on Monday, playing the District 3 runner-up Twin Valley (21-6) at 4 p.m. at Wilkes. Twin Valley lost 4-0 to Donegal in the District 3 title game.
The Trojans were clinging to a 2-1 lead when the sixth inning began. They were getting runners on base, but except for Leandra Ramos’ RBI single and Morgan Briggs scoring on a wild pitch — both in the second inning — they couldn’t push runs across the plate.
The sixth looked like it could turn into a similar situation as Nanticoke had runners on second and third with two outs. Kiera Brown, though, worked out a walk to load the bases and set the stage for Lipowski.
She wasted little time, crushing a pitch to dead center and over the fence.
“I was looking for a ball right down the middle and hoping they wouldn’t pitch me outside or anything,” Lipowski said. “I just drove it to help my team out.”
Lipowski knew it was gone because of her “powerful grunt.” She often makes a noise like a professional women’s tennis player when she hits the ball. Teammate Vanessa Tocket, who was on third base, heard a different sound.
“I kind of knew as soon as she hit it that it was gone,” Tocket said. “It was just kind of one of those swings. And the sound of the ball hitting the bat, I watched it and said ‘That’s gone.’ I’m so proud of her because she works so hard.”
Lipowski finished 3 for 4, continuing her torrid hitting.
“I’ve said this before. She might be arguably the best hitter right now at least in the eastern side of Pennsylvania,” Nanticoke coach Ryan Stetz said. “She was batting .888 coming into this and she had three hits today.”
Defending champion Berwick (14-5) barely made a whimper after the grand slam. Moriah Lynn opened the sixth with a single, but Nanticoke reliever Miranda Bohn retired the next six batters to end the game.
Bohn and starter Ramos limited the Dawgs to four hits. Nanticoke has used the combination of righty Ramos followed by lefty Bohn effectively throughout the season.
Berwick scored its only run in the third when Reganne Whitmire singled and scored on Kylene Welsh’s double. The Dawgs stranded runners on second base three times.
“We’ve been to this game the last three years in a row,” said Berwick coach Brian Bridge, whose team’s district title in 2014 was the first since 1995. “The year before that, we were one game short of it. That’s a credit to the kids and the coaching staff I have. I couldn’t ask for better coaches.”

District 2 Class 3A Championship
Nanticoke 6, Berwick 1
Roccograndi ss`4`1`1`0
Brown cf`3`1`0`0
Lipowski 3b`4`1`3`4
Bohn dp`3`0`1`0
Novakowski 2b`4`1`1`0
O’Donohue c`3`0`0`0
Tocket 1b`3`1`0`0
Briggs lf`3`1`1`0
Ramos p`3`0`1`1
Murphy rf`0`0`0`0

Lynn p`3`0`1`0
Welsh 2b`3`0`1`1
Hummel lf`2`0`1`0
Petty 3b`2`0`0`0
Starr ss`3`0`0`0
Favata cf`3`0`0`0
Stout c`3`0`0`0
Whitmire c`2`1`1`0
Fries dp`1`0`0`0
Katsock rf`0`0`0`0


E - Nanticoke 1. LOB - Nanticoke 8, Berwick 3. 2B - Welsh, Hummel. HR - Lipowski. SAC - Fries, Petty.

Ramos (W)`4`3`1`1`1`1
Bohn (S)`3`1`0`0`0`3

Lynn (L)`7`8`6`6`6`3


Athlete of the Week Jenna Lipowski, Nanticoke softball.
Citizens Voice Staff Report

Nanticoke Area
Sophomore, Softball

Age: 15
Family: Parents, Karen and Marc Lipowski; Sister, Amanda.
Accomplishment: The Nanticoke Area power hitter blasted three home runs in a victory over Lake-Lehman.

Getting to know Jenna
Favorite subject: Science
Favorite book: “The Fault in Our Stars”
Favorite movie: “The Maze Runner”
Favorite TV show: “Teen Wolf”
Favorite actor: Mark Wahlberg
Favorite musician: Shawn Mendes
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite junk food: Chips
Favorite sports to follow: Softball and volleyball
Favorite athlete: LeBron James
Favorite holiday: Christmas
Favorite color: Red
Away from sports Jenna enjoys . . . hanging out with friends.
If Jenna could switch places with any athlete, she’d like to swap spots with . . . Jennie Finch.
If Jenna could travel anywhere in the world, she’d like to visit . . . Europe.
Jenna’s favorite thing about softball is . . . her teammates.
Jenna thinks the hardest thing about softball is . . . losing.
The one thing Jenna can’t live without is . . . her family.
Jenna’s biggest role model has been . . . her hitting instructor Dennis Smeding.
After high school: Jenna wants to continue her softball career in college.

Girls Softball Preview
Citizens Voice

Nanticoke Area

Coach: Ryan Stetz

2014 Results: 8-7 in the WVC, lost to Holy Redeemer in the District 2 AA quarterfinals.

Players to Watch: Maddy O’Donohue, Sr., C; Rachel Roccograndi, Jr., SS; Leandra Ramos, Soph., P/OF; Jenna Lipowski, Soph., 3B.

Outlook: The Trojanettes are building off back-to-back winning seasons under third-year coach Stetz. Ramos returns as one of the WVC’s top talents. She led the Trojanettes in her freshman campaign with nine wins and a 2.87 ERA on the mound, while batting .415 with nine doubles. Lipowski is a top-notch power hitter, coming off a season where she hit four home runs. Nanticoke Area should contend for conference and district titles, though under different circumstances from last year. The Trojanettes are competing in Division 2 with a Class AAA classification, as opposed to Division 1 with a Class AA classification in 2014.