Trojanette Softball

Softball: Williams reflects on Nanticoke Area’s 2010 title
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Nanticoke Area reached the pinnacle of state softball in 2003, when it won the PIAA Class 2A championship.

Longtime head coach Gary Williams, who won 330 games while leading the Trojanettes from 1991-2012, believed at the start of the 2010 season that a second state title could be on the horizon.

“I thought we had a chance,” he said.

Then again, he’d been wrong before, calculating that the fully reloaded 2004 Trojanettes had as good a chance as any to win a state title.

Fact of the matter is that winning a state championship is among the hardest things to do in scholastic sports, which makes them all the more satisfying.

Thursday will mark the 10-year anniversary of Nanticoke Area’s 11-inning, 3-1 victory against Philipsburg-Osceola for the Trojanettes’ second PIAA Class 2A title.

Williams recently caught up with sports writer Matt Bufano to reflect on the historic feat.

Q: In the state final against Philipsburg-Osceola, you were tied, 1-1, through 10 innings. Take me inside the dugout at that point. Did you think you’d be the team to break through and win?

A: You know what, I can’t say I did. I told our kids, “Just keep on making plays and something’s bound to break.” Fortunately for us, we got the first break. I think that we also got a break in the 10th inning, when we went to the tiebreaker and both teams started with a runner on second base. (P-O) moved her over to third base with one out. There was a ground ball hit to our pitcher, Sarah Bertoni. She did a fake throw to first — which she had done in a previous game against Troy and didn’t work out so well, but she did the same exact thing. This time, she took her time and got the girl in a rundown between home and third and Jenn Harnischfeger ended up running her down and getting her out. That could have been the end of the road for us.

Q: You had Sammy Gow and Kaylee Schinski on base for that rally in the top of the 11th inning. Those would have been your ideal two baserunners to have on in that situation, right?

A: Absolutely. The only other girl who was as fast as them was Angie Hillan, but the three of them were neck-and-neck with speed. It was a perfect situation to have them back-to-back.

Q: Two runners on, two outs and Maggie Gola becomes the hero with her hit. Can you replay that hit in your mind?

A: Yes. It was a gapper to left- or right-center. Sammy had no problem scoring from second. I had to make a quick decision (about Kaylee) — I was watching the outfielder when she got the ball. When the ball was in the air, Kaylee was already almost at third base. (P-O) was so good that I thought, “We can’t wait for another hit.” I decided to send Kaylee. Fortunately for us, the relay pulled the catcher off to the right a little bit and it allowed Kaylee to slide in before she could bring the tag back.

Q: Getting into the bottom of the 11th inning, that’s a long time for anyone — even one as good as Sarah Bertoni — to be pitching, especially on a hot day. How confident did you feel about her at that point?

A: I don’t remember what inning it was — maybe the seventh or eighth inning — and it was a really hot day. I called timeout and I went out and talked to her. I said, “Sarah, listen to me. You did a great job so far but the ball is in your hands. Tell me if you want to finish or if you feel like you’re losing it.” I talked to Amanda Cardone, too, because a catcher knows better than anybody about how well a pitcher’s doing. Amanda said, “No, she hasn’t lost anything from the first inning.” So we just said, well, it’s her game to win or lose now and we kept the ball in her hand.

Q: Getting the third out and finally being able to celebrate a state championship, what emotions did you feel?

A: It’s surreal. I was exhausted in 2003 because, if you know the history of that run, we played so many innings … and I think by that time I was mentally exhausted. “Thank God it’s over. Thank God we won.” But I think I was a little more excited about the 2010 win. … I thought, “This is unbelievable,” and my whole coaching staff was going crazy.

Q: Do you keep any mementos from the 2010 season?

A: I have pictures, I have newspaper articles from both 2003 and 2010, I even have some articles from 2011 because everybody was inking our name in as a repeat. I kept on telling everybody, “Look. We’re good. Could we get there again? Absolutely.” But I always felt, in the game of baseball or softball, one bad hop or one bad call and it could bring everything to an end. The games we played in 2010, only one was a runaway. Everything was close.

Q: What is the mark you think the 2010 Trojanettes left, not only on Nanticoke Area but on softball in the Wyoming Valley Conference, which has recently seen a lot of state success?

A: I think the big thing was they showed the importance of making softball a yearly thing, not just a seasonal thing. We tried to get them in a summer league when they were coming in in ninth grade and then we stopped because I talked to the girls and they said they played something like 80 games between travel, Little League all-stars — they played 80 games — over the summer. I looked at my assistant coach and said, “This is crazy. We’re just tiring them out.” So we told them, “Don’t worry, we’ll drop out of the summer league, you guys are playing enough.” But it was that kind of dedication that, I think, sent a message through the rest of the valley and you see travel teams all over the place now. I kind of think that was the legacy, just a dedication and willingness to give all their time to the sport.

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