Muncy Indians Win District Title
The Muncy softball team has a lot of extra practice help these days.
As the season has progressed, junior high players caught up in the excitement of a year of revival for the high school program, have flocked to practices. While they are eager to help, they also are eager to get a taste of the biggest thing that has ever happened to Muncy softball. And they hope to be part of a similar season in the years to come.Thus, what has happened this year looks like it might not be just a one-year wonder. Muncy could be here to last.”You start winning and it just builds everything,” long-time Muncy coach Mark Temons said.Muncy has done that this year – a lot. And the Indians have shattered every previous team best, setting a new standard for future programs to strive after.The Indians enter today’s state tournament against District 3 champion Greenwood as the District 4 Class A champion with a 19-3 record, establishing a program srecord for wins in a season. They also enter as champions after capturing the inaugural Heartland-III title with an undefeated record before winning their first district championship Saturday against top-seeded Northeast Bradford.It’s been a huge step forward for a program that had reached the postseason just once in the previous six seasons and that had not won a playoff game since 2000. The turnaround has not gone unnoticed by a sports-hungry town that has long embraced its teams.”This is extremely special. I’ve been waiting for this senior year to come for a long time,” said catcher Kelsi Chuprinski, a player who epitomizes Muncy’s versatility and toughness after learning the position just last year and now excelling at it. “I know what it’s like to lose and like to win and to win now it just feels amazing. All of Muncy is pulling for us. The support is just amazing and we just feed off them.”While the team resurgence has been impressive, it has only been surprising to those outside the Muncy program. The Indians were 8-12 the last two seasons and would have been better had their top two pitchers and shortstop Jordan Rishel not suffered season-ending injuries.
Returning senior starters Chuprinski, Samantha Foote and Marissa Bonnell were joined by pitcher Lori Incitti who was fresh off a 10-0 season that helped Loyalsock capture its first state championship. All of a sudden the pieces started falling into place. A promising all-freshmen outfield of Hannah Cole, Courtney Ebner and Jaylon Jones also was on its way, and sophomore shortstop Ala Miller was returning after a solid 2008 campaign.So the past meant nothing to those seniors who had never experienced a winning season. They knew something special was about to happen.”We basically meshed together and we pulled everyone together and said this is our senior year and we really want to go to states. There is no better group of girls to go to states with and we’re going to have so much fun,” said Foote, an enthusiastic and up-beat first baseman who has provided consistent play and leadership. “I’ve been on a couple softball teams and this is the best. We’re all friends. If somebody does well nobody’s jealous. Everybody wants everyone to do good all the time and they’re awesome. It’s the best group of girls I’ve ever been with.”That closeness was forged not on the practice field but thousands of miles away. A preseason community service trip to Florida proved to be a turning point. The Indians played good softball there, beating two quality New Jersey teams. More importantly, they jelled by constantly hanging out together and by helping others who they still remain in touch with months later. Since then practices have not been monotonous, but instead of have been two hours of fun. The Indians have a solid work ethic but they also know how to keep each other loose, something they proved last week when they played badminton for an hour to break up the frustration after having their district semifinal with Montgomery pushed back for three days. Whatever it takes, whether it be a laugh like last week, or a key hit – like Foote and Cole provided when Muncy rallied from down 2-0 to beat Montgomery 3-2 in the seventh inning earlier this season – all the players have been there to pick each other up. The results speak for themselves. “Our team bonding was awesome. We’re all really tight and I knew this was going to be an awesome team from the time we started out,” Chuprinski said. “Up and down the lineup people have good games and bad games but what is good about our team is if someone is having a bad game, we have other players step up and have good games.” That’s how champions are built and that is what Muncy became when it swept season series from fellow district semifinalists Montgomery and Southern Columbia, in addition to Class AA qualifier Bloomsburg. The perfect HAC-III season meant Muncy could hang its first championship banner in the school gym, something Temons talked about doing earlier this year.
Still, had Muncy lost its district semifinal to Montgomery that title might have lost some of its luster. The Red Raiders had won seven straight over the Indians prior to this season and had a talented group back from last year’s district finalist. Again, though, Muncy was able to find a way to beat their archrival as Incitti pitched a complete-game four-hitter and struck out 11 in the hard-fought 2-1 win. “When we found out we were playing Montgomery we said, ‘Wow, this is the best game to play,'” Foote said. “We were like ‘Come on this is the third time, and this is when it really counts now,’ and it was awesome. I’m so excited and I’m so proud of my team.” That pride was bursting Saturday when Muncy ended Northeast Bradford’s title reign, blanking a team that went 17-2 in the regular season, pounded Southern Columbia, 8-0 in the semifinals, and had most of its players back from last year’s district champion. The Indians did the little things right. Incitti pitched a complete-game two-hitter, and the defense was outstanding, playing an errorless game.It was a true team effort from the best Muncy team in program history. “It’s amazing. There’s no other word for it than amazing,” Incitti said. “I’ve never cried after winning anything until now.”Muncy will try adding more history to its collection today against Greenwood, which is coming off District 3 championship nine days ago. The Indians are seeking the first state playoff win, and chances are they will have a large and loyal following lending their support.And many of those supporters could be future players who help make years like this one the norm. Regardless of what the future holds, the 2009 team’s legacy is secure. They are the squad that started everything. They are the first champion and nobody can ever take that away from them.”They are feeding off each other and are having so much fun. They’re having a blast,” Temons said. “They deserve the success they have. They work hard and it’s a blast being around them.”