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NTL SOFTBALL: WILLIAMSON LADY WARRIORS EXPERIENCE HISTORIC TURNAROUND IN '24 (2024-06-08)

Northern Tier WEST Sports Report
LAWRENCEVILLE, PA — It was a tale of two seasons for the Williamson softball team in ’24, as the young Lady Warriors started the season 1-8 but rallied to reach .500 in the second half, qualified for District play and win the program’s first ever playoff game.

Williamson’s 1-8 start to the year included an opening-day, 3-2 loss to Class 2A semifinalist Northeast Bradford (12-8) as well as a pair of 6-5 losses .. one to District -qualifier Wyalusing (9-11) and one to Canton (4-16). 

The Warriors dropped a 2-run game to Athens (12-7) during a seven-game losing streak, suffered a pair of lopsided losses in a doubleheader with Cowanesque Valley (17-3), was mercy-ruled by Troy (15-4), blew out Sayre for their lone win and battled but fell to New York State-power Corning, 11-5.

“Our season started off pretty rough,” says first year Head Coach Mark Gee, “Our pitching was good enough to win games early on, but our hitting was sporadic and we were making way too many errors.”

The Warriors scored just 20 runs total in their eight losses to start the season while allowing 66. 

“We started to see a lot of progress around the 5th game,” says Gee, “once we were able to get outside on a regular basis for practices. We spent a lot of time on fielding, defensive situations, base running and our approach at the plate. You could see the progress the team was making daily and then everything started to click.”

A mercy-rule win over Northern Potter snapped the Warriors losing streak before a second loss to Corning, this time by a 6-1 score, left Williamson with a 2-9 record and nine games left. 

The Warriors started their six-game winning streak by earning a season split with Northeast Bradford and included mercy-rule wins over Sayre, Canton and Wellsboro and non-league wins over Addison (NY) and Northern Potter.

“During the winning streak our pitching remained solid,” says Coach Gee, “but the biggest difference in our team was our defense .. we were making plays and cut way down on our errors, while also having better at bats which led to more hits and letting us be more aggressive on the base paths.”

In their final nine games, the Warriors went 8-1 and scored 80 runs while giving up just 19 in their wins and 10 to two-time NTL-I champ North Penn-Liberty. 

“That last month of the season we looked like a totally different team,” says Gee, “Kenna (Thomas) and Olivia (Gee) did a great job on the mound, Lexi (Smalley) was great behind the plate and they gave us a chance to win every game. We made a few changes to our lineup, also, which helped us during that streak ..  moving a couple of the girls to different positions in the field and switching the batting order up a little bit.”

With their second win over nearby Northern Potter, the Warriors were 8-9 with three games left and needed to win two of the three to reach .500 and automatically qualify for Districts. 

The loss to Liberty left Williamson no room to lose as they had a pair of must-win road trips left .. to non-league Montgomery (13-7) and to Towanda (11-9), and the Warriors responded by playing two of their best games of the season and topping the Red Raiders 9-2 and the Lady Knights 9-4.

“During the second half of the season, we did a great job of moving base runners and putting pressure on the other team,” says Coach Gee 

Having secured the No. 7 seed in the 10-team Class 2A playoff field, the Warriors hosted No. 10 seed Line Mountain and edged the Lady Lions 4-3 for Williamson’s first-ever softball playoff win. A 6-2 loss to 2A runner-up Muncy (19-1) ended the Warriors’ season with an 11-11 overall record.

Williamson was a young team this season, with just a pair of seniors in Mikenna Buchanan and Bailey Smith. 

“Mikenna was great at the plate all year (.467 BA, .573 OBP, 28H, 7-2B, 1-3B, 1 HR, 31 RBI, 17 R, 10 BB, 5 HBP),” says Coach Gee, “she had a bunch of really big hits and she was a tough out all year. And Bailey Smith (.256 BA, .448 OBP, 11 H, 2 HR, 13 R, 14 BB) was the leader of our outfield and played solid defense all year. They both hit a home run in their last regular season game this year at Towanda.”

Sophomore Kenna Thomas (.485 BA, .533 OBP, 32 H, 11-2B, 3-3B, 3 HR, 29 R, 20 RBI) followed up her excellent freshman season from a season ago and led the Lady Warriors from the plate and the pitcher’s circle (76 1/3 IP, 4-7, 2.75 ERA, 122 K) this year. 

“Kenna was great all season,” says Gee, “Offensively she led the team .. she was also great on the mound and when she wasn’t pitching she was great defensively at shortstop.”

A pair of freshmen made an immediate impact for Williamson in P/SS Olivia Gee .. Coach Mark Gee’s daughter .. and catcher Lexi Smalley. 

“Olivia (.234 BA, .355 OBP, 15 H, 23 R, 9 BB, 7 RBI) was our leadoff hitter,” says the elder Gee, “leading the team with 20 stolen bases and was second in runs scored. She was also great on the mound (7-2, 51 IP, 2.49 ERA, 49 K) and earned the first win in Williamson softball history in district play and threw a no hitter against Sayre. When not pitching she played wherever we needed her most at the beginning of the season .. to playing most of the 2nd half at shortstop.”

“Lexi (.276 BA, .462 OBP, 16 H, 3-2B, 21 R, 17 BB, 5 RBI) was solid behind the plate all year for us,” says Gee, “defensively she is a wall and has a great arm, throwing out 33% of runners trying to steal this year. With these three coming back, we are in a really great place with pitching and catching moving forward .. and they also were our top three batters in our lineup.”

Gee points to a number of returning players who were critical to Williamson’s turnaround this season and that they’ll be looking at to take on bigger roles next year, including junior 1st baseman Kaegan Short (.315 BA, .507 OBP, 17 H, 18 R, 20 BB, 9 RBI) and classmates Joelie Stephens and Savanna Dean, as well as freshmen Hanna Penzone, who Gee says made a huge difference defensively once inserted into the starting lineup at left field, and Olivia Nolan.

Coach Gee and his staff are proud of their girls for the resolve they showed this season, thankful for the leadership provided by lone seniors Buchanan and Smith and excited for the future of the program. 

“That turnaround gave our team a ton of confidence going into next season,” says Gee, “We have much higher expectations for next year.”
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