Northern Tier Sports Report
WYSOX — It’s always hard to play a team three times, even more difficult in a couple week span. But on Thursday Towanda’s minors softball All-star team overcame that to beat RTL 9-2, and claim the District 15 title.

“It’s not ideal,” remarked Towanda manager Dan Cook. “We did what we needed to do. We hit the ball, we played exceptional defense tonight. The girls stepped up, and really owned that side of the ball there. I was proud of how we did that.”

The run caps off a 5-0 district all-star season for Towanda as they rolled to the title. They only played two teams - RTL and Susquehanna County - but Cook was glad to see his team continue to work to defeat them.

“It’s good to have the last two games where, teams we’ve played already, come back, and play us well the second time,” he said. “That’s a good experience for them.”

Towanda scored a run in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead, but RTL kept it a 1-run deficit through the first two innings.

Things opened up for Towanda in the third as they pushed four runs across to take a 5-0 lead. In the fourth they added two more to make it 7-0, setting up a fifth inning where Cook was hoping to end it through the 10-run rule.

However, RTL held them just to two runs, giving them one last at bat. Down 9-0 in the top of the sixth RTL was able to get some momentum, as they scored two runs, and had the bases loaded.

Towanda pitcher Kendal Cook, though, ended the threat, and secured the win, with a strikeout.

“You have the opportunity to shut it down in the fifth with one run, it takes cares of all those miscues that happened,” said Cook. “I’m glad we had a little bit of a cushion going into that last inning. We got a little hiccup, but they locked it down when they needed to, and that’s the sign of a team that wins.”

Kendal Cook has been their best asset these past two weeks, consistently getting the best of the other team’s line-ups, and Thursday was no different as she finished with 10 strikeouts for the no-hitter.

RTL, though, made the Towanda defense work through the first three innings, and coach Cook was fine with that, as it gave his defense some much needed work, and confidence.

“They’ve stepped up, and locked down those spots, and played big,” he said, noting that several of his infielders typically play other positions. “It’s hard to move them now.”

The high point may have been catcher Maris Cobb throwing a runner out at second on a steal attempt - a rarity for this level.

“Maris had a great night behind the plate,” said Cook. “Finally got her punch out.”

The final three innings, though, it was Kendal Cook, getting seven of the final nine RTL outs by strikeout.

“She’s pitched well,” said Cook. “I’m interested to see how she does now that we get of districts, against some of the better competition from here on out.”

Offensively, Towanda was solid, but weren’t as consistent as they have been in games past.

“We put the ball in play,” said Cook. “We’ll work on squaring them up. Good teams put the ball in play, and they make things happen, and we manufactured runs today. Sometimes, that’s what you’ve got to do in those 1-0 games.”

The top of his order did that, with his first four batters scoring eight of the team’s nine runs. The bottom half of the order, though, did a good job driving them in, as they accumulated three of the team’s seven hits.

Kaylen Sluyter led the way for Towanda, going 2-for-2 with four runs scored, while Mary-Kate Eberlin had a hit with two runs. Haileigh Lineburg also had a hit with a run scored.

For RTL Callee Warner scored a run, while also striking nine from the circle, as Hannah Fulmer reached twice on walks.

Despite the setback, RTL has come a long ways from their first match-up in pool play, where they lost 20-0. In their first meeting in bracket play Towanda pulled away for a 14-0 win, so while a 9-2 loss may not be a victory, it’s a sign of progress.

“I’m proud of the progress those girls have made, from the first game to where they are now,” said Cook. “We had to earn it tonight, and that’s what you like to see in a district championship.”

Wyalusing (RTL) and Towanda are known for their rivalry, and this looks like the making a good one, but these girls are linked even tighter than that. 

“He’s got four, five girls that a bunch of our girls play travel with,” explained Cook. “So they know each other well. They love playing each other, but they hate playing each other. It’s fun at an early age you see the girls start to progress through the year. We spent our first couple years down there with Kendal, and she’s played with a lot of these girls. Now, as an opponent, it’s a little different. Now, after the game’s over, you go, you have fun, you talk about it. They have a pretty good understanding inside the lines, let’s play ball, let’s do the best we can, and let’s have fun after.”

Towanda will now move on to Sectionals down at Turbotville, where they face Central Columbia in the first round. The next round starts on July 14.

Right now, though, they’re going to enjoy this one.

“The girls were real stoked when they heard they were getting a banner on one of the field,” said Cook. “They liked that. They like knowing their name’s going to be out there forever.”

CUTLINE: Towanda players mob manager Dan Cook after they win the District 15 minor softball title…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING.

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