A small, but dedicated group of players have continued the Bob Horlacher Little League’s recent tradition of softball success.
The league is responsible for two of the four teams representing District 31 in sectional and/or state play.
The Back Mountain area has been prominent in Little League softball postseason play. On the Little League (11-12-year-old level), the Back Mountain team hosted and won the Section 5 Tournament on the way to the state tournament where it was eliminated.
With Bob Horlacher serving as the host team for two sectional tournaments this week, the Back Mountain field will serve as the site for the Junior Little League Tournament.
Bob Horlacher has 15 players on the Junior Little League level for players ages 12-14. Throughout the regular season, they take on teams from other leagues around northeastern Pennsylvania.
For tournament purposes, that team was trimmed to the maximum 12-player roster that is again working its way through the steps of the postseason.
Maddie Kelley, Sydney Faux, Sarah Traver, Katie McCue, Rachel Johnson, Danielle Krispin and Paige Mokychic have all been part of teams that won District 31 titles on the 9-10, 11-12 and now Junior levels. Last year, the team also won a Section 5 title on the way to the state tournament at State College where it won one game before being eliminated.
With its past success helpingto keep the core of the team together, the Bob Horlacher league had enough players at the Junior level to produce its own complete team at that age group for the first time this year. In recent years, Bob Horlacher had combined with other nearby leagues just to get enough players for a single team.
Kelley, Faux and Traver each pitched two innings in both of the team’s District 31 Tournament wins. Bob Horlacher won the three-team, double-elimination tournament by beating Kingston/Forty Fort twice, 3-2 and 6-2.
“We’re strong in just about every position,” said former league commissioner John Mokychic, who is serving as the team’s head coach this year after being the assistant coach when this group of players was on the lower age level. “We have three strong pitchers. It doesn’t seem like a lot of teams are that deep in the pitching area.
“We hit the ball well and we field the ball well, also.”
The remainder of the team roster features Karli Cooke, Breezy Coolbaugh, Hunter Jones, Madison Steele and Laurel Hopfer.
Joe Kelley and Len Kelley assist John Mokychic as coaches.
The team is seeking a sectional title and return to state tournament play in the Section 5 Tournament that began Wednesday and continues through this weekend at Back Mountain Little League’s field.
10-11 YEAR OLDS
The latest group of Bob Horlacher 10-11-year-olds is trying to build its own success story.
Despite a small roster, the 10-11-year-olds were 15-0 in the regular season and were named district champion unopposed. They hosted the Section 5 Tournament that was scheduled to start Thursday and continue through its conclusion either today or Monday.
The exact same roster of players won a sectional and state championships last year on the 9-10 level before reaching the semifinals of the Mid-Atlantic Regional.
Little League teams generally use 12-player rosters for the postseason tournaments, but the Bob Horlacher 10-11-year-old team has just 10 players and goes through some games with only nine available.
Unlike many Little League playoff teams that are made up of all-star squads from a local league’s regular-season play, all 10 players in the Bob Horlacher program were on the same team that scheduled other leagues during the season.
The team is made up of catcher/second baseman/outfielder Faith Jones, catcher/outfielder Erin Dunn, shortstop Megan Straley, pitcher/third baseman Hope Jones, outfielder/third baseman Jena Simmons, pitcher/outfielder Delaney Romanchick, second baseman Mackayla Quick, outfielder Kassidy Shirtz, outfielder Kaci Coole and first baseman Sarah Kuderka.
“They back each other up well,” coach Doug Jones said. “They move when the ball’s hit in case there’s an error; they’re there to back each other up.
“We have very good catchers and very good pitchers. They can play small ball. They can bunt and they can hit far and get us a big hit when we need it as well.”
The Bob Horlacher Little League, with its home field in Beaumont, has players from the Dallas, Lake-Lehman and Tunkhannock School Districts. It draws players from the townships of Dallas, Monroe, Noxen, Northmoreland, Exeter and Franklin.
BMLL HELPS OUT
Back Mountain Little League president Steve Skammer said the neighboring district sought help with the need to host two sectional tournaments at the same time.
“The big thing is if you don’t have lights, you have games during the day and how are parents going to get there?” Skammer asked.
Games at both fields were scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m., but the lights meant the Junior Little League games at Back Mountain would be allowed to extend to a later curfew in the event of weather or other delays disrupting the schedule.
The Bob Horlacher teams will try to continue the District 31 success already enjoyed by Back Mountain’s 11-12-year-old team making the state tournament where it was eliminated.
“That was a very young team,” Skammer said. “It was a nice surprise they made states. It was a great achievement.”