Wellsboro softball coach Greg Carr describes his team's season as a learning year.
And it looks like his young Green Hornets are ready to graduate.
Wellsboro starts five freshmen and has no seniors, but is still playing and travels to Troy today for a District 4 Class AA quarterfinal. That this team filled with so many playoff rookies is a game away from reaching the semifinals shows how far it has come and how much it has grown.
Just two days ago, the Hornets appeared finished, trailing South Williamsport by three runs with two outs in the seventh inning. Instead, three consecutive hitters reached base and Wellsboro won 6-5 when freshman Peyton Wilson belted a walk-off, three-run double.
"We talked about the maturity aspect earlier in the year. Playing a lot of travel ball helped, but it's a little different getting into high school," Carr said. "We talked about growing up a little sooner than they normally might have to, being that young and playing on a larger scale than on JVs. They're coming along nicely."
Five freshmen and two sophomores start, but Wellsboro still finished within a game of capturing the NTL-West championship. Ironically, it was Troy who edged out the Hornets and Wellsboro now has a shot to exact a measure of revenge.
It is how Wellsboro reached today's game, that shows how this team has grown and what it might do in the future. The Hornets showed their youth at times and made four errors, but they also displayed tremendous poise by shaking those mistakes off and remaining confident they would win. Wellsboro trailed 5-1 in the sixth inning, but scored five times in the last two innings while delivering five clutch hits.
And when the pressure was highest with the season's end one out away, Wellsboro played its best. Jordan Butters singled, Baylea Leaman walked and Paige Carr hit a RBI single that made it 5-3 and put the winning runners on base. One pitch later, Wilson brought them all in, ripping a liner nearly straight down the left-field line.
"It was what happened to us up at Athens," Wilson said. "It was the same weather conditions and that game I hit well and with two outs we scored so many runs in one inning so I just kind of thought of that."
Wellsboro had lost 7-2 to South Williamsport during the regular season but has come a long way since, beating perennial district title contender Towanda, 3-2 while also beating Troy, 3-1 the first time they met. Brooke Kohler won both those games, allowing only 10 hits. The sophomore fought through some early shakiness Tuesday and pitched a good game, allowing only two earned runs and giving her team a chance to make a comeback.
Kohler improved to 5-1 and is one of two talented young pitchers. Sopho-more Maggie Smith is the other and she leads the team in wins.
"Brooke has done a really remarkable job for us this year. She's not that big, but she has a big heart," Carr said. "She's an absolute gamer."
Carr has a lot of those. Although this team is young it has played together for a long time and won a lot of games at different levels. It has come from behind many times as well, including earlier this season when it scored several runs late to beat Canton, 10-9 in extra innings.
This team might be young and new to the high school game, but it knows how to win and it expects to win no matter the situation.
"We've definitely had to grow up a little bit," said catcher Paige Carr, who had a RBI two-out single in the seventh inning and then scored the winning run. "It's been tough, but we've pulled through."
Wellsboro has more talented freshmen coming up next year so the future appears bright and this looks like a team that will be a contender for a while. But the Hornets are a contender now and they are thinking their future is now. Two years ago the Wellsboro baseball team made a stunning run to the district final and now the girls feel like the same thing is possible.
Judging by the way they rallied for Tuesday's improbable win, it is hard to argue with them.
"It's been a learning year for them and I think they have grown up pretty well," Greg Carr said. "We've played some pretty good teams and they have reacted pretty well."