A tremendous softball player began her development performing the simplest task.
Tracing how Loyalsock's Amanda Daneker has become one of the district's all-time great catchers goes back to her backyard. It was there that she first started playing catch with her older brother and former major league pitcher Pat Daneker. Amanda was only three but she already was hooked.
Over the next few years she followed Pat when he played or tagged along with her father Reese when he was coaching baseball at Montoursville. Call it good genes or osmosis, but Daneker absorbed everything she saw and looked like a natural as soon as she began playing softball.
"Going with my dad and those teams play or watching my brother play was one of my favorite things," Daneker said. "I just kind of picked up on it."
She has not let go since. Daneker has become a phenomenal catcher and is working toward earning a third straight all-state selection while helping Loyalsock start 8-1. Next season Daneker will continue playing softball at Coastal Carolina, a budding force down South that captured last year's Big South championship and that is coached by Kelley Green who led Lock Haven to the 2006 and 2009 Division II national championships.
It is rare that a District 4 softball player earns a scholarship to a major Division I softball school but Daneker is a rare player. She possesses a remarkable arm, almost never lets a ball get past her and also is one of the district's most feared hitters. In a district that has long featured outstanding catchers, Daneker has stood out.
And Coastal Carolina noticed.
"I'm very excited. It's a great feeling to go down there and accomplish one of my goals which was to go Division I and to go to a school like that is a Godsend," Daneker said. "I pretty much knew that was the school I wanted to go to. I loved it."
Loyalsock loves that it has Daneker for the remainder of this season. The four-year starter has never missed a game and seems to get better every season. Last year she did not let any runners steal and she has been just as dominant this season while also hitting over. 500, hitting three home runs and leading the team in RBIs.
Daneker hits, plays defense and runs. She also is a team leader and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the game. She calls all the pitches and acts as a calming influence, especially for the team's pitchers. Freshman Kayla Gee is flourishing in the rugged HAC-II and stifled 2012 Class AA state finalist Warrior Run in Tuesday's 5-2 win. Senior Ashleigh Bair then earned the save, retiring six straight batters after entering in the sixth inning with no outs and the bases loaded.
Each time, Daneker was in the circle, talking to each pitcher and soothing their nerves. She is not on the payroll, but Daneker basically is a coach on the field.
"Amanda is a great catcher and she's worked for everything. I can't say enough good things about her," Bair said. "Having Amanda back there she keeps everyone calm and relaxed, especially the pitchers. She knows what to throw and she calls timeout when we're in jams and talks to the pitcher and calms them down. She keeps everyone focused and calm so it doesn't get out of hand."
That is one reason Loyalsock has yet to allow more than two runs in an inning this season. Daneker's skills and intelligence make her the consummate player. She has the talent, but so do lots of other players.
It is her ferocious work ethic that has carried Daneker so far. She constantly is working on improving and plays all over the country during the offseason, competing in a national tournament in San Diego a few years ago. Earlier this season, rain wiped out practice the day before a game so Daneker led a contingent of Loyalsock players into the school at 6:30 a.m. and they caught up on batting practice.
Later that day, Loyalsock homered twice in a 6-0 win over Montoursville.
"Amanda is not only a great player, but also a great person. She has great character," Loyalsock coach Tom O'Malley said. "I've seen a lot of people and their work ethics and I will put hers against anybody. It's unbelievable how hard she works."
That is high praise considering O'Malley played in the major leagues and also was a Japanese Baseball regular-season, all-star and World Series MVP. It also is the truth and no matter what she has achieved in the past, Daneker always is working to get better. Greatness is not given, it is earned through hard work and Daneker constantly is willing to pay that price.
She watched her brother Pat pay that price and dreamed of achieving similar success. Now Daneker is living the dream.
"Amanda wants to get better too. It's not about being complacent. She wants to get better every day and improve every day and that's an unbelievable trait she has," O'Malley said. "She rubs off on everybody else on this team. She is a great leader and a great player but when the other girls she how hard she works they just want to follow in her footsteps."
When she first picked up a ball, Daneker dreamed of being the next Pat Daneker. Because of all the effort Amanda has put into her sport, many young Loyalsock players now dream of being just like her.
SURGING BULLDOGS: Jersey Shore has turned its season around in a big way, winning its last four games. The Bulldogs (5-3) have scored 38 runs and delivered 46 hits in those games. The most impressive came last Thursday when Jersey Shore pounded previously HAC-I unbeaten Mifflinburg, 13-3.
Different players are coming through with big hits at key times and the Bulldogs have together since dropping a one-run heartbreaker to Milton two weeks ago. Jessica Willits played her first varsity game against Mifflinburg and went 3-for-5, highlighting the team's depth and balance. Beating Mifflinburg and scoring 10 runs against Milton shows that Jersey Shore is as much a District 4 title contender as in recent years.
The pitching has come along as well. Rebecca Caputo is flourishing and is 5-0. She has allowed six hits or fewer in four of her five starts.
EXTRA BASES: South Williamsport pitcher Anna Steer has done a nice job while throwing in the rugged HAC-II. The freshman threw a 3-hitter in Saturday's 6-2 win over Montoursville, allowing no earned runs. Roxie Keller delivered two hits in the win while replacing injured left fielder Jourdan Boehmer ... Hughesville freshman Elle Watts looks like she is going to be a good player the next four years. She went 2-for-4 in a 4-1 win over Lewisburg, her third straight multi-hit performance at that time. Cindie Wilt threw a 1-hitter in that victory ... Muncy pitcher Amanda Kustanbauter is 8-1 and has thrown six shutouts. The junior came on strong last year and worked hard in the offseason and that is paying off. She has yet to allow an earned run in any of Muncy's wins and the Indians are in first place in the HAC-III as they seek their first championship since 2009 ... Montgomery pitcher Emily Shnyder has come up big for her team this season. She has two no-hitters in her last three games and went 3-for-4 against Muncy last Thursday.
RECORDS THROUGH SATURDAY
1. Loyalsock (8-1): The Lancers made a major statement last Tuesday, beating Warrior Run 5-2 and handing the 2012 state finalist its first loss. Loyalsock followed that up with a 10-1 win and was up 6-1 on Jersey Shore last Friday before rain suspended the game in the second inning. The Lancers are hitting up and down the lineup and Kayla Gee keeps gaining confidence every time she pitches. The freshman is 5-1 and allowed just three hits against Warrior Run. Fellow freshman Kendall Watkins is locked in and went 3-for-4 with two RBIs against Hughesville before homering for the third time five games against Jersey Shore. Call this rivalry week for the Lancers who travel to South Williamsport Tuesday and Williamsport Friday.
2. Warrior Run (9-1): Losing to Loyalsock dropped Warrior Run into a three-way tie for first in the HAC-II with the Lancers and Central Columbia. The Defenders can break part of that tie today when they go to Central. Warrior Run won the first game 13-8 and Central has been hitting as well as anyone in the district since that game. Katy Swartz is having a nice season and doubled and tripled in Thursday's 15-0 win over Lewisburg.
3. Williamsport (5-2): The Millionaires play three times at this weekend's Williamsport Tournament as their challenging schedule continues. Bald Eagle Area beat Williamsport 1-0 last Wednesday on a two-out walk-off single. It was the second time Williamsport lost on a walk-off hit but these are the games that, win or lose, should help it as it pursues a third straight District 2-4 Class AAAA championship. Pitcher Alexis Bower has not allowed more than two runs in a game and has struck out 83 in 50 2/3 innings. If the Millionaires can consistently generate offense behind Bower they can beat anybody.
4. Milton (6-1): The Black Panthers lead the district in runs and hits per game, averaging 10 and 12, respectively. Milton suffered its only loss last week, losing 7-6 to Mifflinburg but bounced back with 20 hits in a 16-6 win over Shamokin. Mackenna Miller went 4-for-5 in that win and has at least one extra-base hit in all seven Milton games.
5. Wellsboro (5-1): The Green Hornets are struggling offensively, but it has not mattered because its pitching and defense have been so strong. Wellsboro has allowed just one run during a four-game winning streak and Alexa Singer and Brooke Kohler combined on a 4-hit shutout in Saturday's 1-0 win over Towanda. Maggie Smith also is throwing well and struck out nine in a 4-1 win over Williamson. Wellsboro has seven freshmen and sophomores in its starting lineup and both are delivering. Freshman Darci Warriner belted a walk-off double against Towanda, scoring sophomore Peyton Wilson.
Player of the week
Averie Lorson, Jersey Shore: Lorson has been at the heart of Jersey Shore's offensive resurgence and had a big week, going 6-8 in wins over Danville and Mifflinburg. Lorson delivered four hits against Mifflinburg and added two RBIs as Jersey Shore scored 12 runs in its final two at-bats.
Game of the week
Loyalsock at Williamsport: This backyard rivalry game Friday highlights the opening night of the 8-team Williamsport Tournament at Elm Park. Williamsport won two close games against Loyalsock last year and this features an intriguing matchup between Williamsport ace Alexis Bower and a powerful offense. The winner gets bragging rights since this is the only time they will play this season.