The Sun-Gazette coverage area often is one of the state's best kept secrets in terms of sports success stories.
When it comes to high school softball, the secret is getting out.
The rest of the state has learned what those in this area have known for so long - high school softball does not get a whole lot better or deeper than it does in this area. That fact was pounded home Friday as 10 area players earned first-team all-state honors in their respective classifications. Nine more were second teamers and seven more earned honorable mentions, bringing the total number to 26.
The following is a breakdown of the players chosen.
Alexis Bower, P, Williamsport: The only shock here is that Bower, the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year was not a repeat selection as Class AAAA Player of the Year. The St. Francis-bound pitcher had one of the best years in school history. She went 17-3 with a 0.45 ERA while allowing just 45 hits in 138 2/3 innings. Bower also hit .623 with nine home runs and helped carry Williamsport to a third straight Central Penn League title.
Holly Peacock, 3B, Jersey Shore: A four-year starter, Peacock helped usher in the greatest era in Jersey Shore's proud history. The Bloomsburg-bound third baseman was part of three District 4 Class AAA champions and helped this year's young team make a huge turnaround to capture another title. A consummate team player and leader, Peacock hit .388 with two home runs and 16 stolen bases.
Kayla Allen, OF, Jersey Shore: Allen also was instrumental to Jersey Shore's stellar four-year run and did a bit of everything. The center fielder always was one of the district's best, making just two errors in two years, covering ample ground while featuring a strong arm. Allen was an ideal leadoff hitter and had an on-base percentage near .400 while stealing more than 40 bases the last two years without getting caught. The Bulldogs won nearly 70 games in Peacock's and Allen's four years.
Taylor Parker, P, Warrior Run: Easily the best player in Warrior Run history, Parker owns just about every significant program pitching and hitting record. The Defenders were a doormat before Parker came along but became a state power in her four years. She was brilliant in her final season, throwing eight no-hitters while going 20-4 with a 1.07 ERA and 260 strikeouts. She had 19 no-hitters and 899 strikeouts during her remarkable career and led Warrior Run to two straight District 4 championships. Bloomsburg is getting a gem in Parker who hit .575 with 22 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs.
Amanda Daneker, C, Loyalsock: Area fans might go the rest of their lives without seeing a high school catcher as impressive as Daneker who earned her fourth straight all-state selection. That is how good the Coastal Carolina-bound catcher was. Possibly the best player Loyalsock has ever produced, Daneker had an amazing arm and let only one runner steal the last two years. A tremendous leader who acted as a coach on the field, Daneker also was a lethal hitter. While leading Loyalsock to the district final, she hit .600 with five home runs, 11 doubles, three triples, 34 RBIs and 34 runs.
Ashleigh Bair, 2B, Loyalsock: As good a defensive player as there was in District 4, Bair was a pitcher's best friend. The four-year starter consistently saved runs and took away hits by making a series of outstanding plays. Smooth and hard-working, Bair was a rock in the middle of the infield and also hit .319 with 12 RBIs and 24 runs. She was vital to the team winning its first HAC-II championship and did all the little things that add up to something big so well. She will continue her career at Division II power Lock Haven next spring.
Jackie Clemens, 1B, Warrior Run: Another player that was huge in Warrior Run's outstanding four-year run, Clemens earned her second straight first-team selection. A force in the middle of the lineup, Clemens hit .535 with 33 RBIs and finished her career with 112 hits. Clemens was one of several seniors who helped Warrior Run win 73 games the last four years.
Sarah March, C, South Williamsport: A future marine showed she has the right stuff on and off the field, sparking South with her play and her leadership. If not for Daneker, March might have been the district's best catcher. She was a rock behind the plate, throwing out runners consistently, blocking balls and helping freshman Anna Steer make tremendous progress. A force in the lineup, March hit .458 with five home runs, 10 doubles, 20 RBIs and 26 runs.
Kalynn Wheeland, IF, South: Future Mounties hoping to duplicate Wheeland's success the last three years need only watch how hard she works. Always putting in extra time, Wheeland has become a district force. She hit .530 in her junior season while crushing five home runs, six doubles, four triples and driving in 32 runs. The three-year starter hit .704 with runners in scoring position and is a slick fielder, too.
Rachel Floyd, OF, South: Another player who was a big part of South having its best season in five years, Floyd helped anchor arguably the district's best outfield. The talented center fielder covered a lot of ground and also had a strong arm. She was one of three outfielders adept at saving both hits and runs. Floyd also sparked a potent lineup from her leadoff spot. The four-year starter hit .384 with a home run, 26 runs and 21 RBIs.
Williamsport sophomore right fielder Taylor Brooks enjoyed a breakout season and became a weapon with her ability to bunt and slap hit. Brooks hit .324, had a .387 on-base percentage and played good defense against a daunting schedule.
Loyalsock's Allison Czap, Wellsboro's Maggie Smith and Warrior Run's Katy Swartz all made the Class AA second team after career-best seasons. Czap provided valuable protection behind Daneker and hit .343 with 21 RBIs. She hit a game-changing home run off Parker that paved the way for a HAC-II championship clinching win over Warrior Run.
Smith was one of the NTL's best hitters, batting .400 with six home runs and 21 RBIs while compiling an .833 on-base percentage. Swartz came on strong in the 2012 postseason and never stopped hitting in 2013. The senior hit .451 with 32 RBIs as Warrior Run reached 20 wins for a second straight year.
Montgomery's Kaylie Harer and Rachel Hite both made the Class A second team as did Muncy third baseman Caitlin Dauberman. Harer and Hite were a big reason young Montgomery, featuring no seniors, went from 3-7 to reaching districts for a 10th straight year. Harer hit .424 with a .554 on-base percentage was a smooth-fielding shortstop and drove in 18 RBIs from the leadoff spot while Hite hit a team-best .443 with two home runs, 17 RBIs, 21 runs and a .536 on-base percentage.
Dauberman was a rock on a young Muncy team and helped the Indians capture their first HAC-III championship since 2009. She hit .375 with 20 RBIs, 23 runs and 17 stolen bases. Dauberman also played strong defense and helped Muncy win 17 games, its most in a year since that 2009 season.
Honorable mention players in their respective classes included Mikayla Bower, Williamsport; Averie Lorson, Jersey Shore; Rebecca Caputo, Jersey Shore; Sarah Ingerick, Wellsboro; Crystal Good, Muncy, Rachel Danneker, St. John Neumann and Amanda Kustanbauter, Muncy.
Many of the second teamers and honorable mentions are back next year. In terms of star power, 2013 will be tough to beat. Do not be surprised, though, if the list is long again in 2014 as the state continues catching on.
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse