Ford City 18U softball weathering storm, chasing 2nd place
Ford City High School softball coach Bill Richard is happy to see so many of the older local girls playing during the summer, even if the weather isn't helping their cause.
Richard serves as the coach of the Ford City 18U team in the Alle-Kiski ASA League, and his team has a 5-3 record through a rain-soaked June and July that have made playing — or even practicing — a challenge this summer.
The 18U team is made up of nine Ford City players and a pair of players from West Shamokin who have put the team in position to end the regular season in second place if it wins two of its final four games this week.
“The biggest thing is that this keeps the girls playing ball,” Richard said. “The more they play and the more they practice, the better they can get for their seasons next year.”
Richard has his own varsity pitcher, Jess Jubec, and West Shamokin's Steph Schrecengost who he can deploy in the circle along with a pair of catchers from the Sabers program, Lexi Myers and Leah Potts.
West Shamokin's Haley Buckley usually handles third base with Ford City's Blair Willyard, Karlee Smith and Lexi Turek also around the infield.
Outfielders Allison Zellefrow, Maddie Brice and Casey Oresick round out the roster for the 18U team, which navigates work schedules and other committments to play its summer schedule.
“We try to get in practice when we can, but with the rainouts and make-up games, sometimes we only get one practice on the weekend,” Richard said.
“Haley Buckley and Lexi Myers play on travel teams, and we've got girls who work. Sometimes we just have to say whoever can show up, we'll get together and practice.”
The team has turned in some strong performances, especially at the plate.
Monday night in a home doubleheader against first-place Natrona Heights, Ford City handed the visitors their first loss of the year in a 13-10 slugfest before dropping the second game 6-5.
That doubleheader was the team's first game in more than two weeks as rain forced Alle-Kiski ASA to extend the regular season of its 18U and 15U divisions through this Saturday to fit in the postponed games.
“The weather really has put a damper on things, but progression-wise, they're still climbing and getting better,” Richard said.
“We're hitting the heck out of the ball, and with just 11 girls, we get everyone in the game.”
Ford City will try to make up its final four games this week ahead of the playoffs, which are scheduled to begin Monday in the 18U and 15U divisions.
Richard might be one of the busiest coaches in the league. He also leads one of the three Ford City 15U teams.
His team in that division, along with the two teams comprised of West Shamokin girls playing under the Ford City charter, are in the top eight of the 15-team division, which means a long playoff stay could be in the cards for all three.