Anyone strolling through Bingham Park on a summer Monday night might do well to keep an eye out for careening softballs coming in from all directions.
From one corner of the park to the other, the cold, metallic sound of bats making their mark mixes with warm cheers and claps coming from the bleachers and dugouts.
It’s Ladies Night and the Wayne County Women’s Softball League has taken up residence in downtown Hawley.
It’s rather hard not to notice something’s going on. The fields are dotted in palate of colored uniforms, sometimes accented with pink shorts or socks with a flashy pattern, but that’s about the limit to any “girlie-ness.”
The players here are talented and competitive.
Most have been playing organized softball since they were kids, and while a bulk of them are in their 20’s and 30’s, seasoned veterans who have been in the league for over 20 years dot the team rosters as well.
On the Diamond
Two teams squaring off this night are Lauerson’s Ladybugs and the Busy Beaver’s Tree Service.
Wearing green and occupying the visitors’ bench, the Ladybugs are up 1-0 in the second inning.
Lakeville’s Melissa Smythe has been with the Ladybugs for four seasons.
“I didn’t play softball growingup.” she says, “When the team was organized a few years ago they were looking for players and they let me play. On a scale of 1-10, I’d say the competiveness is a nine, but we’re all here to have a good time.”
Karley Knapp from Hawley plays shortstop for the yellow shirted Busy Beav-ers. Her take on the game is a bit different.
“I played for Honesdale in high school. This is more relaxed,” she says as she hangs out on the bleachers while her team is up at bat.
Karley has been in the league for three years. When asked what the biggest difference between the adult league and high school she quickly responds, “No workouts!”
Her Mom, Laurie, is pitching for the Beavers. She’s been playing softball for 35 years, most of it in this league.
“I’ll tell you what the biggest change is in the last 20 years, the pitching,” she says. “When I first started, pitches would come in at 40-45, now it’s a lot faster.”
Working the mound for the Ladybugs is Tiffany Hoffman.
She’s called Lakeville home for six years but grew up in central PA playing T-ball, Little League, and High School softball.
“I’ve pitched most of my career,” she states. “It’s a modified fast-pitch league. We can’t throw using a full windmill, but the balls still come at the batters pretty fast. A lot of pitchers throw in the 60mph range.”
Regardless of the speed, plenty of players on both sides often connect. Most however fly-out or get thrown out on a fielder’s choice.
The ladies shine when it comes to defense. An occasional error might yield an extra base for a hitter, but often enough runners are picked off before the reach third or, are outright left stranded on base by the end of the inning.
By the top of the sixth, it’s still 1-0. Knapp and Busy Beavers managed to hold off the Ladybugs for a while, but a series of hard hit balls and some faltering defense allowed Lauerson’s ladies to extend their lead by four runs.
Hoffman’s pitching coupled with some great fielding, (two separate plays involved Ladybugs taking hits to the face) kept the Beavers scoreless through the sixth. They circled the wagons in the seventh and staved off any additional Ladybug runs, trying to mount a rally at the bottom of the inning.
However, they failed to score as runners were thrown out and a line drive ended the game with the Ladybugs claiming the 5-0 shut-out.
As the two teams lined up to shake hands, two things are certain. The ideals of sportsmanship and fun prevail.
The season will continue on. The younger Knapp remarked, “If you lose, you try to get them next time.”