Six players from Paupack form the nucleus of a dominant 16U travel softball team. Coach Phil Babyak calls the shots for the "Northeast Nightmare," a squad that's already posted a staggering 24-3-1 record this summer.
The Wallenpaupack Area varsity softball team is coming off its second straight Lackawanna League Division One championship.
The Lady Bucks have won 13 regular season games in each of the past two years and boast an eye popping overall record of 26-2. That’s a .929 winning percentage, folks.
That kind of unprecedented success doesn’t come easily...and, it certainly can’t happen without a huge measure of dedication from coaches and players alike.
Even on the hottest summer days, talented Paupackians are out there on the diamond honing their skills and dreaming of a third consecutive team title. Toward that end, a dominant 16U travel team has arisen on the shores of The Big Lake.
Under the direction of manager Phil Babyak, the Northeast Nightmare is making a peaceful night’s sleep nearly impossible for other Division One teams.
“Most of these girls have been playing together since they were in grade school,” Coach Babyak told The News Eagle. “They have a tremendous work ethic and terrific chemistry. They’re a pleasure to work with because they know what it takes to win.”
The Nightmare has been traveling all over the tri-state area and competing in invitational tournaments against some of the East Coast’s truly elite teams.
The highlight of the summer thus far was a first place finish at Pennsylvania’s ASA State Championships. This 3-day event was held in State College over the weekend of July 6-9. It attracted 17 teams from all over the Commonwealth.
The Nightmare won all four of its games on Friday and Saturday, ensuring a spot in the medal round.
“It was pretty intense,” Coach Babyak said. “The competition was really good, but the girls rose to the challenge. They never quit and came back to win some huge games.”
The local lasses reeled off three consecutive wins on Sunday to win the title. The Nightmare put the finishing touches on their championship with an 8-0 victory over the “PA Attitude,” a perennial travel team powerhouse headquartered in York.
A half dozen Lady Buckhorns comprise the core of this year’s Nightmare 2012 roster.
Nicki Mann, Kennedy Thomas, Emily Winkler, Caitlin Donahue, Rae Ann Ehrhardt and Tori Ciszak are all Paupack diamond stars...and each is currently playing a key role for Coach Babyak’s squad.
Mann is one of the best all-round players in the region. Nicki earned a First Team Lackawanna League all-star berth this spring. She anchors the Nightmare infield at shortstop and wreaks havoc from her spot atop the batting order.
“Nicki really makes things happen,” said Coach Babyak. “When she gets on base, anything can happen. She’s very aggressive and exciting to watch. Nicki can go first to third on a bunt or score from second base on an infield out.”
Thomas has developed into one of the area’s most feared power hitters. A slugging sophomore who handles the Nightmare’s catching chores, Thomas terrorized enemy pitchers from the #3 spot.
“Kennedy is an unbelievable hitter,” said Coach Babyak. “She leads the team in extra base hits and RBIs. It seems like every time we need a big hit, Kennedy comes through for us.”
During the course of a tournament in Chester (NY), Thomas exploded for 12 hits, including an eye-popping eight doubles.
Winkler and Donahue are two more Lackawanna League all stars playing pivotal roles in the summer diamond season. Emily bats second in the order and mans the Hot Corner defensively. Caitlin is headed for her senior season at Paupack and is a bona fide Gold Glover at first base.
Ehrhardt will be a junior in the fall and was enjoying a breakout campaign at second base. Sadly for local fans, Rae Ann recently broke her wrist and will be out of commission for 4-6 weeks.
Statistically, Winkler is the Nightmare’s leading hitter to this point in the campaign. Emily is blasting the ball at an impressive .529 clip. She’s also tied for the team lead in runs scored with 43.
As might be expected, Thomas is atop several of the offensive power categories. Kennedy is batting .511 and shares the team lead in hits with 45. She’s hammered out a team-best 12 doubles and driven in an eye-popping 48 runs.
Donahue possesses a keen eye at the plate, as evidenced by her team-high 20 walks. Caitlin sports a .397 batting average and has three triples.
Ehrhardt is batting a robust .487. Mann leads the Nightmare with 95 at-bats and is currently hitting an even .400.
Over & Out
So far this summer, the Nightmare’s overall record in a staggering 24-3-1.
The local lasses opened the season with a 5-1 showing at the Tri State Angels Tournament in Milford. They followed that with a 2-1-1 effort at the Rock Showcase in Chester (NY).
One of the team’s best overall performances of the summer came the weekend of June 22-24 at the Drifton Cup. The Nightmare ran wild over its competition in this one, winning six straight including a 10-5 decision in the title tilt.
Next on the agenda is a trip to Virginia for the ASA Eastern National Tournament. This prestigious event will begin Wednesday, August 1st in Sterling.