What began as something of an experiment has blossomed into an unqualified success story on the local diamond scene.
The H&H?Heat 12U travel softball team started off as a mix of players from Hawley and Honesdale...none of whom really knew one another at all.
Now, under the direction of coaches Lorie Schmalzle and Jeff Lesek, the girls are dedicated teammates and best of friends.
“The transformation has been amazing,” Coach Lesek told The News Eagle. “With that old Honesdale/ Hawley rivalry, it was kind of tough in the beginning. Now, the girls are incredibly close. As a parent and coach, it’s been a lot of fun to watch happen.”
That new camaraderie is having positive effects on the field as well as off. Just this past weekend, the Heat traveled to New Palz (NY) and turned in yet another stellar effort at an invitational tournament.
The local lasses reeled off three straight wins in pool play, then advanced to the finals with a huge victory in the semifinals. Unfortunately, the Heat simply ran out of steam in the title tilt.
“We played really well the entire time,”?said Coach Lesek. “We’re still a young team, but we pitch well and play very good defense.”
Next on the agenda for the Heat is a berth in this coming weekend’s “End of Summer Showdown.”?That tourney is being hosted by the Valley Regionals Warriors, based in Drums.
Local diamond fans didn’t have to wait long for the individual highlight of the New Palz Tournament.
On Saturday, Jami Lesek went to the circle and proceeded to pitch a perfect game. The talented young twirler struck out seven in four innings as H&H hammered out an 11-0 Mercy Rule victory over the Beac-on Extreme.
“I didn’t have any idea it was a perfect game,” Jami said. “I?just went out there and pitched like I?always do. The coaches got us all together afterward and told us. I couldn’t believe it.”
Lesek is entering the 7th grade this fall at Honesdale. She has several effective pitches, but relies mostly on a nasty riseball, fastball and straight change.
To the Title Tilt
Jami’s masterpiece sparked H&H?on a run that led directly to the championship game.
The Heat followed up its win over Beacon with two more pool play victories.
Olivia Gregory pitched her team to a 10-2 win over the ND Fusion. Lesek then went back to the circle for another complete game decision, this one over the host New Palz Storm 9-2.
The next day, Gregory returned to the hill as H&H eliminated the Fusion by a score of 9-6. This win sealed the deal on a berth in the championship game.
Page 2 of 2 - The Heat took on the Organge City Cyclones in a rollercoaster ride that lasted all seven innings. Sadly for local fans, when the dust finally cleared, H&H has suffered a heartbreaking 12-9 loss.
Lesek did all she could in a losing effort, Jami went the distance on the mound and also banged out a pair of key base knocks. Gregory also went 2-for-4 as this potent pitching duo accounted for four of the Heat’s five total hits.
Rachel Tirjan also starred in the final and throughout the tourney. The Heat catcher played a dazzling defensive game and also wreaked havoc at the top of the batting order.
“Rachel is a phenomenal catcher,” said Coach Lesek. “She just seems to get better all the time.”
Alyssa Alexander and Alexa Jones contributed to the H&H?cause as well.
Alexander is a fleet-footed outfielder and Jones shared first base duties with Jenna Schoenagel. All three of these girls chipped in with solid defensive plays and key basehits.
Coach Lesek also handed out rave reviews for Maddie Schmalzle and Alyssa McKean. Schmalzle hits in the two hole and plays Gold Glove second base. McKean anchors the line-up from her clean-up spot and holds down the Hot Corner.
“They’re all great girls,”?said Coach Lesek. “They work hard, but they have a lot of fun, too.”
The Heat will close out the 2012 summer season in mid-August with a slot in the Wyoming Valley Vipers annual tournament.