Greencastle-Antrim athletes give back to young softball players

JOYCE F. NOWELL, Echo Pilot
Greencastle-Antrim High School senior Liz Ward instructs Calleigh Hull, 9, Saturday during G-A Fastpitch opening day at the Shady Grove Ruritan grounds. For more photos of the action, turn to Page C-4.

One might think that most high school girls would not prefer getting up early on a Saturday morning to be with kids half their age. Not so for the Greencastle-Antrim High School varsity softball team, who operated a clinic for the G-A Fastpitch youth softball organization on its opening day.

“It’s giving back to the community and I love working with the girls,” said senior Liz Ward, while setting up a throwing station on the grounds of the Shady Grove Ruritan Saturday.  

The younger teams of G-A Fastpitch play their home games at the Shady Grove complex. The older ones play at Antrim Township Community Park. The recreational fastpitch softball organization offers only fastpitch and plays within the Chambersburg Suburban League.

Formerly GALS, the organization has rebranded in 2016. In addition to the name change, the team colors follow the blue and gold theme of the local high school. What better way to celebrate the new beginning than to have some high school players join the mix on opening day.

“I’m excited about the clinic,” said board president Allison Appenzellar. “I’ so glad the high school was willing to come and do the clinic. I think it will boost the confidence in our players.

“They are excited. They look up to the older girls.”

Reaching for the stars

Ward, who after graduation in June will begin studies toward being a pediatrician and play softball at Penn State Altoona, knows the feeling.

“They are sweet and I remember looking up to high school players when I was their age,” she related.

Fellow senior Jessica Root agreed and recalls a close connection to those who have gone before.

“I remember being in their shoes and watching my sister (Kris) and girls like Sarah (Signore) and Emily (Wissinger). They were great role models. Just watching them play drove me more in my softball career.”

While Root will be off to college at Baylor University in the fall to study medicine, she hopes she has made an impression on the younger members of her community with the sport.

“Watching them learn to love the game, watching them grow is great,” she said.

“It’s amazing to see how they can go from being so young and watching them progress and get better and better. I voluntarily came out today. We all love helping the girls out. It’s an honor for us.”

Nine-year-old Calleigh Hull was all smiles during the workout.

“I think it’s pretty fun to do it with them (the high school players),” she said.

“We get to learn a lot more.”

Giving back

Head coach Mark DeCarli jumped at the chance to have his players mix with the younger girls.

“I’m very proud of them because they’re giving back to the community,” the Blue Devil skipper said. “They want to help develop these young girls because they are their role models. These girls look up to them. They were in the same situation when they were smaller.

“I think my girls are doing a very good job. I’m really proud of them.”

DeCarli said his players appreciate being part of the clinic.

“They can give them words of wisdom, tell them what they had to do when they were  coming up to prepare to get to the level they are now. They can show them the skills that they need to have to get to the next level,” DeCarli remarked.

“Some played in this league and to see it has grown to what they have now is impressive. They’ve done a very good job with it. It’s very nice to see where they’ve come. We are very honored to be here. I’m glad they reached out to us.”

DeCarli recalled the days when slowpitch was the norm for girls in the community.

“It’s come a long way. Fast pitch has taken over. It’s the thing to do now,” he said.

“We stand behind it and we want to see it keep growing and growing. This is a step they have to take. Basically this is the feeder program for our high school and they do a very good job. It’s great that people care and they want to get girls ready for the high school.”

Playing the game

The younger G-A Fastpitch teams will begin their season this week and the older ones in mid-May. In addition to the clinic, Saturday’s activities included a league photo, league photo with the high school players, team and individual photos, announcement of all the players, an air brush equipment station and a concession stand.

Allenzellar added, “I’m very proud of all the girls. I am excited for the season and I think they are. They’ve been practicing since mid-March so they’re ready to start.”

The Blue Devils have already reached the midway point of their divisional season.

DeCarli related, “We started slow and then went on a three game win streak against some very good teams. Thursday (20-5 loss to Big Spring) we took a step back. Two years ago Big Spring did that to us and then we ran off 14 games in a row. So I’m not too worried about it. We’ll be fine. What they do with the adversity is up to them right now.

“They are ready to get back into it against Boiling Springs Tuesday. Thursday will be a huge division game against Waynesboro. That will be our Pink Out. We’re honoring Weston, the boy who battled cancer. His brothers and mom and dad will be there to throw out the first pitch. We’re hoping everyone will come out and support that cause.”

Young Calleigh Hull has never been to a high school game.

She said, “I’ve never seen them play, but one time I really hope I could see them play.”

Calleigh will soon enough. After singing the National Anthem Saturday, she was asked to repeat the performance Thursday for the Pink Out game.