It's no secret that the Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division is tough in softball. In fact, the top three teams - Cumberland Valley, Mifflin County and Central Dauphin - all made it to the PIAA Class AAAA tournament, demonstrating just how competitive the division is.
It's a division full of quality softball players, and Mifflin County certainly was a source of some of that quality, as six different Huskies received an all-star nod to cap off their successful season. The girls were also joined by the baseball team's Isaac Strohecker, who was the only athlete on his squad to receive all-star recognition.
For the girls, seniors Taylor Boyer and Macie Lucas plus junior Shelby Lyter made up the first-team selections, and together the three brought a variety of skills to the field for the Huskies. Outside of the first-team selections, three other Huskies came through with honorable mentions: Brooke Wilson, Tara Kibe and Allessa Morrison.
On the baseball diamond, Strohecker was the sole Husky to make the all-star team. One of only a few players to enter the season with past varsity experience, the junior worked from third base.
"For a junior, he showed leadership. He was a hard worker, he continued to improve throughout the year both offensively and defensively," Mifflin County coach Travis Zook said.
Strohecker began the season near the top of the order, but toward the second half moved to the No. 5 spot, where Zook said he was instrumental in producing runs.
"It was nice because of his batting average. He did a good job of driving other runners in," Zook said, explaining that Strocker was either first or second on the team in terms of batting average.
Boyer, who began the softball season as a pitching option, didn't get as much work from the circle as might have originally been expected, but she brought it at the plate from the cleanup spot to build herself up to being one of the Huskies' most dangerous offensive threats.
Mifflin County coach Jack McCurdy said Boyer always went the extra mile at batting practice by putting in the extra reps, and this paid off in her senior season as at the time of all-star selections she had the team's best batting average.
"That's the kid that you want up to the plate when there are kids on base and it matters," McCurdy said of Boyer's ability to come through in the clutch.
But it wasn't just Boyer who could bat for the Huskies, and Lucas also finished high in team batting average.
Yet in addition to her batting, another notable characteristic of Lucas' game was her overall athleticism. Lucas was a crucial component to the Huskies' defense with her work at third base, and McCurdy described her as strong, quick and versatile at many positions in the infield.
"Macie is a four-year starter, probably athletically the most physically talented athlete on the team," he said.
Rounding out the first-team selections for the Huskies was junior Shelby Lyter, who was responsible for leading the Huskies' pitching staff.
With her assortment of pitches, Lyter was a strikeout artist, including a 10-strikeout game against Chambersburg and an 18-strikeout effort against Cedar Cliff.
"She's definitely going to give you the opportunity to win. If the defense plays solid behind her, she's very good," McCurdy said, further explaining that Lyter is a very coachable, positive player, and has what he thinks is the potential for an outstanding senior season next year if she continues to improve at the rate she has proven herself capable of.
Wilson, who received honorable mention, helped out on defense from right field, but what was most memorable about her throughout the season was her ability to come through with clutch hits. A catalyst in the lineup, Wilson had several key hits, including an extra-innings walk-off against Cumberland Valley in the two teams' second regular-season meeting.
"Brooke doesn't necessarily hit as well as some of the other kids for average, but she just had the way to come up with the big hit when we needed it on occasion," McCurdy said.
"In our senior game against State College she had a home run that jump started our team. And that was right at the end of the season when you want someone to come up and be able to do something like that."
Kibe, a junior, and sophomore catcher Morrison both were the Huskies' other honorable mentions.
Kibe put up a defensive wall from left field that made it hard for the other team to sneak the ball through.
"She's just a very very good outfielder," McCurdy said of his left fielder. "You see her run down balls that you think might drop in for hits. She's quick, she gets a good read and good jump on the ball, and defensively she's just a great outfielder."
And at the plate, although Kibe batted from the No. 9 spot, she had a way of getting on base, essentially restarting the team's order early and giving extra chances for the Huskies to put up runs throughout the lineup.
Morrison also was a key hitter, working from the leadoff spot where she used her speed for stealing bases. But, if she wasn't busy stealing bases while on offense, she was throwing down runners from behind the plate while on defense with her rocket of an arm.
"(Allessa) and Macie are probably two of the most physically talented kids that we have. Her arm is exceptionally strong," McCurdy said, explaining that when the Mid-Penn coaches met to determine the all-star teams, other coaches throughout the league were quick to mention Morrison as a candidate.
"I think the coaches from the other team were the ones that said, 'Wow, your catcher is really something,'" he said.