Lewistown’s Eckley honored by District 6

STATE COLLEGE – When Kim Eckley played scholastic softball, she had a fastball, a changeup and a father who helped her practice in the back yard.

Since that time, she’s gained the memories of pitching for both Lewistown Area High School and Lock Haven University, 22 years of coaching between Lewistown and Indian Valley and championships as a player in both ASA fast-pitch and slow-pitch leagues.

She’s had decades of softball experience, and earned her laurels in that time, but today Eckley will receive a new honor with her induction into the District 6 Softball Hall of Fame.

With her induction, Eckley joins a group of notable names in the local softball community. In 2012, Jaynee Carolus earned her spot in the Hall for her years of coaching at Chief Logan and Indian Valley, while in 2013 former players Angela Rocco (Lewistown) and Mandy Wilson (Indian Valley) were inducted.

For Eckley, the honor of joining these women did not go unnoticed.

“It is an honor, especially since Jaynee Carolus was selected (two years ago). She was kind of like a mentor,” Eckley said, explaining that Carolus helped her learn the importance of making coaching about more than wins and losses.

“Your goal as a coach is to try to teach (the athletes) life lessons for them to carry on when they get older,” Eckley said, also giving credit to Sharon Jones, who was Eckley’s coach in high school, and with whom she coached after graduating from Lock Haven in 1981.

Eckley coached the Lewistown and Indian Valley JV teams from 1982-88 and 1995-2004 respectively, and from 2005-09 was the varsity coach at Lewistown. Her varsity coaching record was 42-58.

She said that building team camaraderie and skills were some of her favorite memories from coaching JVs, and that more recently she has enjoyed competing with some of her former players in local slow-pitch action.

“We didn’t set the world on fire. We made it to districts and we met our team goals, but the overall coaching record doesn’t tell the whole story,” she said. “I guess the greatest memory is keeping in touch with those girls and seeing what they’re doing later in life.”

Eckley currently plays slow-pitch softball at Kish Park, but said she also played ASA fast-pitch in the summer until she was at least 30 – during which time her team won a Class B national championship – and she also was on a state championship slow-pitch team out of Wilkes-Barre.

Before playing softball as an adult, Eckley had plenty of success in high school and college.

A member of the inaugural softball team at Lewistown, Eckley started every game but one in her four years as a Panther, and in that time boasted a 49-17 record, along with a Tri-Valley League MVP selection her senior year. Strong all four years, statistically Eckley’s most notable year was as a junior, when she threw two no-hitters, four shutouts, struck out 161 batters and boasted a .519 average of her own at the plate.

Eckley did not have as many statistics for her years at Lock Haven as she did for high school – the college maintained very little from that era – but she had 6-3 and 5-4 records in her junior and senior years, respectively, and saw the team become PSAC runners-up those same two years.

Since Eckley played scholastic softball much has changed. The number of youth teams in Mifflin County alone is likely an indicator of this change, but she mentioned specifically that the amount of training girls can receive today, along with the earlier age at which they can obtain that training, are two of the larger changes she has noticed.

“It’s a major change for the good,” she said. “It’s amazing what the girls can do at a younger age. I didn’t have any training or any pitching training, it was just my dad and me out in the yard.”

Today, some of the beneficiaries of this early training have been selected for one final game of high school competition. Recent Mifflin County graduates Kale Hunter, Shelby Lyter and Tara Kibe are eligible for the PSBCA Hall of Fame game, which will be played at Beard Field in State College where the Hall of Fame inductions will also take place.

Allessa Morrison and Hannah Ruby were also selected for the district all-star team.