BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – It is one of the most difficult challenges facing student-athletes. It’s kind of like flipping an emotional switch, leaving off-field stuff behind to take care of your between-the-lines business.
Yesterday, the Palmyra softball team successfully accomplished that monumental task.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Cougars downed Susquehanna Township 8-2, despite the absence of head coach Kathy Wicker. Palmyra scored all of its runs during a 12-batter, bottom-of-the-second inning rally and rolled behind Wicker’s daughter, senior right-handed hurler Cat Wicker.
Wicker’s place on the Cougar bench and in the third-base coaching box was taken by Stacey Foust, an athletic trainer with a military background, but little formal coaching experience. Attempts to reach Wicker about the reasons for her absence were unsuccessful.
Palmyra school district officials declined to comment on the situation, as well. Apparently it was Wicker’s absence that led to the postponement of the Cougars’ contest at Lower Dauphin on Monday.
In the past, the emotional Wicker has experienced difficulties dealing with the media in post-game situations. After a Palmyra loss to Mechanicsburg last spring, Wicker told Lebanon Sports Buzz: “We lost. We didn’t play to our potential. It didn’t seem like their (her players’) heads were in the game. They (the Wildcats) played well.”
For her part, Foust did not seem at liberty to speak about the situation. But she did say she would be coaching on Thursday, when Palmyra is slated to play host to Harrisburg.
After the game, a parents’ meeting was conducted in the bleachers along the first-base side of the field.
“No comment,” said Foust when asked for the details surrounding how she became the interim head coach. “I’ll be here tomorrow. We’ll be here, same time — hopefully with the same result. It was good to see the girls battle through.
“I don’t think too long (that it will take for her and the Cougar players to become acclimated to one another),” added Foust. “I’m accustomed to working with youth. You’ve got the normal small adjustments. But the girls have been great.”
Under Wicker, the Cougars had qualified for the District Three Class AAA playoffs in each of the past two springs. But during the off-season, Palmyra moved up to Class AAAA.
Yesterday’s result made Palmyra 4-3 overall and 4-2 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. Susquehanna Township slipped to 3-5 on the year and 3-5 in the circuit.
“We’re 4-3 and have Harrisburg tomorrow,” said Foust. “I think the team is just going to strengthen. I think every game I see improvement. I think we’re just building.
“We would like to make districts,” Foust continued. “We’d like to be competitive in our conference. To do that, we just need growth in our batting, and quicker adjustments. Just continue to stay focused in games and minimize errors.”
The Cougars weren’t able to generate a whole bunch offensively. But when they did, boy did they.
Palmyra managed just Kayla Bonawitz’s first-inning single outside of its eight-run second inning. The rally, which came with the score tied at zero, consisted of six hits, a walk and four Indian errors.
Bonawitz, Kaley Werkhiser and Wicker all came through with two-out, RBI hits for the Cougars. But before they did, Rebecca Randall and Faith Coburn had delivered run-producing hits for Palmyra.
“We strung hits together,” said Foust of the rally. “We got some errors to help. It was people putting the ball in play. We were aggressive. You put the ball in play and make them (the Indians) do the work.
“I was glad they (her players) pulled together,” Foust continued. “I was glad to see the hustle. Our errors were down. Catherine pitched an awesome game.”
Wicker did not retire Susquehanna Township in order in any of its seven at-bats. But she did whiff three, walk six and surrender four hits. Behind her, the Cougar fielders committed two errors.
The Indians did get to Wicker for two runs in the top of the third inning. But she escaped further damage courtesy of a nifty 1-2-5 double play from her defense.
“She hit her corners,” said Foust of Wicker. “She mixed pitches up. She stayed on top of the count. That’s her keys. And the team was behind her. She’s been strong since Day One. She’s looking good.
“This year we’ve had instances where we’ve had one bad inning, and not been able to recover,” Foust continued. “Today it was just the opposite. The girls were on top of it.”
2015 Palmyra Results
|4:15 PM||W 7-0|
|4:15 PM||L 2-19|
|4:15 PM||L 11-12|
|4:15 PM||W 14-0|
|4:15 PM||W 12-5|
|12:00 PM||L 8-10|
|4:15 PM||W 8-2|