By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
Before Monday's high school softball game against Troy at Shuttleworth Park, the Lady Rams loudly huddled around Amsterdam head coach Brenden Cetnar like a school of piranhas.
The prize being fought over? Some purple and gold custom-made stickers with a picture of a Ram on it, doled out to the girls for on-field achievements from past games.
"We love'm," senior center fielder Brittany DuRose says of the stickers.
While football teams at all levels have been giving out merit-based helmet decals for years, the trick is a new one for the Lady Rams.
"Before this season, I was trying to figure out ways to motivate some more swings because last year we took way too many pitches," says Cetnar. "I was discussing it with one of the parents and I had thought of using stickers at one point, but then was like, 'Nah, they won't like them.' But one of the parents brought the idea up, too, and then I told the girls about it -- and a bunch of them were jumping up and down about it."
"We were pretty excited about it, honestly," senior shortstop Bayley Archinal says.
"We were like: Stickers?" remembers DuRose, bugging her eyes out. "We were kind of like little kids."
The Lady Rams' system awards base hits, RBIs, home runs, plays in the field and more.
"It's pretty motivating, actually," says Archinal, laughing.
Sometimes, the AHS players' minds might be more on collecting stickers for their batting helmets than on the bigger picture. In Monday's game, catcher Ashley Przybylowicz hit a game-tying home run in the fifth inning, leading to a humorous exchange with her coach.
"She was coming around third base -- she was right at the shortstop -- and she opened up her arms and goes: 'I'm getting some more stickers,'" says Cetnar. "That's what she said before anything else."
Amsterdam's play on the field has improved in recent weeks. After an 0-4 start, the Lady Rams' record is now at 3-6. Cetnar says he bought nearly 400 of the custom-made stickers, so he is hoping the solid play continues.
"I'm hoping we get through them all," he says. "We'll see what happens."
Heading into this season, rookie Mayfield head coach Jamie Hurd knew she had an ace pitcher in senior Anna Husain. What Hurd did not know was the power Husain was set to show off this spring from the batter's box.
"I didn't doubt her, I knew she had it in her," says Hurd. "But I definitely didn't think she'd be where she is right now, this early in the season."
In a groove is where Husain is right now. The senior is hitting .576 this season with three home runs from the leadoff spot in the Lady Panthers' lineup.
"She's crushing the ball," says Hurd. "Absolutely crushing it."
Husain says the increased offensive production comes after a winter's worth of work at hitting clinics.
"That really helped me," she says. "It taught me how to pull the ball better, how to center the ball more, because I used to just ground out all the time. Now, I'm hitting the ball in the middle more -- and that's a lot more fun."
Along with Husain's production at the plate, the left-handed windmiller has maintained her workload in the pitcher's circle. At 8-1 this season, Husain has allowed 24 earned runs in 62 innings of work, while striking out 75 batters against the 18 free passes she has granted.
Husain's overall work has helped elevate the Lady Panthers to first place in the Western Athletic Conference North Division. Along the way, the senior has gotten key help from expected and unexpected sources of help. One of those surprises for Mayfield this season has been the play of Lyndsey Barber, who started the season as an outfielder.
"We had an injury and had to change things around in the infield," says Hurd. "So, she's at first base now and she's been coming through on offense and defense."
In three games this past week, Barber compiled five base hits and three RBIs.
"That's what we needed from her," says Hurd. "I knew she had it in her. She's believing in herself."
Canjo goes nuts
Earlier this week, the Canajoharie Lady Cougars' offense had a day to remember.
Playing against Sharon Springs, Canajoharie scored 27 runs in a shutout victory abbreviated to four-and-a-half innings because of the mercy rule. The Lady Cougars scored 14 runs in the first inning, registered three runs in the second inning, and notched five runs in each of their final two frames. For the game, Canajoharie had 23 hits.
Both Lauren Balfe and Shy Logan compiled perfect 5-for-5 days at the plate. Three of Logan's hits were doubles. The pair each scored twice, while Balfe knocked in five runs and Logan had three RBIs.
Also posting big days for Canajoharie were Taylor Fancher (2-for-3, four runs scored, three RBIs), Morgan Gray (2-for-3, three runs scored, three RBIs), Bri Slater (4-for-6, six RBIs, three runs scored), Brittany Pitonza (2-for-3, four runs scored) and Emma Stortecky (3-for-3, three runs scored).
For the game, the Lady Cougars had a team batting average of .657.
In the shutout portion of the game, Logan tossed three innings and struck out two, while Stortecky pitched two scoreless frames with one strikeout.