DISTRICT 2 SOFTBALL: Knott leads Abington Heights into Class 5A final

Earlier this month, the Abington Heights softball team lost back-to-back one-run games to Valley View and Wallenpaupack.

Coach John Kelly knew something needed to be done before the Lady Comets’ season spiraled in the wrong direction. So he had his senior captains Riley Knott and Lindsey Tasker hold a players-only meeting to hash things out.

Abington Heights has not lost since. It rides a six-game winning streak into the District 2-4 Class 5A Subregional final against Pittston Area on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Wilkes University.

“Not that we didn’t lose to excellent teams — Valley View is excellent, Wallenpaupack is excellent,” Kelly said. “But there was just something off with us. We couldn’t put our finger on what was going on. So we had them all just sit down and ever since they had that team meeting, they’ve been like a different team.”

Communicating better was a big theme during the meeting, according to Knott.

“We just talked about the team in general and what we need to do to win games and get things going for our season,” Knott said. “Communication is a huge key. We weren’t communicating very well. We needed to cheer as a team and communicate all together, not just individually.”

It is not surprising that Knott is leading the way. A four-year starter at catcher, Kelly called her a coach on the field.

She is batting .449 (31 for 69), ranks second on the team with three home runs and is tied for first with 27 RBIs. She also ranks first in quality at-bats at 72.97 percent and had 10 two-out hits that drove in runs.

“She’s having a great senior season,” Kelly said. “She’s had four or five game-winning hits for us this year and with two outs she has been outstanding.

“Defensively, she’s involved with every pitch. She tells people where to go with the cuts. She sees the field in front of her and is a vocal senior leader.”

Knott gives credit to her batterymate, junior Lauren Stalica.

“Lauren’s a great pitcher, she makes it easier,” Knott said.

After graduation, Knott plans to continue her career at Marywood University, but she’s not ready for that just yet. She and her teammates will try to continue their season and repeat as district champions.

This is the third straight year Abington Heights and Pittston Area are meeting in the playoffs. The Lady Patriots won in the semifinals in 2022, 5-3, while the Lady Comets won in last year’s final, 2-1.

Pittston Area is led by two-time Class 5A Pitcher of the Year Gianna Adams, who is 16-1 with a 0.34 ERA and 229 strikeouts.

“Pittston is a great team, so we have to make sure everyone is focused,” Knott said. “We’ve been practicing a lot, especially speed-wise because she’s a great pitcher. So we’ve been practicing a lot with some of the pitches we think we’re going to see against her.”

Added Kelly: “Adams is a really good pitcher. She moves the ball around. She doesn’t throw you anything down the middle of the plate. You have to be patient and when she does throw a strike, you have to be ready to hit it.

“But you in 17 games, you have other players on the team. They hit the ball well, put the ball in play. Defensively, they’re good. This is the third year in a row we’ve played them, so we know each other well. They’ve got Adams on the mound and we’ve got Stalica on the mound. You’ve got two really good pitchers.”

The Abington Heights-Pittston Area final is the first game of a championship doubleheader at Wilkes. The second game at 6 p.m. is the Class 6A subregional final between Hazleton Area and Williamsport.

Marywood University is also hosting a championship twinbill Tuesday. In the first game at 2 p.m., Elk Lake and Holy Cross meet in the Class 2A final. Then at 4:30 p.m. it’s the Class 1A subregional final between District 2 champ Old Forge and District 3 champ Halifax.

On Wednesday, the University of Scranton’s Magis Field hosts a doubleheader. At 2:30 p.m., Mid Valley and Holy Redeemer meet in the Class 3A final. At 5:30 p.m., Valley View takes on Tunkhannock in the Class 4A final.