HS SOFTBALL: West's Noll driven to succeed
May 21—SCRANTON — The key to success for West Scranton senior Amelia Noll lies within.
But what drives her is the memories of the past two seasons, each ending with West Scranton losing to the team that went on to win the state championship.
Two years ago, the Invaders lost to Lampeter-Strasburg, 3-0, in the state semifinals. Last season, it was a painful 1-0 loss to Pittston Area in the District 2 final, a springboard win as the Lady Patriots went on to win the Class 5A crown.
As West's core of four seniors prepares for one final run, starting with Monday's District 2 quarterfinal against Crestwood there's one thing — well, two, actually — she can't get out of her head.
"I think that we just studied them and learned from our mistakes and just keep going," Noll said of those losses. "I think that we're very prepared. Practice hard every day.
"And obviously, you know, stay humble and everything and just keep working. The girls, I'm gonna miss them, obviously, but I think we're gonna have a good chance."
Noll's not the only one who looks back and wonders what if.
"I do have a lot of sleepless nights," West coach E.J. Dougher said. "I go back to it, I dream about that Pittston Area game all the time. My assistant coach Robbie Butka and I will sit around and say, 'What could have been?'
"But we're not going to take anyone lightly. We're going to take one game at a time, and whoever we play on Monday, we're going to be ready to go."
Noll will try to continue doing what she's been effective at all season long. That's drive in runs. In bunches. The senior shortstop has a Division I-best 35 RBIs and an .883 slugging percentage, and has a career-best .500 average in 60 at-bats.
Teammate Mia Butka, whose .477 average is second on the team, has figured out the key to the cleanup hitter's success.
"She doesn't think, she just goes up," said Butka, the all-state pitcher who leads the Invaders with five homers. "She clears her mind and she tries to do whatever she can with the ball.
"She doesn't try to hit a home run. She just does whatever is best for the team. If she's told to bunt, she bunts, and if not, she tries to hit the ball as hard as she can."
She's pretty good at sending lasers into the outfield, her nine doubles and 15 extra base hits leading the squad, but that's not her point of focus. It's a result of the work.
"I think that I put the time in and the coaches obviously helped me," Noll said. Just going into practice every day and you know, just working hard really helps."
After a perplexing sophomore year saw her hit just .217, everything changed.
"She really thought that this was going to end up being easy for her," Dougher said. "And offensively, she didn't have the (sophomore) year that she expected. "She quit basketball and dedicated her life to softball, and I mean her life.
"A lot of kids say they play 12 months a year. Amelia Noll plays 12 months a year."
The result, with leadoff hitter Isabella Summa (.474), Butka and fellow senior Mia Keenan's 19 hits, has been plenty of opportunities, which Noll seldom wastes.
"It helps us so much, especially her being in the fourth spot," Butka said. "Relying on me, Bella and Maya to get on base, and we have confidence in her that she'll get a hit no matter what, or get on base anyway she can."
Mostly, that's been via base hits that seldom sneak past infielders or drop softly in the outfield.
Dougher calls her an RBI machine.
"You love to see her up there," Dougher said. "When the table is set, she puts it puts the ball in play and puts it on the line."
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