Under first-year Coach Brian Minich...and always-enthusiastic assistant Steve Krushnowski...the Lady Buckhorns are working hard to rebuild a struggling program. Paupack features three freshmen and four sophomores in its starting line-up.
Brian Minich is truly enjoying his rookie season at the helm of Wallenpaupack Area's girls varsity softball team.
It's a good thing, too, because he's currently spending more time with the Lady Buckhorns than with his wife.
“Don’t think I don’t hear about it at home,” Coach Minich told TWI Sports with a laugh. “I think she probably forgets what I look like sometimes. No, but seriously: this is such a great group of girls. We're working hard and having alot of fun trying to get things turned around.”
A Rough Start
Coach Minich sat in the home dugout before Monday's game against West Scranton and surveyed the scene before him. His Lady Bucks are without question the youngest team in the Lackawanna League.
Paupack starts three freshmen and four sophomores...a fact local fans hope pays big dividends down the road.
Heading into Thursday's action, Paupack was still in search of its first regular season win. The Lady Bucks were 0-7, but improving every day.
“I know it sounds a little crazy, but we’re just a couple of plays away from being a .500 team already,” said Coach Minich. “We have some very good athletes on this team. We play pretty good defense and Karisa Daniels is pitching really well. Now all we need to do is start hitting the ball more consistently.”
Paupack has suffered a couple of lopsided losses; but, for the most part the Lady Bucks have been competitive on a consistent basis. Coach Minich's girls dropped a heartbreaking 5-4 decision to Prep and hung tough with both Abington Heights and Scranton.
Ashley Wallace has been at the heart of Paupack's offensive attack so far this spring. A sophomore who started her varsity career at catcher, Wallace has become a mainstay at the Hot Corner. She is the team's most consistent hitter and leads the Lady Bucks in most major statistical categories.
"Ashley can really swing the bat," said Coach Minich. "She's hitting clean-up and that's probably alot to ask from a sophomore. But, she's handled it well. Ashley almost never strikes out and she hits the ball hard."
Wallace illustrated that point this week in a 17-4 loss to West Scranton. In that one, Ashley roped a pair of basehits and drove in two runs. She's currently hitting .350 for the season.
Olivia Hessling is Paupack's lead-off hitter and most versatile middle infielder. Another member of that talented sophomore class, Hessling plays equally well at short and second. She's already a two-year starter and team leader at the top of the batting order.
Hessling went 2-for-4 in Paupack's disappointing loss to Prep, a performance that drew rave reviews from her mentor.
"Olivia got off to a little bit of a slow start, but she's been picking it up lately," said Coach Minich. "She's a pretty tough out. Olivia is an excellent athlete and she runs very well. When we can get her on base consistently, she causes other teams alot of trouble."
Rachel Ensslen is one of Paupack’s true success stories. Coach Minich says he “stole” his starting catcher from the junior high track team, then just sat back and watched her blossom into a superb player.
Ensslen is an RBI threat every time she steps into the batter’s box. She’s also a future all-star backstop.
“I think Rachel could probably play every position on the field,” Coach Minich said. “She’s a natural. Rachel has a great arm and she’s just a wall behind the plate. No one wants to run on her anymore.”
Annie Vega runs the outfield from her spot in center. A lightning-quick sophomore, Vega also swings a potent bat. She’s hitting in the middle of Paupack’s order and already has a homerun to her credit. Annie also drove in a pair of runs against Prep.
“She can cover the outfield from foul line to foul line,” said Coach Minich. “She’s that good. Annie is definitely our defensive leader on the field. She has a great arm and gets a quick jump on the ball. She’s going to be scary-good someday.”
And Don’t Forget...
Molly Silsby, Riley Williams and Carly Gustin are also making key contributions to Paupack’s young program.
Silsby is just a frosh, but already flashes Gold Glove worthy leather at first base. Williams is another freshman who recently cracked the line-up. Riley is a versatile player who sees the majority of her time in the outfield.
Gustin is the daughter of former Honesdale sports stars Chris Detweiler & Dave Gustin. She is a pedigreed player who starts either in the outfield or at DH.
“This whole group has developed a lot faster that either Coach Krushnowski or I thought they would,” said Coach Minich. “We definitely didn’t want to rush them, but they’ve jumped right in and are producing.”