WEST SUNBURY, Pa. – As is often the case when a local team makes a run in the PIAA playoffs, the run becomes more than just about that the team themselves and about the community as a whole.
(Cover photo submitted by Dan Beebe)
That is no different with Moniteau softball’s run to the PIAA Class AA title game, which will be played at 3 p.m. Thursday at Penn State University against defending champion Holy Redeemer out of Wilkes-Barre.
“Moniteau (High School) is the center of our community,” Moniteau athletic director John Stoughton said. “We stick together, and we support each other. You can just tell that. I went to the bank today (Tuesday) and was there for maybe 10 minutes. At least 10 people said congratulations and bring it home. It’s special for everyone. It’s the kids, and it’s their glory, but everyone is living in their glory.”
The community support was evident after the Lady Warriors defeated South Park, 3-0, Monday in the PIAA semifinals at North Allegheny High School.
On the way home from North Allegheny, signs lined the roads leading to the school, and the West Sunbury Volunteer Fire Department gave the team a fire-truck escort to the school where over 100 people greeted the players and coaches as they got off the school bus.
“It’s the kind of stuff you see in movies,” Moniteau manager Dan Beebe said. “It’s kind of hard because we don’t have a city. We don’t even have a stop light in the school district. Coming home Monday we did go through West Sunbury, but don’t blink because it goes by so fast. But what we do have is the school. We had over 100 people waiting for us at the school and to greet us as we got off the bus. Getting a fire-truck escort, like winning trophies, never gets old. When you get one, it means something good is happening. You have to enjoy the moment.”
Stoughton said the community is proud of the players.
“It’s special, that’s for sure,” Stoughton said. “The kids have worked hard. The coaches have worked hard. We’re proud. We’re anxious.”
Beebe said the community support has been overwhelming.
“There has been a lot of support,” Beebe said. “We’re in an area and stage of this run where the school and area have never been in before. This is the first team in school history to make a state-title game. And we are the only team playing. We are the only act going on. All eyes are on us, and we are the talk of the town.”
Beebe said not only is his team getting support from the community but also from other communities and teams.
“A lot of other teams and communities have reached out to us and wished us luck,” Beebe said. “I think we’re going to see the same thing Thursday at Penn State. I think we’re going to see a lot of District 9 people and people from within the KSAC at the game. When Clarion made a run in 2011 (to the Class A title game) I was in the stands to watch and cheer for them, and I saw a lot of KSAC and District 9 representation. I expect to see the same thing Thursday.”
Beebe also believes Moniteau’s run is introducing new people to softball.
“People who have never been to a softball game or have never seen a softball game want to be a part of it,” Beebe said.
Maybe one of Moniteau’s biggest fans is none other than Pitt running back James Conner.
After Beebe shared Conner’s story with his team about Conner’s recent battle with cancer, the team did a “#Connor Strong” team photo and tweeted it to Conner, who tweeted back how appreciative he was off their support. The team has also had the #”Connor Strong” message at their postseason games.
Then Tuesday, Connor tweeted this to Beebe.
@CoachBeebs bring it home Coach! I’m rooting for you guys!!!
— James Conner (@JamesConner_) June 15, 2016
“It’s incredible to have a true warrior like James Conner on your side,” Beebe said. “His story has been an inspiration for our team all season. We hung the #Connorstrong signs for every home game and have now taken them on the road with us for every playoff game. He’s rooting for us and personally, as a Pitt season ticket holder, I’ll be rooting for him this fall. Roll Teau and Hail to Pitt!”