BUTLER, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Amanda Dailey and Marra Patton are living on the edge, along with the rest of their Butler County Community College softball teammates.
A storm of transfers, injuries and other life events has eroded the roster down to nine from 17.
There is no margin for error. All it will take is one pulled muscle, one rolled ankle, one blown out arm or knee and the promising season is over.
(Pictured above, Moniteau graduate Amanda Dailey, left, and Karns City graduate Marra Patton have emerged as top community college players at a national level. Patton leads the country in batting average and Dailey is second in stolen bases)
“It’s absolutely terrifying, if we’re all being honest,” said Dailey, a BC3 sophomore and Moniteau High School graduate. “It’s pretty scary.”
The Pioneers are trying not to think about that. There’s already an edict among the team, Dailey said, that if you’re not dead, stay on the field no matter what.
That’s because BC3 is 11-3 this season and has some big postseason aspirations in Division III of the National Junior College Athletic Conference.
District 9 products Dailey and Patton are leading the charge.
Patton, a Karns City grad and freshman pitcher/first baseman for the Pioneers, is leading the nation in hitting at .675.
She has a home run, five doubles and 29 RBIs in just 40 at bats this season.
Dailey is second in the country in stolen bases with 34. The shortstop/outfielder is batting .579 with a homer, seven doubles, a triple and 16 RBIs out of the leadoff spot.
“Marra has been very consistent at the plate,” said Pioneers’ softball coach Dan Beebe, who once led the Moniteau softball team to the PIAA championship game. “She’s been huge, in the field, pitching and batting. She was the KSAC MVP last year and she came to us in the fall and has put the time in. She’s lived up to the hype.
“Amanda is a menace at the top of the order,” Beebe said. “Taylor (Schultz), too, at the bottom. They’ve been menaces on the bases. Anyone who’s ever watched my teams know I’ve always been aggressive and had kind of a reckless abandon on the bases. There’s a little strategic element to our base running and those two have really taken off with it. Amanda is always putting the ball in play and if she gets on base, she’s in scoring position. It’s almost an RBI every time.”
Dailey’s strategy is simple.
Get on, no matter what it takes.
Once on base, that is where Dailey feels most at home.
“I like to be out there causing chaos because I like to run and run and run,” Dailey said. “I don’t get tired. I scrape up my legs pretty good, but I do love it. Dan kind of gives me the green light regardless because I’m usually gonna make it. I’m pretty confident in myself with that.”
Patton has been driving her and the other table-setters home for the Pioneers.
Patton came to BC3 with a lot of pressure in tow.
She had a standout senior season at Karns City where she batted .433 with five homers and 26 RBIs. She was also 7-3 in the circle with a 2.86 ERA as the Gremlins won the District 9 championship.
Patton wondered if she could sustain that success at the collegiate level.
“I was really nervous, actually, to come in because I knew college and Karns City, District 9 were not going to be the same,” Patton said. “I knew this was the collegiate level and it was going to be a step up.”
Patton didn’t have a particularly good fall, either, which compounded her doubts.
But when the spring rolled around and she started mashing from the opening game, she felt at ease again.
“I knew I was going to be good,” Patton said. “I just felt comfortable.”
But Patton has even exceeded her own expectations after a hot start to the season.
When she sees her name at the top of the batting leaders in all of the NJCAC, she still does a double-take.
“That is crazy,” Patton said. “I never expected to lead anything. That’s just crazy to me. I thought getting KSAC MVP last year was crazy, but this is crazier than that. It’s a crazy world.”
And Patton has a crazy personality.
She’s in competition with Dailey to see who can be the funniest and most zany on the team.
The two have done a great job keeping the rest of the team loose and unburdened by pressure, especially now with the thinner-than-thin roster size.
“I’m the funniest,” Patton said, smiling.
Dailey shakes her head.
“We’re both funny,” she said. “No pranks, but a lot of jokes. We’re always like that. I’m very loud. I’m loud and comfortable with everyone, so that makes me louder. I just like to have a good time and me and Marra break out our jokes and that makes for some fun practices. Every practice is fun.”
Patton will have one more year in the BC3 uniform before she transfers to Slippery Rock University to finish her physical education degree. She plans on giving softball a try there if she can.
“If the opportunity presents itself, I will absolutely take it,” Patton said. “If I don’t make it at that level, I’ll still play intramurals.”
Dailey graduated from Moniteau in 2019 and enrolled at BC3.
But the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 and 2021 seasons, so Dailey bided her time so she could play two years for the Pioneers in 2022 and 2023.
She plans on moving to South Carolina after graduating with an associates degree this spring.
“I’ve been here for like four years,” Dailey said, chuckling. “I just really wanted to play softball. With the two years of COVID, I wasn’t going to let that keep me from playing.”
For now, Dailey, Patton and the other seven survivors of roster attrition at BC3 still have their sites set on a Region 20 championship and then a trip to the national tournament.
Dailey will be running wild and Patton will be raking all the way there, they say.
“I think 100%, this team can go very far,” Dailey said. “The teams we play are going to get better as we go along and we need to realize that because sometimes we tend to slow up a little bit before we realize we have to pick it up. This team is very, very good. We just have to avoid any injury so we can keep playing.”