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Dock Mennonite looks to future after reaching PIAA-3A quarters

One last bolt from Jill Bolton…

Dock’s senior shortstop supplied a two-run home run in Thursday’s state quarterfinal loss to Pine Grove, providing plenty of pop and again leading the way for the Pioneers.

“It was my final softball game and my final high school athletics year,” said Bolton, who will head to Liberty University in the fall to play field hockey. “It’s the end of my softball career but I’m happy the way it ended.”

Bolton went 2-for-2, scored two runs and drove a pair in. With Dock down by 11 in the fourth, Bolton was still her usual self, ripping a single up the middle and later coming around to score.

“She knew that a home run or a single — there was no real difference there. We needed a lot of runs,” Pioneers coach Wayne Benner said. “We’re gonna miss her a lot. We have some big shoes to fill there.”

Bolton and fellow senior Jules Rotelle (first base) graduate for Dock, but left behind are seven starters from this year’s squad.

“With only (Jules and I graduating), they have a lot of potential to come back next year,” Bolton said of the team. “And with McKenzie (Gordon) returning as a great pitcher, I think that’ll be a really big help next year. They’ll fill in where it’s needed but there’s a lot of confidence for next year.”

Quick learner

Hard to believe this was only Gordon’s first year as a varsity starter.

“McKenzie has come so far for us pitching this year,” Benner said of the junior, who transferred in from Spring-Ford, having played junior varsity last season. “I can’t begin to think where we would be if she wasn’t dropped in our laps this season.

“She’s a great kid. She’s learning. It’s tough to pitch in a game like (Thursday’s loss) and know you’re probably just gonna keep pitching. But we talked a little bit each inning, tried to learn from it, and she did really well. I’m really proud of her.”

Gordon was a major catalyst in helping the Pioneers reach the state quarters for the first time since 2012 (2A).

“It was awesome. I didn’t expect it at all,” she said of her season, which included a District 1-3A title. “Definitely the team aspect (is what stood out). I’ve never felt a team this unified before and it was fun to be a part of.

“The more experience, the better. We’ll be more prepared for next year.”

Growing up together

Gordon is typical of this Dock squad, a team low on experience that bonded together in a big way.

“I’m proud of all these kids,” Benner said. “We’ve had years where I had a lot of girls that were travel players, but the team we had on the field (Thursday), there’s one travel player.

“So we’ve been very fortunate to get athletes that we can make into good softball players. It was a great group this year. I was really kind of lost when we started the season because I had so many people leave — graduation or just didn’t come back. And other kids just stepped up.”

Including Rotelle, who came out as a senior. And she was a rock at first base.

“When you have Jill (Bolton) throwing them over there, those balls are coming there with some heat,” Benner smiled. “And (Jules) didn’t have any fear.”

Kate Strickland, a sophomore, was another newbie this year for the Pioneers, and she was dependable in left field and even smacked a grand slam to spark a rally earlier in the season.

“She’s been a treat,” Benner said. “It’s a really fun group of good athletes, girls that had fun together. So I’m really proud of ‘em.”



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