PORT BYRON — In the midst of a busy week, Port Byron softball's bats remain quite lively.
The Panthers racked up 13 hits in a 19-1 five-inning win over Cato-Meridian Wednesday in Port Byron. The victory improves Port Byron to 8-1 on the season, while the Blue Devils are still searching for their first win of the year.
In four offensive innings, the Panthers sent at least eight batters to the plate three times. Ava Mills led the way, going 4-for-4 with six RBIs, three runs and a double. Rileigh Gray was another dangerous hitter for Port Byron, going 3-for-4 with five RBIs, two runs and two doubles. Jenna Waite chipped in with three hits, two RBIs and one run, while Nicole Namisniak finished with two hits and two runs.
Port Byron's first through fifth hitters in the lineup combined for 11 hits, 14 runs, 13 RBIs and five walks.
"(Gray and Mills) hit the ball hard," Tehonica said. "They're both juniors, and this is Rileigh's third year starting at third and Ava's fourth year starting. They're both right around .500, .600 hitters every year. They have this drive where they want to be the best they can be out there and it catches on with the rest of the players. They look up to those two girls."
Sadie Strong had the lone hit for Cato-Meridian, while Kaliess Evans scored the Blue Devils' only run after earning a walk and making it to third before scoring on a double-steal attempt. Miranda Dennis worked a pair of walks, and Veronica Cordway and Michayla Giacolone also reached on free passes.
Skyler White pitched all five innings for Port Byron in a one-hitter and struck out six.
Tehonica, who has led the Panthers from the dugout for the last three seasons, said the main reason for his team's success this year has been the unselfishness. In his eyes, no player cares who does well as long as the team is producing.
"This is my 35th year of coaching, and this is the best chemistry I think I've ever had on a team," Tehonica said. "There's not a selfish bone in any of their bodies, and they could care less if it's an eighth-grader or a senior. They all like each other, play hard ball and have grown up with each other. Their parents have done an excellent job with these guys and I'm just here to help."
Port Byron remains undefeated in the OHSL Patriot American conference at 4-0, two wins ahead of Weedsport; the two teams meet in a crucial divisional matchup on Friday.
Looking ahead to sectionals, where the Panthers figure to have a favorable seed in the Class C tournament, Port Byron hopes to continue its all-around play. Tehonica says the key is to not overlook any opposing team.
"I tell them not to look at any team's record," Tehonica said. "Any team can beat anybody on a given day, and that's why you play the game. It's these hungry teams that are the hardest to play against. When you're in first place there's a bullseye on your back. Our defense is coming together and we've got the sticks. We got out every day to win every inning and that's our philosophy."
While Port Byron returns to the field Friday, Cato-Meridian is back in action Saturday on the road at Pulaski.