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Taking the high road: CHS star won’t let virus bring her down

Senior salute

Mirror file photo Tori Longenecker (right) is greeted after homering last year for the Central softball team.

The Mirror is recognizing some high school senior spring sports athletes who missed out on their final scholastic seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Tori Longenecker has enjoyed an exemplary academic and athletic career at Central High School.

While compiling a 97 average in her classroom studies, the 5-foot-2 Longenecker was a three-year starter with both the school’s girls varsity softball and soccer programs, and a two-year starter with the girls varsity basketball program.

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not wiped out the entire PIAA spring schedule this season, Longenecker, who had been a starting softball third baseman in each of her first three years, would have been a fourth-year starter for Central while moving to shortstop and doing some pitching.

The cancellation of this year’s softball season was a disappointment for Longenecker, but she has also been able to embrace a more long-sighted view of what has happened.

“It was very disappointing,” Longenecker said of the spring sports cancellations. “Softball is one of my favorite sports, and it was definitely hard not to see my teammates again and play softball with them again.

“But I hope that (the players) returning (for Central) will do well in the future, and I’ll always be there to support them,” Longenecker added. “Being at Central really jump-started all of my likings with sports. That’s why I kept playing them the whole way through. I loved my teammates, my coaches, and the athletic directors. They were all so easy to work with.”

And so was Longenecker, who Central softball coach Jonathan Burkett described as the ultimate team player.

“She was a team leader, is what stands out the most,” Burkett said of Longenecker, who had collected 72 hits at the plate in her three softball seasons, and was a strong candidate to reach the coveted 100-hit plateau for her career had this season been played. “She was an all-around good ballplayer, and she had a special gift – she didn’t mind sharing the knowledge that she had gained through her softball experience with the younger players on the team.

“She was an extremely good teammate for all of the other kids on the team,” added Burkett, who pointed out that Longenecker’s career batting average was around .333.

Longenecker was a very sound infielder who Burkett had planned to move from the third base to the shortstop position this year because of her outstanding defensive ability.

“I would have put Tori up against any other third baseman around, but I was going to play her at short and pitch her some this season,” Burkett said. “She’s the kind of girl that no matter where you put her on the field, she was going to do well.

“Tori has the capability of really reading the ball off the bat,” Burkett added. “She can see the ball well coming off the bat, and she possesses a great instinct of how to get to the ball in the infield. And as a hitter, I felt sure that she would have reached 100 career hits this season. I feel really bad about her not getting her 100 hits, because that’s one of the goals that all the players look forward to reaching.”

And Longenecker, who had done some pitching in junior high school, was ready to return to the mound as a senior this year.

“I was looking forward to it,” Longenecker said. “I was never needed to pitch at the varsity level before, but I was ready this year.”

Longenecker will move on to Penn State University and study for a degree in biological engineering to prepare for a career in the field of agriculture.

“I plan on working in the agricultural industry,” Longenecker said. “I’ve been around it all of my life.”

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