Sometimes the score isn’t the most important part of sports.
If you don’t believe that, you weren’t at Bellefonte’s softball game Friday.
The hometown team hosted Hollidaysburg, a team that recently suffered a heartbreaking loss. Senior captain Mikayla Focht, 18, died April 14 when she was thrown off the back of an ATV that hit a deer.
Mikayla was a standout player for the Lady Golden Tigers, an all-state infielder who often offered opposing pitchers their toughest battle at the plate. She was an honor roll student and “always ran around with a big smile,” Hollidaysburg AthleticD irector Homer DeLattre said.
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“She was just one of those players that was constantly striving for success, to get better and to improve,” Hollidaysburg head coach Heather Perry said. “She was someone who everyone could look up to.”
The team has played in memory of Mikayla since she passed away, and other teams are also honoring her.
Bellefonte’s varsity team handed every Lady Golden Tiger a rose after Friday’s game and head coach Heather Perry four, Mikayla’s number. Lady Red Raiders’ junior varsity team made the same gesture Wednesday in its game with Hollidaysburg.
“It was the girls’ idea,” Bellefonte head coach Fred Caldwell said. “They wanted to do something to let them know that ‘Hey, we’re all with you.’ I mean, softball is one big family. The girls play against them. In summer ball they play with them. They aren’t strangers. We’re one big family.”
The family has gotten larger — and closer — in the past week.
“I’ve heard from head coaches from all over, and they’re sending cards and flowers and the kindest words,” Perry said. “I had one coach from Williamsport remind me that we might be competitors on the field, but when we step off it we are one big softball family. I think Bellefonte showed that today with a lot of class.”
Mikayla may not be playing with them anymore, but she is still on her teammates’ minds.
“We think about her the whole game,” Hollidaysburg junior Jenna Heim said. “And it’s hard, but we know she’d want us to do our best to play through it.”
The team decided to not miss a game before Mikayla’s services, something they agreed their friend wouldn’t want them to do.
“She was an awesome player on and off the field, and whatever she did she gave it her all,” Mikayla’s best friend and senior Emily Baker said. “She gave everything, her entire heart, so we are, too.”