Rikki Correll only wants to talk about one thing when discussing this past softball season.

It's not her pitching numbers, which ended up being outstanding.

It's not her hitting statistics, which were solid and much improved from a year ago.

And it's not the fact her workload doubled late in the season.

To Correll, none of those things mattered. What was significant to the Pleasant Valley senior was a third straight Mountain Valley Conference championship.

"My goals were MVCs," said Correll. "That was important to me and my team. It was just a great accomplishment for us. I only had goals for my team. I don't like to set individual goals because it takes a team to win a game and a championship."

Without Correll, though, a league title would have been out of the question for the Bears. The left-handed hurler compiled an 11-3 record, struck out 81 batters in 89 innings, and posted an ERA of 2.04. At the plate, she hit .384 (28-for-73), had a 12-game hitting streak, and 15 RBI's.

Because of those figures, along with her leadership on a young PV squad, Correll has been selected the TIMES NEWS Softball Player of the Year.

"We don't finish where we do without Rikki," said head coach Steve Caffrey. "Every challenge that we gave Rikki this year, she came through. Her teammates like playing behind her. Their attitude when she pitches is we're going to do whatever's needed to help you. We're not going to let you down, we're going to be there for you."

Correll needed that assurance after opening the season on a down note.

Facing a powerful Bethlehem Catholic squad in the Bears' first game, Correll was hit hard. She allowed 14 hits and 12 earned runs in a 13-6 loss. It was a performace that left her with some doubts.

"It was our first game of the season and we had barely gotten to practice outside," Correll said. "We had just started practicing together as a team. I thought it would be rough but I didn't think it would be that rough. I was kind of questioning my ability. After I thought about it, I realized they were a good team and I couldn't do anything about the game after it was over. I just had to do what I could to be ready to play every other game."

That she did.

Following that loss, Correll allowed three earned runs or less in 13 appearances. In six of those games, she didn't allow an earned run and her ERA after the Becahi disaster was a stellar 1.18.

"Rikki was not on her game against Beca," said Caffrey. "As a coach, you look at different things and how they will affect players. After they scored eight runs off her in the first inning I asked her do you want somebody to take over? She said she'd like to finish. That shows her character.

"She's not a dominating pitcher. She has to hit her spots. That's where all the practice and time she puts in pays off. That's where you wish the younger pitchers would follow in her footsteps. I'll constantly hear them tell me what pitches they throw. What I want to know is if they can throw for location. Rikki's gotten a little faster. But I think she's learned the game better as a pitcher and that helped her this season."

Correll got to pitch even more than she expected. Because of team policies with another player, she became the club's main hurler. In addition to her increased time in the circle, Correll dedicated herself to improving at the plate and the results earned her the No. 3 spot in the order.

"I did not expect my hitting to come around the way that it did, but I'm really happy with the way I hit," said Correll, who will attend Northampton Community College. "I don't think I really got a chance to hit much last year. I took hitting lessons and they really helped me."

A year ago, Correll hit only .190 (4-for-21) and was used often as a courtesy runner. This year she had hits in 18 of 23 games and had seven multiple-hit games.

"Two years ago she didn't even hit," said Caffrey. "Last year ... we had a better hitting team and it allowed me to have her focused more on her pitching. This year she was called upon to step up and hit and she did.

"We knew she could hit but it was a matter of getting more confidence. Once she started out well this year, I think the confidence was there."

As valuable as Correll was on the field, she meant just as much to the Bears in a leadership role.

"Rikki is a gamer," said Caffrey. "She was a quiet leader. She's not someone who's going to get in someboday's face. She'll go on the field and work hard and hopefully everybody would see what she's doing and try to do the same. She's very positive with everybody. She never puts anybody down. With her, it's always about the team."

"I think having great communication between a senior and the rest of the team is important because they look at you to be a leader and they look at you to boost them up," said Correll. "I felt comfortable being a leader on the team because the girls made me feel comfortable. I wanted them to push me and help me during the season and that's exactly what they did."