Mike Lalli never left town, and that's a good thing for the Bristol softball program.
The sport is big in this little borough hemmed in by Bristol Township on the banks of the Delaware. All you have to do is look at the Warriors' success over the seasons.
During his 25-year tenure as coach - Lalli took off a couple of years to serve as an administrator - Bristol has won 420 games and lost 102. The Warriors have won 23 Bicentennial Athletic League championships, 15 District 1 titles, and one PIAA crown (1990).
The Warriors opened their bid for another District 1 Class A title Friday with a 7-0 victory over Bicentennial rival Morrisville. They will play Christopher Dock for another district title Tuesday.
For those critics who say Bristol doesn't play a tough schedule in the small-school league, Lalli quickly points to the nonleague schedule.
Bristol isn't afraid to take on the big guys, either, playing perennial powers Neshaminy and Pennsbury regularly. Bristol posted a 2-0 victory this season over Neshaminy, which has been ranked in The Inquirer's top 10 all season.
Bristol is 20-1 and has outscored opponents by 182-13. The only loss was to Wyalusing (Pa.), 3-0, in the Bagsai Tournament in New York last month. That is the most runs the Warriors have allowed all season. They beat Johnson City of New York in the same tournament. They also had an 11-inning, 2-1 win over Truman.
Lalli says the Warriors are ready to take on any team.
"We have a good feeder program with our own Little League," said Lalli, a native of the borough who was once a coach in the program. "The kids look forward to playing for the high school. There's a sense of small-town pride here. That all goes into why we are successful."
The Warriors' ability to develop good pitching has been critical to their success. This year, Lalli has two good ones in juniors Kiersten Cain and Ashley Cantiello.
Cain compiled a 7-1 record before suffering an injury in the Wyalusing game. She pulled a tendon in her hip.
Cantiello, a hard-throwing lefthander, went 13-0 after taking over for Cain. Friday, the two combined for the playoff win over the Bulldogs.
Even when not pitching, Cain continued to be a big contributor with her bat once she got the OK to return. She can also play first base.
Cantiello is one of those players who looked forward to playing for the Warriors when she was younger. She didn't start pitching until she was a freshman, however.
"I gave it a try and found I liked it," she said.
Although she wants to be the starter, Cantiello likes having a pitcher of Cain's caliber on the team.
"It's nice knowing that there's help if one of us gets hurt," said Cantiello, who relies heavily on her screwball and change-up. Being a lefthander helps, too. Most batters aren't used to seeing lefties, whose pitches have a different slant.
"While we have really strong pitching, we also play pretty good defense," said Lalli, who has sent a couple of dozen players off to play college ball.
"Being a small school, we have a lot of multiple-sport athletes, so they don't all go into softball in college."
Leftfielder Mariah Strobele is another one of those players who was eager for the chance to play for the Warriors when she was younger.
"Most of us have come up through rec leagues," Strobele said. "Coach Lalli pushes us. We practice hard. And it's paid off."