Thousand Islands sophomore pitcher Delaney Wiley made a simple household tool an integral part of her breakthrough softball season.
Wiley hit the weights and worked on turning into a complete player in the pitching circle and at the plate.
The Vikings hurler went 13-2 with 1.09 earned-run average and struck out a program single-season record 196 batters.
She also batted .641, with three home runs and 27 RBIs to really break through this season. That breakthrough has made Delaney Wiley the Times All-North Frontier League Softball Most Valuable Player.
The 16-year-old didn’t sit idle while the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. Wiley went to work in the weight room and did skill drills to keep sharp. One particular training exercise involved Wiley using a hammer to work on her swing. The drill was the idea of former Upstate NY Revolution coach and now Le Moyne College head coach Tracey Roman. Wiley tried to hit the ball with a hammer instead of a softball bat.
“It helps me keep my hands where they need to be,” Wiley said. “She explained the concept to me and I struggled at first, but I got better with time.”
Thousand Islands head coach Scott Lalonde noticed that Wiley had put in extra work during the offseason. Her pitching had always been solid since she started as a seventh-grader in 2018, but he noticed her improvements at the plate. Wiley struck out only twice all season and didn’t get called out on strikes in league play.
“Her hitting improved so much,” Lalonde said. “She became one of the top hitters on her team by taking extra batting practice.”
Wiley also played travel ball for the Rochester-based UNY Revolution, which also has All-North catcher Ally Wargo of General Brown on one of its teams. Wiley plays goalie on the girls soccer team and is a key part of the girls basketball team. Lalonde said that Wiley relishes the chance to be part of intense situations.
“We have a pitcher that wants the ball,” Lalonde said. “She plays goalie in soccer and you got to love being there.”
She also credits senior catcher Haylee Alteri for a good part of her success. Alteri took up the position as a freshman and became a quick study behind the plate.
“(Alteri) is the perfect catcher for me,” Wiley said. “I can throw anything and she’ll get it.”
The Vikings enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent memory after winning the “C” Division title and posting a 17-3 record in a division where all four division teams qualified for the Section 3 playoffs. Thousand Islands claimed wins against “B” Division powers South Jefferson and General Brown.
“I knew we were going to compete this season with Sandy Creek and Beaver River,” Lalonde said. “Our division was tough from top to bottom.”
Wiley not only claimed the program’s single-season strikeout mark, but eclipsed her cousin Jessica Wiley’s career mark in just her sophomore season.
“I’m sure she’s saying thanks for breaking my record, but I’m sure she’s proud of me,” Wiley said.
Family is a big part of her competitiveness. Wiley’s two older brothers, Dylan and Derek, were multi-sport athletes at TI, and her father is a big help in helping her hone her skills.
“My work ethic started with my dad (Tim),” Wiley said. “He’s always pushed me through.”
However, the biggest smile she gets is when her 93-year-old grandfather, who attends all of her games, phones Wiley’s grandmother and tells her how each inning went.
“She can’t get out much and he calls her and tells her how I did,” Wiley said.
TI did make the sectional semifinals as the second seed, but lost to eventual champion Pulaski, 9-5, in the semis. However, both Wiley and the Vikings want to make a deeper run, with state play hoping to return in 2022.
“I think they got a little taste with their sectional run,” Lalonde said. “They saw what they could have and how we can compete with teams like Pulaski.”
Wiley did enjoy the season, but she’s getting right back to work for next season. She’s getting ready for her summer season and continuing her improvements on all facets of the game.
“I’m just going to keep going and keep working with my coaches,” Wiley said.