Punxsutawney’s Toven Is a Leader for the Young Chucks Softball Team and in the Community

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Ciara Toven was a freshman, typically the bottom rung of the pecking order and one of the last places one would look for a leader. 

Toven, though, was not a typical freshman. In her spare time, she helps fight fires. On the softball field, she lights them under her talented teammates. 

“You know, she works very hard on her game,” said Punxsutawney softball coach Brad Constantino. “As a freshman last year, she was a big-time leader on a team that was one game short from going to the state championship game.”

Toven leads by example. She sets quite a good one on the field. 

At the plate, she can hit for average and power. This season as a sophomore she is batting .558 with five homers, six doubles, and 15 RBIs. 

She has already launched 11 career home runs.

“She brings a lot of power,” Constantino said. “She hits for average, too. She’s not an all-or-nothing player. She hits line drives. She’ll drive the ball and hit for contact, too.”

Toven’s approach at the plate is simple. She doesn’t look to hit home runs. She simply looks to make good, solid contact. 

It’s an approach that has worked well for her over the years.

Toven is constantly working on her swing. Honing it. Perfecting it. Finding ways to make herself even more dangerous when she steps into the box. 

“It’s always a work in progress,” Toven said. “The last couple of years it’s gone a lot smoother for me, and I’m getting more power out of my swing.”

As a pitcher, Toven has been hit by some bad luck this season. 

Toven has been plagued by unearned runs — only half of the runs she’s surrendered have been earned. She’s 4-5 with a 1.59 ERA and has struck out 59 in 48 2/3 innings.

“She probably has the worst luck in America,” Constantino said. “She’s given up 20 runs but only nine earned. She’s durable, too. We can run her out there every day. She’s ready to go every day.”

Toven has the typical array of pitches — fastball, curveball, drop ball, screwball, rise ball, and changeup.

When she needs an out, Toven usually goes to her offspeed stuff, namely the curve or the screwball.

Toven didn’t start pitching until she was nine.

“Everyone is looking for pitching,” Toven said. “I figured I could help out, so I’ve been doing it ever since.” 

The Punxsutawney softball program has a rich history — the Chucks won the state championship in 2018. Toven was there as a 12-year-old, dreaming of someday playing for a state title, too. 

She came close last year. 

The roster is loaded with freshmen and sophomores and this season has been something of a roller coaster for Punxsy.

It started with three consecutive wins, followed by six straight losses. But, the Chucks have rebounded with four impressive wins in a row. Punxsy has scored 49 runs in those four victories.

“As a team, we’re getting more things together here,” Toven said. “We’re making less mistakes. We’re all relatively new players on the field. My goal is to just keep winning games, finish out the season strong, then look forward to the playoffs and have a better run than we did last year.”

When Toven isn’t playing softball or volleyball, she pursues her other passion as a volunteer junior firefighter for the McCalmont Township Fire Company.

(Ciara Toven works a fire scene as a volunteer junior firefighter)

She’s a third-generation firefighter. Both of her grandfathers, Arthur Toven and Thomas Hudak, were firefighters and actually founded the McCalmont Township Fire Co. Her father, Kevin, is currently a firefighter with the company.

Because she’s 16, she can’t enter a structure that is ablaze. She stays on the outside, running hose lines and assisting those fighting the fire with what they need.

Toven worked her first active fire when she was 14.

“It was different,” Toven said. “I’ve always watched TV shows, heard the stories, but being there myself and watching what actually happens is definitely surreal for a person to see because this is someone’s house and life.”

Toven said she has since been to several other fires.

“It’s definitely a lot of physical activity,” she said. “It’s a hard job.”

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