ANNVILLE - It seemed like everything went Manheim Central's way during Thursday afternoon's District 3 Class AAA softball championship game against Greencastle-Antrim.
Relays from the outfield reached their destinations just in time for tags, home run hits stayed in fair territory and errant plays resulted in runs.
The Blue Devils still had a chance to tie it up late, but ended up falling, 3-2, to the Barons, who repeated as district champions.
As the District 3-AAA runner up, the Blue Devils (19-5) still advance to the PIAA Tournament and will face the District 1 champion - either Springfield-Delco or Sun Valley - on Monday. The site, time and opponent were not available at presstime.
"We didn't get the breaks today," Greencastle's Rachel Kline said. "When people were on base we couldn't get hits. When people weren't on base we got hits. That's just how it goes sometimes. But I think we did well. We still have another chance to continue on."
From the very beginning, it seemed like Lady Luck was sitting in Manheim Central's dugout.
With two outs in the top of the first, Kline walloped a pitch from Baron pitcher Sara McKee. The ball had plenty of distance, but faded just left of the foul pole.
"If that was 10 feet to the right it probably would have been a home run," Greencastle coach Jamie Richardson said.
An inning later, Cassey Cordell slammed a line drive to centerfield that landed on the warning track.
The relay struck again in the third, this time catching Michaela Ensminger at home.
"They just made one more play than us," said Richardson, recalling what he told his players after the game. "We'd all agreed we're just as good as them. If we play our A game, we agreed there's a good chance we win."
Greencastle pitcher Amanda Wink kept the game close.
After giving up a 220-foot solo home run over the rightfield fence in the first inning to Ali Morton, Wink kept her composure.
She struck out 10 batters in six innings while allowing five hits.
Her only mishap came in the third inning and it cost the Blue Devils a run. She sent a pitch high over catcher Casey German's head, allowing McKee to come in from third base.
"I thought Amanda pitched a great game in there," Richardson said. "She pitched well enough to win."
The Blue Devils tied the game in the top of the fourth after Jenna Crunkleton and Kline started a rally with a single and double, respectively.
Wink brought in Crunkleton on a sacrifice fly to center. Kline scored on a throwing error to first base by catcher Katie Van Blargan after German laid down a bunt.
The game stayed tied until the sixth inning when the Barons used one hit to score a run.
Aerika High started the inning with a single. She advanced to second when Van Blargan hit a slow grounder to Wink, who made the throw to first to a falling, out-stretched Kline, who brilliantly kept her foot on the bag.
Rachel Clippinger grounded to Wink on the next play, but this time Kline said she stepped too early to catch the high ball. The ball hit Kline's glove and fell to the ground. High took advantage, rounding third and scoring.
The Blue Devils nearly tied it up in the seventh but fell short.
Mary Ward hit a single with one out, then Kline hit a single with two outs. Wink struck out for the game's final out.
"They definitely can hit," said McKee, who noted they were one of the best hitting teams she faced this season. "I didn't know they could hit that well."
The last time the Blue Devils won the state tournament, Cordell, Crunkleton, Kline and Wink were freshman and all played varsity.
After the game was over, Richardson told his players he was proud of them and not to hang their heads. There are still games left to play.
"Now we're looking forward to seeing if we can put together four good games over the next two weeks," said Richardson, who had never lost a district championship game in two previous tries. "The crown gem is the state title. I told them, 'Hey, we didn't get the district title, but you know what, the once-in-a-lifetime is still out there. Seniors, you already have one. Why not get a second one?'"
Kline said, "It's a little bittersweet. We lost, but we still have a chance, senior year, the four of us, so we really want to go as far as we can in states. We were all freshmen together, now we're seniors so it would be good to go as far as we can."
Colin Stevens can be reached at email@example.com and 262-4819, or on Twitter @ColinStevens06.
Manheim Central 3
Greencastle Manheim Central
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Ward cf 4 0 2 0 Becker dh 3 0 1 0
Crunkleton rf 4 0 1 0 Morton rf 3 1 2 1
Kline 1b 4 0 2 0 High ss 3 1 1 0
Wink p 3 0 0 1 Van Blargan c 3 0 0 0
German c 2 0 0 0 Clippinger 1b 3 0 0 0
Cordell 3b 2 0 1 0 Campbell 2b 3 0 0 0
Briggs 2b 1 0 0 0 Griffith lf 3 0 1 0
Bontrager ph-2b 2 0 0 0 Grazan cf 2 0 0 0
Ensminger dh 3 0 1 0 McKee p 2 1 0 0
Gayman ss 2 0 0 0
Totals 27 2 7 1 Totals 25 3 5 1
Greencastle 000 200 0 - 2
Manheim 101 001 x - 3
E-GA 2; MC 2. 2B-(GA) Kline. HR-(MC) Ali Morton. LOB-GA 8; MC 3.
ip h r er bb so
Amanda Wink (L,16-5) 6 5 3 2 0 10
Manheim Central Pitching
Sara McKee (W) 7 7 2 1 2 8