Talk about time well spent.
A-C clearly used that week-plus siesta to regain its collective hitting stroke, as evidenced by its 12-1 beatdown of Delone Catholic in a District Three Class AA quarterfinal contest at Memorial Park on Thursday evening.
Now 16-6 after erasing the memory of its lone shutout loss of the season, fourth-seeded A-C's ability to redeem itself at the plate on Thursday gives it another shot at redemption Tuesday in the form of top-seeded semifinal opponent Brandywine Heights, which blasted Schuylkill Valley, 10-0, in another quarterfinal matchup Thursday.
Last year, the Berks County Bullets edged A-C, 7-6 in eight innings, for the AA district title, a
"Oh, we're pumped, we're excited," said a smiling A-C junior catcher Haley Hirn, who led the charge against Delone with a pair of doubles and two RBIs, of the impending matchup with the 21-2 Berks County runner-up. "We were hoping to get this chance to play them again. We're pumped for this game, I hope we come out swinging and hitting balls like this."
"That's what they talked about the whole year," A-C coach Dave Bentz said of his squad's desire to face the Bullets again. "They talked about getting a chance against Brandywine, and we're gonna get it. We're gonna have to bring our 'A' game and we'll see what happens. But we'll show up and give it a 100 percent."
Certainly the degree of difficulty will be raised considerably for A-C on Tuesday. But Thursday, the hits and runs came with great ease against Delone senior Rachel Heuisler, a bit of a soft-tosser who simply didn't have the type of power stuff that A-C is accustomed to seeing in Lancaster-Lebanon circles.
That was apparent in the bottom of the first after Delone had manufactured its only run in the top of the first to take a brief 1-0 lead.
Winning pitcher Chrisi Lerchen ignited the offense with a leadoff single that was followed by an error on Anique Varela's sac bunt attempt and a free pass issued to Casey Ditzler.
Kaylynn McKinney followed by drawing another walk to force in Lerchen with A-C's first run, and two batters later Darian Brenner lifted a sacrifice fly to center to plate Ditzler with what would prove to be the winning run.
Kelsey Schubert capped the first-inning uprising with a two-run single for a 4-1 lead, and in the second the attack really shifted into high gear courtesy of a five-run outburst highlighted by RBI hits from Ditzler, McKinney and Hirn and a run-scoring groundout by Crystal Miller.
"A nine-day break, it's tough to do anything," Bentz said of A-C's lengthy layoff prior to the meeting with Delone. "We didn't pick up any scrimmages, it was all practice. This girl (Heuisler), we had to adjust to her speed today and we did a pretty good job. We had a little (trouble) in the first inning defensively, but after that we were OK."
"Our team is good hard fastball hitters," Hirn said. "So we had to adjust. We had to wait and wait (on pitches) until we couldn't wait any more. We pulled through and got the hits."
Most heartening to Hirn and Bentz about the breakout game at the plate was the fact that the entire lineup contributed.
Seven of the nine starters had at least one hit, six different players scored a run, and RBIs came from seven different sources in the abbreviated victory that drew near conclusion after a three-run bottom of the fourth that featured Hirn's second RBI double, a run-scoring single by Miller and an RBI groundout by Veronica Wampler.
"We got some big hits from kids that don't usually hit," Bentz said. "Kelsey had a nice hit to knock in two (in the first) and I think that kinda broke the ice a little bit. It kinda put them down and put us up a little bit."
"When everyone's hitting, that gets all of us jumping in the air, all pumped up," Hirn said. "Especially with our bottom of the lineup picking it up like that. It was awesome seeing everyone hit. It was great."