MILLERSVILLE - The Annville-Cleona softball team waited almost a year for a chance at redemption, so what's a few more hours?
If only it was that simple for the Little Dutchmen.
On Tuesday evening at Millersville University, A-C was on the brink of avenging a bitter defeat to Brandywine Heights in last year's District Three Class AA championship game when a drenching thunderstorm passed through the area and forced suspension of its return encounter with the Bullets in this year's district semis.
When play was halted, A-C was holding a 5-1 lead with top-seeded Brandywine Heights batting with one out in the bottom of the fifth and just two more outs needed to make the game official. But lightning flashes in the vicinity of the game forced the teams off the field before the inning could be completed. A few minutes later, the skies opened up at Millersville and rendered the field unplayable for the rest of the evening.
The contest will be picked up where it left off Wednesday at 4 p.m., back at Millersville. Until then, A-C figures to have the well-worn cliche "So near, and yet so far" dancing through its collective consciousness from time to time.
"Thank you very much, it's good for my tomatoes," A-C head coach Dave Bentz joked when asked his reaction to Mother Nature's ill-timed intrusion.
"It's my (understanding) that it would have been an official game (if the inning had been completed). It wouldn't have been a suspended game. That's what I was told. Somebody apparently saw lightning and got (the teams) off the field. I understand that, I respect the decision. It is what it is."
Despite the unfortunate appearance of inclement weather, A-C had a lot to be happy about Tuesday.
Lerchen, despite three errors behind her - one of which was her own - confounded the Bullets for much of the day, allowing just one hit and a fourth-inning run and also scored two of A-C's five runs.
Lerchen first crossed the plate along with Veronica Wampler in the third on Ditzler's booming two-run double to right, then scored again in a three-run fourth highlighted by RBI singles from Miller and Varela.
"We are in a good position," Bentz admitted with cautious optimism. "And if Chrisi is a little bit tired, at least she gets a little bit more rest. Their first pitcher (Sara Fronheiser, whom A-C chased from the mound in the fourth) threw a lot of pitches, but she could come back, too.
"Hopefully a four-run lead will be enough to hold up. I'm not being too confident... Not in this game, I've seen too much crazy stuff happen."
Then again, it's better to be in the position A-C is in than the one the Bullets are relegated to.
"I think they realize what happens if there's a loss," Bentz said of his squad, which would see its season ended by a semifinal defeat, and extended into the state playoffs with a win. "This bunch doesn't want to lose. They want to keep playing, they want to get at least two more games out of this.
Notes: In addition to her two-run double that accounted for the game's first runs, Ditzler also pulled off some defensive heroics Tuesday, turning Samantha Sweigert's screaming line drive with runners on first and second and none out in the third into a rally-killing double play. The senior shortstop nearly made it a triple play after snagging Sweigert's liner and doubling Dayna Jalowy off second, but her throw back to first was just a hair late to pick off Jenny Seaborne retreating to the bag. Amanda Hess then grounded out to Varela at third to end the inning. ... The other Class AA semifinal between Kutztown and Berks Catholic was suspended with Kutztown leading 2-0 in the bottom of the second. The AA championship game is slated for Thursday at a still undetermined site and time.