Ed Gotwals and Lindsey Smith break down Franklin County's two softball teams headed for district title games, slated for Thursday. Video by Lindsey Smith
For a few Greencastle-Antrim softball players, the team's return to the District 3 Class AAA championship is an exciting reminder of the district title they won as freshman.
But for the Chambersburg softball team, an opportunity to wear a Class AAAA district medal is 12 years in the making - nearly an entire lifetime for some of the Lady Trojans.
Both teams will have the opportunity to capture a district championship on Thursday afternoon. Chambersburg takes on Penn Manor at Lebanon Valley College at 4:30 in the District 3-AAAA championship, and Greencastle battles reigning Class AAA champion Donegal at York College, also at 4:30.
The Trojans head into the championship game a player down, with starting catcher Caeley Etter out with an injury. With a big hole in the lineup, Chambersburg will rely on Laken Myers in the circle and Sammie Bender behind the plate.
"We have three or four pitchers that we can throw, but defense is where it’s at," Chambersburg coach Chris Skultety said. "We’ve got to make sure defense is solid; doesn’t matter who’s pitching."
Chambersburg (21-4) will likely face up against Penn Manor's ace, Brittany Hook, who tossed two consecutive no-hitters in April. But like Chambersburg, the Comets are strangers to the district final stage, with Thursday being the program's first-ever chance at a district title.
Penn Manor (22-3) advanced with a narrow defeat of Dallastown, a 1-0 victory in the semifinal, while Chambersburg took down Lower Dauphin 3-0, thanks to Leah Hunt, who scored two of the Trojans' three runs. Hunt, nicknamed "the Goose," could also make an appearance in the circle as the team's top relief pitcher.
"Goose is ready to throw - even though we haven’t thrown her in a long time," Skultety said. "But Goose at shortstop made some great plays, so whatever we need to do, they’re doing, and now we have to bring it home. We can’t let this die."
For Greencastle, senior Liz Ward is no stranger to the pressures of a district championship game. She successfully led her team to a D-3 title as the winning pitcher on the Blue Devils' 2013 championship team.
Ward will return to the circle for Greencastle on Thursday, and is ready to lead a younger team to another district title.
"The whole team has kind of looked up to (the seniors) all year, and we've given them a good perspective of what it's like," Ward said. "The whole team has said all season, we want to get there, and finally, we're here."
Greeencastle (18-5) punched its ticket to the final with a 4-1 win over Garden Spot, capitalizing on Spartan errors and ending the game on a wild double play, just as Garden Spot was gaining momentum in the top of the seventh.
Donegal topped Lampeter-Strasburg in a semifinal, 4-1, led by pitcher Makyla Yoder and McKenna Berg. The Indians (19-5) are an unfamiliar opponent in recent years - the last time they squared off with Greencastle, the Blue Devils defeated them in the semifinal round of the 2013 district tournament.
"We haven't faced them recently, but they always have a strong program, so we have to be ready for a battle and bring our A game," Greencastle coach Mark DeCarli said. "We are going to go in there and play our hearts out. Win or lose, it's an accomplishment to be in the championship game."
The Greencastle softball team punched its ticket to the District 3-AAA Championship game with a 4-1 victory over Garden Spot. Check out game highlights, and don't miss the wild, game-ending double play. Video by Lindsey Smith
Trojans-Comets at a glance
Game data: Chambersburg Lady Trojans vs. Penn Manor Comets .... District 3 Class AAAA championship .... At Lebanon Valley College, 4:30 p.m.
Media: Follow @EdGotwalsPO for game updates
Teams: Penn Manor (22-3) is the No. 3 seed and took down Dallastown in the semifinals to advance to the program's first-ever appearance in the district championship ... Chambersburg (21-4) is the No. 1 seed and earned a spot in the final with a 3-0 win over Lower Dauphin.
P.O. pick: Chambersburg by 1.
Blue Devils-Indians at a glance
Game data: Greencastle-Antrim Blue Devils vs. Donegal Indians .... District 3 Class AAA championship .... At York College, 4:30 p.m.
Media: For live updates, follow @LindseySquints
Teams: Donegal (19-5) is the reigning Class AAA champion, and the No. 5 seed, and earned a spot in the final with a 4-1 win over Lampeter-Strasburg ... Greencastle (18-5), the No. 2 seed, claimed a 4-1 victory over Garden Spot in the semifinals.
P.O. pick: Donegal by 2.