SOFTBALL: Annville-Cleona starts fast, races past Northern Lebanon
FREDERICKSBURG >> With an eye on the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Four crown and the coming postseason, Annville-Cleona softball could not afford to be tripped up on the road to a county rival.
The Little Dutchmen made sure that didn't happen Thursday at Northern Lebanon. A-C dropped seven runs on the host Vikings over the first two innings to notch a 12-3 decision on a dark, frigid afternoon apropos for perhaps skiing but not much else.
The Dutchmen played opportunistic ball early to put the hosts in a deep 7-0 hole after two innings. The Vikings uncharacteristically booted the ball all over the place, committing four miscues before recording six outs. A-C scored two in the top of the first without benefit of a base hit, then tacked on five more during a bat-around second frame on just four knocks. Northern Lebanon had two errors in each of the first two innings and six for the game.
"We had lost two out of our last three, so we definitely had to come out and play a good game," A-C head coach Dave Bentz said. "We put a big ol' circle around this game. It was a big one. And (Friday, at Lancaster Mennonite), that's a big game, too. They're nipping at our heels. We don't have practice (time). We don't have chances to go over things. We have to get it done now.
"A county game, it was huge getting them down by those seven runs. Holding them down here, where they (Northern Lebanon) have a good hitting team, that was my worry. But we put them back a little bit."
Given that huge early lead, A-C's Emma Lerchen just had to see it home, which she did in steady if unspectacular fashion. Lerchen gave up three runs on six hits, striking out seven while walking three.
The cold did not seem to bother A-C's hurler as much as her opposing starter, Nicole Ditzler. Ditzler struggled with her command and was never able to settle into a groove, but in fairness did not get the fielding help she needed behind her. She was pulled after two, replaced by Jess Kreiser, who went the rest of the way.
"Emma, she's a horse out there. We're going to have to rely on her the rest of the year," Bentz said. "And she's not thrown a bad game all year, knock on wood."
The Vikings scored solo runs in the second, third and sixth frames but the deficit, in part self-created, was just too large to overcome.
"We've been playing pretty solid defense the last few games, but today we just didn't come out and make plays," Northern Lebanon coach Andy Bender said. "We gave them five outs in that second inning, easy plays that we have to make. We have to make them or we're gonna be in trouble.
"You don't want to blame it on the weather. They (A-C) had to play in it, too."
The Dutchmen jumped in front 2-0 in the first. A pair of walks to Morgan Zimmerman and Veronica Wampler to open the game proved costly when both came around to score, Zimmerman on a ground out and Wampler on an infield error. But it was A-C's next time at bat that proved to be the difference.
A-C sent 10 to the plate, scoring five times while prematurely ending Ditzler's outing. Four singles, a walk and two miscues fueled the rally. There were no rocketed base hits, just enough timely ones to keep the line moving. Sarah Fischer – who later added a double – and Cayla Gassert were each credited with RBI singles.
The Vikings got a run back in the bottom of the second when Erica Dulac — who had singled — came around on an infield error, A-C's only miscue of the contest. The hosts tacked on another in the third, on Dulac's RBI single to centerfield, to stay tethered at 7-2.
But the Dutchmen got the bats going late, plating a solo run in the fifth and three more in the sixth to end the suspense. Lerchen helped herself with an RBI single during the sixth; the other two runs crossed on a wild pitch and a passed ball.
Northern Lebanon's Katie Hossler hit what appeared to be a solo home run to deep left in the bottom of the fifth but was ruled out, on appeal, for failing to touch second while rounding the bases.
Annville-Cleona 12, Northern Lebanon 3
W — Emma Lerchen; L — Nicole Ditzler;
SO-BB — AC: Lerchen (7 K, 3 BB), NL: Ditzler (1 K, # BB), Kreiser (1 K, 4 BB);
2B — AC: Sarah Fischer, NL: Cortney Hostetter;