SOFTBALL: Manheim Township holds on to defeat Garden Spot, 3-2
NEFFSVILLE - Even as area softball teams enter their stretch run, things seem bound to get tense at the end.
Working through a gutsy comeback attempt by visiting Garden Spot in the seventh inning, Reilly Gearhart and her Manheim Township teammates held on to an important 3-2 victory in what was another tightly contested Section One-Two crossover Thursday afternoon in chilly Neffsville.
Key to the victory for Township (7-3 Section One, 8-3 overall), Gearhart and catcher Alyssa Perkins worked the plate all game long to the tune of fifteen Lady Spartan strikeouts, the final two K's coming with the tying run on second base and one runner already in for Garden Spot (6-5 Section Two, 6-8 overall).
"We've been doing it for a while now," Perkins said of working the seventh inning with Gearhart, having framed a called strike-three for the final out. "Both of us play on tournament teams and both of us are used to those situations."
Garden Spot senior Courtney Petersheim led off the seventh with a hard-hit double to right center to open the Spartan rally.
"I knew they had 1-2-3 coming up," Gearhart said of the seventh inning. "I thought I'd be fine; it started a little rough, a hard hit to right center. After that I knew I needed to start hitting my spots."
After striking-out Abby Foor (2-for-4, R) on a full-count pitch, Gearhart's counterpart in the circle, Taylor Martin (2-for-2, 2B, BB, HBP), dropped an opposite field single to right.
Spartans' cleanup batter Brandi Clark, coming off a homerun versus Warwick on Wednesday and an RBI groundout in the first inning Thursday, then grounded a single up the middle to score Petersheim and prompt a coach's visit to the circle.
"We just needed to pull together," said Township head coach Jennifer Breton. "Making sure of the little things, let nothing drop. Reilly did a fantastic job working with what she had. Alyssa squeezing behind the plate, (getting) key plays when we needed them."
Gearhart responded by striking out Abi Fricke on three pitches, including a high riser for strike three, before facing the Spartans' Lainey Smith. Smith fouled off a trio of two-strike pitches before taking the called third on the inside corner, a spot Perkins and Gearhart worked early and often Thursday.
"Screwball was working for me today," Gearhart said, donning customary short-sleeves despite the chilly weather. "Curveball was okay. When you can mix inside and outside you usually have pretty good results."
"I really like Alyssa being my catcher," added the junior pitcher. "After working with her a few years we've really gotten to learn each other's strengths, so I'm able to rely on her."
Offensively, it was Perkins who staked her battery-mate to an early lead. Her two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first put Township up 2-1, scoring Gearhart, who singled, and Lacy Smith, who doubled off the left fielder's glove. An August Mason walk loaded the bases before Martin struck-out Carolyn Kitsock to bring Perkins to the plate.
"I just went up there and was like, get a hit," Perkins said. "I try to make sure my mind is clear when I hit because otherwise I freak myself out. (It was) pretty nice to have that lead, especially at the end there. It was nice to keep that."
Township added an unearned run off Martin in the third inning, a Madi Vealey single under the second-baseman's glove preceding an infield single by Smith (2-for-2, 2B, BB). Mason followed with a grounder in the hole to short where shortstop Sydney Nichols corralled it but threw wide to Fricke at third base, allowing Vealey to scamper home.
In all, Martin pitched well in her own right, striking out seven and walking two. A 3-for-3 day by Township's speedster Deja Williams was her primary shortfall, although Williams was called out for leaving first base early a stolen base attempt and was later caught stealing on a dime-throw by Petersheim.
Nonetheless, the loss leaves Garden Spot a half-game behind Solanco for second-place in Section Two when section-play resumes Friday.
Township, meanwhile, has a quite the hill to climb in Section One with Penn Manor, Hempfield, and Warwick-next week's opponents for the Lady Blue Streaks-all sitting above them.
"We're feeling pretty good," Gearhart said. "We're ready for those games, we're excited to play them."
Meaning Township will be rolling up its sleeves heading back into Section One play, except, of course, for Gearhart.
"If that's an issue maybe I should (let her know)," Perkins said. "As long as she can pitch well, she's good."
Girls' High School Softball
L-L Section One-Two Crossover
Manheim Township 3, Garden Spot 2
GS 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 2 7 1
MT 2 0 1 0 0 0 3 - 3 8 1
WP-R. Gearhart; LP-T. Martin
K-BB-Martin (6IP, 7K, 2BB) and C. Petersheim; Gearhart (7IP, 15K, 3BB, HB) and A. Perkins
2B-GS 2 (C. Petersheim, T. Martin); MT 2 (L. Smith, D. Williams)