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LITITZ >> As it so often does in championship game settings, it came down not to which team made the big play, but which one made the big mistake.

On this occasion, Emma Lerchen and her Annville-Cleona teammates were bound and determined that it wasn't going to be them lamenting a costly miscue and a championship that got away.

It was, Lerchen and her teammates believed, their time.

And so it was.

With a laser focus and a steely resolve that had sometimes been missing in previous big game encounters, A-C captured its first Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four title since 2010 on Wednesday at Warwick. It came via a 2-0 victory over arch nemesis Pequea Valley in a one-game playoff for all the section marbles after the two finished the regular season with identical 12-4 section records.

Backed by absolutely flawless defense, Lerchen fired a two-hit shutout on the mound and got all the run support she would need in the bottom of the fifth, when Pequea committed two damaging errors on one play that led to both A-C runs.

"It feels so great," Lerchen said, beaming after ending the Braves' three-year reign atop the section. "To have it is just amazing. We're really proud and really happy." A-C was a bit fortunate as well. After struggling again to solve Pequea ace Sabrina Ryan — Ryan struck out 12 A-C hitters on the heels of a 15-strikeout gem in a 1-0 victory over Lerchen and company on Friday that necessitated the playoff — the Little Dutchmen caught a break in the home half of the fifth.

Actually, two of them. After Veronica Wampler led off the frame with a single and was replaced by courtesy runner Zoee Garis, Cayla Gassert came to the plate looking to lay down a sacrifice bunt.

She did, and A-C got more than it bargained for when the throw to first was dropped. The ensuing throw to third in an attempt to nab a hustling Garis moving up skidded out of play, allowing Garis to score and Gassert to take third, from where she would later score on a wild pitch.

"I said to my assistant, 'Something screwy is gonna happen'" said A-C coach Dave Bentz of the fateful fifth inning. "And I'll be darned if it didn't. They threw it around. They beat us the other day on an error and fortunately we took advantage of their errors today."

I said to Cayla, 'That's what happens when you get the bunt down,'" Lerchen said. "You get on or you move someone. We need to do that, and it's what we didn't do on Friday. We didn't put the ball in play. Today we did."

But not much early, as Ryan continued her mastery of A-C while striking out eight of the first 10 hitters she faced.

But Lerchen kept pace with the help of her defense, most notably shortstop Morgan Zimmerman and third baseman Christy Snyder, who ate up everything hit their way on Wednesday.

"The defense was great today," Lerchen said. "It was what we needed to do. We didn't have a single error, we were just on top of everything. Everyone just contributed and that was awesome."

"It's a confidence thing," Bentz said. "If we come out early and make an error, we hang our heads. I said, 'Everybody makes errors. You have to challenge yourself to make the next play.' Yes, our defense was good today and it had to be."

Confidence wasn't a problem for A-C on Wednesday, at least not in the field.

Not even in the seventh, when Lenea Riehl and Ryan reached on a single and a walk, respectively, to begin the frame and start a promising rally.

But Lerchen calmly retired the next three hitters in order, with the final out coming when Zimmerman came up with a backhand snare of Jordan Walsh's semi-line drive before it reached left field.

And then, jubilation.

"We had faith in ourselves," Lerchen said. "Coming into this, we said, 'You know what? It's our turn. It's our time.' And we kept saying that in the last inning."

Now they can continue saying it, right into Saturday's L-L playoff opener against Section One runner-up Hempfield at Garrett Park. Game time is still to be determined.

"I challenged them," Bentz said, "and they responded."

Annville-Cleona 2, Pequea Valley 0

Pequea Valley0000000—022Annv.-Cleona000020x—230

W — Emma Lerchen; L — Sabrina Ryan;

SO-BB — PV: Ryan (6 IP, 12 K, 1 BB), AC: Lerchen (7 IP, 3 K, 3 BB);

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