FREDERICKSBURG - It's easy to forget sometimes, but opening-day jitters are a real thing, especially for high school kids.
The members of the Cedar Crest softball team got theirs out of the way last week, and it showed. The Northern Lebanon Vikings, meanwhile, were in the midst of theirs, and it also showed.
A slight difference in comfort levels was a big factor in Cedar Crest's 4-3 victory over Northern Lebanon in a non-league battle of county rivals on Tuesday afternoon.
On the heels of a dismal debut against Governor Mifflin last Thursday, the Falcons pounded out a dozen hits to supplement the complete-game pitching of senior ace Maddie Gable, while Northern Lebanon's commendable effort was done in by two costly fifth-inning errors and situational hitting issues that led to 13 stranded baserunners.
Cedar Crest's more relaxed approach paid off in added aggressiveness at the plate and a 12-hit attack fronted by three hits from Gable and RBIs from Jenna Sloss, Emma Spang and Bailey Perry-McClintic.
"That was a big point of emphasis," Cedar Crest coach Eric Edwards said of his club's aggressive approach at the plate. "I think we were so tentative against Governor Mifflin on Thursday, in the field and at the plate. We talked about it and really emphasized being more aggressive and attacking the ball and we did that tonight."
It paid dividends for the first time in the top of the second, when the Falcons touched NL ace Jess Kreiser for four hits, including run-scoring singles from Sloss and Spang that provided a 2-0 lead.
To its credit, Northern Lebanon battled in its season opener, rallying back to tie via an RBI single from Kaylee Mauser in the second and a run-scoring groundout by Nicole Ditzler in the third.
But the Vikings' jitters came to the front in the top of the fifth when two costly errors and Perry-McClintic's RBI hit led to two runs and the lead for the Falcons for good.
"It's a tough one to swallow," said NL co-coach Dale Kreiser. "I believe there were some jitters there, we've got a lot of young girls. But I'm not making excuses. We play well in practice, but sometimes I think the jitters get the best of us. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day."
Northern Lebanon went down reluctantly, though, pulling to within 4-3 in the sixth on Mel Showers' RBI groundout that plated Mauser, then put two on with two out in the seventh before Gable escaped to finish off her complete-game effort.
"She wasn't feeling well tonight. It was good for her to go out and get the win and grind it a little bit out for us," Edwards said of senior righthander Gable. "She's a tough kid and we love having her."
Gable's status as a respected ace provided some consolation for the Vikings, who touched her for 10 hits and were retired in order just once.
"She pitched very well, but I was very pleased - the girls hit," Kreiser said. "I can't fault the girls on hitting. If we can play competitive with Cedar Crest hopefully we can make some things happen."