Emma Lerchen tossed a one-hit shutout and Ally Binkley drove in five runs as A-C opened Section Four play with a 13-0 win at Lancaster Mennonite

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Oh to begin a section title defense with a 13-0 victory and still not be totally pleased with the performance.

For the Annville-Cleona softball team, life is either really good or could be a lot better, depending on the perspective.

It sure seemed really good after A-C opened its Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four title defense with a resounding 13-0 six-inning road victory at Lancaster Mennonite on Tuesday afternoon.

Senior ace Emma Lerchen twirled a one-hit shutout - losing a no-hitter with two outs in the final inning via a Lindsey White triple - freshman third baseman Ally Binkley drove in five runs, and shortstop  Morgan Zimmerman slugged a three-run homer as A-C took a decisive first step on the road to a possible repeat.

Depending on how you looked at it. A-C head coach Dave Bentz saw all of the above, but also saw some lackadaisical base running and less-than-optimum intensity from a talented group he believes can accomplish quite a lot with the right mindset.

"We got a good-pitched game, but that was probably a very lackluster 13-0 game," Bentz said. "Maybe it was the cold. And we're battling health, we've got three or four kids sick. We're still waiting for the team to show up. We had Emma on the mound and we played good defense behind her, but our hitting...Hitting is the fun part of the game, and we don't seem to be having any fun. I don't know why."
Still, A-C (2-1 overall) collected 14 hits, including three from Binkley, and plated the only run it would need in the top of the first when Amber Rexrode singled home Hannah Fischer with two outs.

Zimmerman added her three-run homer in the second off Mennonite's Lexi Butz and A-C was off and running.

"It's so important to win the section games, and to win the first one like this, with 13 runs, is great," Lerchen said. "We just gotta keep hitting. We kinda lacked that against Tulpehocken (a non-league loss). We came back with a good one today. That's always what we want."

Lerchen didn't require all the run support she got, and which she contributed to with a double and a single, dominating from the start with the help of the airtight defense behind her.

In her six-inning stint - A-C invoked the mercy rule with the help of a five-run top of the sixth -Lerchen struck out six, walked only two and came within one batter of a no-no only to see White spoil it with a ringing triple to right center.

"I felt good, I definitely felt good out there," Lerchen said, bothered only, like everyone else, by the bitterly cold temperatures. "I've been working a lot, and I definitely want to continue that against the section teams and definitely in the crossovers, because those are tough.

"It's awesome to have a no-hitter but that's not what's important. As long as I can do my job on the mound, and batting also, I'm happy."

Happier than her head coach, who it should be noted thinks highly of this team's ability and potential. But he was looking for more than he got on Tuesday and wasn't shy about admitting it.

"I guess I should be happy, but I'm not doing cartwheels," Bentz said. "Maybe I'm too tough, I don't know. We see so much ability in these kids.It's a work in progress."

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