Just when the regular season appeared a formality, Week Two of the L-L softball slate offered a reminder that season predictions are only ever made in clay. Sections Two and Three each saw huge victories stemming from big hits, while Section One teams either ended up with no hits or more than they knew what to do with.
Here are some thoughts on the past week of softball action.
THE SHOE DROPS
The front-page story of the week makes for perfect juxtaposition with the one ideally suppressed: Penn Manor’s Brittany Hook pitches back-to-back no-hitters over Warwick and Manheim Township on Monday and Wednesday, only to face Hempfield on Friday, a team that had just run roughshod over J.P. McCaskey, 33-0.
In leading her team to a 2-0 start to the week, Hook utilized a combination of pitches versus the Warriors and Blue Streaks, including an improved changeup and that dynamic drop-ball.
Penn Manor's Brittany Hook tossed her second no-hitter of the week in the Comets' 5-0 win over Manheim Township on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Video by John Buffone.
“I was trying to work on getting more outs,” Hook said after no-hitting Township, regarding her mentality coming into the season. “Not striking as many people out because I need to save my arm for three more years.”
Hence the approach of Hempfield’s hitters come Friday, in which many of the Knights returned to the batter’s circle marveling about Hook’s pitches to their teammates, or else offering self-congratulations merely for putting the ball in play.
“Fact is even the best get hit,” said Knights’ coach Brian Lohr, referencing his own pitcher’s take on a rough first inning in the circle. “My job is to put them in position to win the game, so I think they feel like they can hit anybody, (at least) today.”
Kylie Shreiner, who struck-out looking in her first at-bat and knew she didn’t want to repeat the feat, tallied the loudest hit of the week in the sixth inning with a bases-loaded double off Hook for the go-ahead runs of a 6-2 win.
Shreiner’s blast, part of a nine-hit effort, was a testament to what Lohr called the players’ “attitude” of trusting their own abilities, even if it’s only to make a little contact.
ALL IN STRIDE
Curiously enough, putting the ball in play was the decisive factor in Hempfield’s 19-hit, 33-run output versus the Red Tornado.
For the schools and the athletic directors, as well as Lohr and McCaskey coach Corey Lloyd — who not only know each other well but also players from each team — the result was an uncomfortable one. But the two schools were in contact with one another and apologies were made.
The Red Tornado, meanwhile, proved themselves ready to move on, giving their all in a 9-6 loss to Cedar Crest on Friday.
“The other day they were really down on themselves. Today they came out and really competed and played hard,” Lloyd told the Lebanon Daily News’ Pat Huggins. “All I ask them is to put it in play and see what happens.”
Which, clearly, was the same philosophy Hempfield used Friday, as well.
THE SHOE FITS
Nicole Baker hit a two-run, walk-off single to help Elizabethtown beat rival Solanco, 7-6, on Friday, April 8, 2016. Daryl Simione, for GameTimePA.com
With three wins apiece, Garden Spot and Manheim Central announced themselves as more than also-rans last week, the latter using a four-run sixth inning on Wednesday to upset Donegal 4-3. Provided the glass slipper maintains its polish this week versus Solanco and Lampeter-Strasburg, respectively, both the Spartans and Barons must be considered contenders.
Grading eight teams that caught my eye Week Two:
1. Hempfield (3-1 overall, 3-0 week) — A Zen-like confidence seems to have possessed the Knights, particularly on the offensive side. GRADE: A
2. Garden Spot (5-1 overall, 3-0 week) — Judging by the way the Spartans out-wrestled the Bears 7-3 on Wednesday, don’t X-mark the Spot. GRADE: A
3. Penn Manor (4-2 overall, 2-1 week) — The Comets’ team chemistry continues to impress, even though a thrilling week ended in a loss. GRADE: A
4. Elizabethtown (4-2 overall, 2-1 week) — Nicole Baker’s walk-off versus rival Solanco doesn’t erase a trap-game loss on Wednesday, but it sure helps. GRADE: B+
5. Solanco (4-2 overall, 2-1 week) — The Mares had found a groove before Baker and company spoiled their week. GRADE: B+
6. Warwick (2-4 overall, 1-2 week) — Healthy additions to the Warrior lineup turned a 1-0 hiccup versus Maddie Gable’s Falcons into a season-saving, 4-0 win versus Township. GRADE: B-
7. Manheim Township (3-4 overall, 1-2 week) — Unforeseen, and hopefully temporary, circumstances hinder the Blue Streaks consistency. GRADE: C
8. Conestoga Valley (2-4 overall, 1-2 week) — Bucks showed poise versus Section Two heavyweights Etown and Solanco before besting Lebanon on Friday. GRADE: C
EXTRA CREDIT: Manheim Central, J.P. McCaskey, Cedar Crest, Lancaster Catholic
Records go out the window this week when top rivals in Sections Three and Four butt heads. Section Four chums Annville-Cleona and Pequea Valley square off Monday, while the annual (sometimes semi-annual) Garrett Field clash between Lampeter-Strasburg and Donegal is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday night.