At this stage of its development, the Palmyra softball team needs to be tested almost as much as it needs wins.
Even if it's a test the Cougars aren't quite ready to pass.
Though the final score doesn't indicate it, an improving and promising Palmyra club took a few tentative steps forward in a 10-1 non-league loss to heavy-hitting Lancaster-Lebanon Section Two power Elizabethtown on the Bears' home field Saturday.
E-town (7-2) pounded out 15 hits and scored eight times in the first two innings on the way to the lopsided victory, but the way Palmyra coach Tod Whitman saw it, the contest was still quite beneficial for his squad, now 4-4 after seeing an encouraging four-game winning streak halted.
"It's good for us. It is." Whitman said. "We got on a roll there, with four straight wins and they're good, solid wins. But this is what we need, we need to be at this level, playing and competing against these teams. And you don't get there unless you play them.
"I'd do this over and over again. I'd go 0-11 if I had to, because I know at that 11th game we'd be a ton better than we were."
To their credit, the Cougars came to play, getting the jump in the top of the first on Rebecca Randall's two-out RBI double to right center that chased home Abbey Krahling.
But E-town, averaging nine runs per contest, didn't trail for long, scoring five times in the bottom of the first and knocking Palmyra starter Mikayla Bomgardner from the mound in favor of Krahling before she even recorded an out.
Sadie Seaman and Mackenzie Peters highlighted the uprising with RBI singles and leadoff hitter Payton Halbleib threw in a steal of home in the Bears' tone-setting first at-bat.
"They hit the ball extremely well, we knew that coming in," said Whitman. "We needed to play solid defense, but you can't stop balls that are hit over your head."
The Bears, led by catcher Nicole Baker's two triples, added three more in the second with the help of an RBI double by Seaman and appeared to be well on their way to a mercy-rule triumph.
But Palmyra stood relatively firm from there, despite managing only three hits off E-town lefty Lauren Allison, and made sure the game would go the full seven innings.
"We had a talk there mid-game about just ignoring the score and just fighting and keep getting better," said Whitman. "In games like that when you get down that much early it's real easy just to let things go. I liked how resilient they were with sticking through and continuing to work on getting better, regardless of the score."