As has been the case before this season in its most winnable games, it took a while for the Cedar Crest softball team to get going in Monday's clash with crosstown rival Lebanon.
But as has also been the case in those situations, the Falcons eventually found their best form and got the job done.
Overcoming a slow start with some mid-game offensive thunder and more stellar pitching from senior ace Maddie Gable, Cedar Crest blanked the winless Cedars 9-0 in a Section One-Two crossover at Cedar Crest Middle School.
Now 5-4 overall and 4-3 in Section One, the Falcons were locked in a 0-0 tie after two innings thanks in part to a respectable effort by Lebanon and seldom-used pitcher Maggie Hinkel, subbing for sore-armed ace Katey Roth.
But Cedar Crest broke out of it in a four-run bottom of the third that proved to be more than enough support for Gable, who fired a 14-strikeout shutout while allowing just three singles.
"For some reason, when we face certain pitchers we have trouble getting going," said Cedar Crest coach Eric Edwards. "That's been a struggle for us all season. But once we got going, we got the runs and got the win. That's the ultimate goal - it doesn't matter how pretty they are."
The Cedars (0-9, 0-7 Section Two) may have been as pleased or even more so than Cedar Crest was after playing a full seven innings for just the third time this season. Though it still has a long way to go, Lebanon made some strides on Monday via Hinkel's admirable pitching and the play of promising freshman shortstop Auri Lassalle, who stood out defensively and also had one of its three hits. Roth and catcher Emily Fake had the others.
"For being pressed into service, she did a wonderful job," Lebanon coach Bob Norman said of Hinkel. "Overall, I'm pleased. It's a big step. We're making these little, incremental steps. We just gotta keep doing that."
The game began to get away from Lebanon in the third, though, when Hinkel temporarily lost the strike zone and issued four walks, including a pair of the bases-loaded variety to Gable and Ashley Maulfair that got the four-run uprising started. Anna DeBellis smacked a two-run single that brought in the third and fourth runs.
Then, in the fourth, RBI doubles by Emma Spang and Gable and a run-scoring single by Maulfair pushed the Cedar Crest lead to 7-0 and all but ended the contest.
"We're just kind of an even-keel team and sometimes it takes us a couple innings to get going," Edwards said. "That's what it was tonight. A win's a win. They (the Cedars) made some great plays defensively. I was impressed with how they played."
Lebanon, however, had little chance to threaten the Falcons offensively, thanks to Gable, who threw as hard as she has all season while racking up her 14 strikeouts. She fanned the side in the second, and whiffed five in a row and seven out of eight in a span from the third to fifth innings.
It was a performance that provided a little salve for the wound that the Falcons were still nursing from Friday's disheartening 1-0 loss to Garden Spot.
"Maddie was sharp tonight, so they really struggled at the plate," Edwards said. "With this weather, it's softball weather now, she had a little extra pop on it. We're just happy to bounce back with a win from Friday."