— It’s probably the most heady play in all of sports, the steal of home.
Hence the Bears’ senior leadoff batter, Payton Halbleib, being extra cautious while representing the winning run in Elizabethtown’s home contest versus Manheim Township.
Halbleib, having just knocked in the tying run and scampering all the way to third when her pop-fly to centerfield found grass, stood at third base on the subsequent delivery from Township’s Reilly Gearhart.
And when Gearhart’s offering went low and away, eluding catcher Nicole Moldenhauer and going all the way to the backstop, Halbleib took the chance, racing across home plate for the 4-3 come-from-behind victory.
Incidentally, Halbleib also took Moldenhauer’s late toss off the side of her helmet for a true using-your-head kind of play.
“I was thinking I have to be very careful because I know my run really counts,” Halbleib said afterward. “The passed ball was great but I knew that I had to be very careful.”
The win was the second walk-off in as many Wednesday nights for the Bears, as they move ahead of rival Solanco—which dropped a 5-4 decision to Warwick on a pair of seventh inning squeezes—in the Section Two standings.
COVERING ALL THE BASES
Etown’s Olivia Cook stole the show Wednesday, pilfering three bags and scoring a pair of runs. The Bears’ sophomore stole second in both the fifth and seventh innings, scoring the game-tying run in each, with Halbleib knocking her in.
Cook was also part of an impressive display of defense in the Streaks’ half of the fifth inning. After left fielder Halbleib tracked down Rachel Devenney’s hard liner to open the inning, Cook made an impressive diving catch of Gearhart’s sinking drive in right.
“Liv is working really hard and I know that our outfield is really strong this year,” Halbleib said, including junior centerfielder Kirsten Mumma in the mix. “I’m really confident in what we can do.”
For good measure, senior Emily Brubaker wrapped up the inning with a diving grab of Mikayla Brennan’s rocket to short.
Manheim Township drops to 4-8 overall and 2-6 in Section One with the loss, despite being in every league game so far. The Streaks led 2-0 after one when Samantha Zimmerman and Carolyn Kitsock rapped RBI ground-outs to score Gearhart and Mikayla Brennan.
After the Bears tied the score 2-2 in the fifth inning, Casey Martin scored all the way from second on Hannah Dinsmore’s infield single, barely sliding in safely at the plate for the 3-2 lead.
Gearhart, meanwhile, was at her best in the bottom of the sixth, helping to load the bases with a pair of hit batters but getting two of her seven strikeouts to escape the inning with her team still in the lead.
“They just stay up the whole game,” said Bears’ coach Gary Wylde. “We knew we had the top of our order coming up in the seventh and those kids, I’m just real confident when they’re up. Cook at number nine does a great job. Gearhart pitched an awesome game (but) we’re real pleased that we were able to come back.”
Wylde on Bears’ starting pitcher Lauren Allison, who scattered five hits and didn’t walk a batter: “She got off to a shaky start, not all her fault, but she just has a way of finding her focus and getting in a groove.”
Elizabethtown travels to Warwick on Friday, while Manheim Township hosts Conestoga Valley on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Elizabethtown 4, Manheim Township 3
MT 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 — 3 5 2
ET 0 0 0 1 1 0 2 — 4 7 1
SO-BB — MT Reilly Gearhart 7-1; ET Lauren Allison 2-0
WP — Allison; LP — Gearhart