The final days of the regular season, filled with grueling matchups between title contenders as well as a myriad of senior night celebrations, ought to have special meaning for those teams and athletes who have demonstrated resiliency this softball season.
Namely, that would include all of them. Here, though, are some thoughts on a trio of such teams in Week Six.
Penn Manor’s 2-1, walk-off win over Hempfield Wednesday has the Comets on the brink of their first Section One title in 17 years, with all three previous titles coming in the 1990’s.
But what impresses about this particular revolution — coming on the tail of last year’s sojourn into States — is the way the team has come together offensively and defensively, surrounding Brittany Hook in the circle.
“We’ve been battling for a long time and it’s been a development of the whole Penn Manor softball program,” stated head coach Dave Stokes after the win. “Obviously Brittany is doing a fabulous job for us again but you take this game for instance, there were some tremendous defensive plays behind her.”
Included in that mix were sliding outfield catches from Bri Wood-Hickey and Danielle Wright, Wright throwing a runner out at the plate and racing back on a ball to prevent extra bases.
Also noteworthy is the Comets’ ability to manufacture runs this season. The winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday resulted from a swinging bunt, a sacrifice bunt, and a grounder off the bat of Wood-Hickey.
“I’ve been wanting to beat Hempfield since I was a freshman, it just never happened,” expressed Wood-Hickey following the win. “It’s such a good feeling right now, to be a senior, for it to be our last home game.”
“Sophomore senior night they were here, we lost. We played them senior night our junior year, we lost,” Wright reminisced. “I was just waiting for senior night when we could beat them, and I’m glad it was ours.”
An RBI by senior Bri Wood-Hickey gave the Comets a memorable win over section foe Hempfield on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. Video by John Buffone
Having opened the season with four losses in five games, including a 1-0 shutout loss to Cedar Crest, the Warriors of Warwick have perhaps shown the most resiliency out of any team this season.
That fact came to a head Monday when Warwick routed Cedar Crest 15-0 in three innings behind Amanda Herr’s four RBIs, not to mention her no-hit performance in the circle.
Warwick, meanwhile, pounded-out three-times as many hits Monday as in the first matchup, coming in just the three innings. Katelyn Seibert, Jo High, and Nicole Mengel all joined Herr with multi-hit afternoons as Warwick continues to fight for a District 3 berth.
CEDARS STAND TALL
It wasn’t sap that came wafting out of Lebanon this week, but the sweet smell of victory.
When Lebanon defeated Section Two foe Ephrata on Monday — rallying with three runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 7-6 home win — the Cedars not only snapped a 35-game losing streak but also broke a 79-game losing streak within L-L League play, a span representing just shy of five full league seasons.
Lebanon’s last league win came on May 5, 2011, versus Cocalico, which, incidentally, has spent the last two years in Section Three while the Cedars continue to do battle with the likes of Sections One and Two.
Still, don’t consider the Cedars’ latest win a drop-in-the-hat occurrence. Many major-leaguers pine for cedar-wood bats, meaning there’s plenty more to come out of the groves of Lebanon.
Sizing-up eight teams that caught the eye Week 6 (with District 3 rankings):
1. Penn Manor (15-2 overall, 2-0 week) — Comets (#3 Quad-A) utilized a business-like approach on senior week, and it paid off. GRADE: A+
2. Hempfield (13-5 overall, 1-1 week) — The Lady Knights (#9 Quad-A) took a blow with both injury and defeat this week, but the focus and tenacity remained ample in the loss to the Comets. GRADE: A
3. Donegal (16-3 overall, 3-0 week) — After nine successive shutouts, the Indians (#6 Tri-A) hardly seem vulnerable having given up three runs to Northern Lebanon Friday. GRADE: A
4. Elizabethtown (13-4 overall, 2-0 week) — Coming back from a rain-induced 4-0 deficit to Garden Spot proves the Bears (#8 Quad-A) have ‘mettle’ in their paws. GRADE: A
5. Warwick (9-7 overall, 1-0 week) — Only negative for Warwick (#16 Quad-A) was the inability to build momentum from Monday’s win. GRADE: A
6. Lebanon (1-18 overall, 1-2 week) — Fact is, not many L-L teams had as good of a week as the Cedars (#36 Quad-A). GRADE: B+
7. Manheim Central (12-5 overall, 0-1 week) — Tough grading a good team on the merits of a single loss, to Donegal no less. Expect the Barons (#11 Tri-A) to get back on track with winnable games coming up. GRADE: B
8. Garden Spot (10-6 overall, 0-1 week) — Ditto the Spot (#8 Tri-A), which deserves praise for jumping out on Etown Monday. GRADE: B
If rainouts aren’t the story in the final week of the regular season, it’ll be the jockeying for playoff position among the L-L’s elite.
Included in that mix is unbeaten Lampeter-Strasburg (#1 Tri-A), which two years ago took a perfect record into Mount Joy before Donegal pulled off the quasi-upset. As if it needs the hype, Pioneers vs Indians, Part-2, is set for Monday.