This season saw plenty of elite pitchers rack-up strikeouts while proving stingy about base hits. Lineups comprising both youth and experience often times approached the unstoppable. And defense won the day more often than not, tipping the scales in favor of the side with the dirt-streaked jerseys and dust-covered gloves.
All-in-all, eight teams earned a spot in Saturday’s L-L League quarterfinals with the goal of reaching Monday’s semis and the League final Wednesday night. (All games are at Garrett Park, Willow Street.)
The last teams to learn their seeding for Saturday were Pequea Valley and Annville-Cleona. Both teams brought home a share of the Section Four championship from Lititz Friday afternoon after their tie-breaker contest was cancelled due to weather and time constraints.
However, while the two teams will share the section title, the Braves earned the higher seed in the league tournament based on current District 3 rankings, in which they are just over 0.001 points ahead of Annville for fourth place.
Which means the familiar foes could end up facing-off in the first round of Districts in a couple weeks. But I digress.
So, without further ado, the following breakdown assesses each teams’ prospects of hoisting the league trophy in the coming week.
QUARTERFINAL #1: Elizabethtown (Section Two runner-up) versus Pequea Valley (Section Four co-champion), 9 a.m.
Elizabethtown Bears (15-5 overall, 12-4 L-L)
Why they’ll win Saturday: Speed at the top. Etown sets the pace with outfielders Payton Halbleib (0.409 avg., 27 runs) and Kirsten Mumma (0.562, 30 runs) batting first and second in the order. When they’re on, so, too, is the Bear offense.
Why they’ll win the tournament: Balance throughout. Five senior starters dot the lineup, including pitcher-catcher battery Lauren Allison (1.77 era) and Nicole Baker (3HR, 33 RBI). The Bears in the den should be plenty hungry, too, after last Wednesday’s disappointing loss to rival Solanco cost them the section title.
Pequea Valley Braves (14-5 overall, 12-4 L-L)
Why they’ll win Saturday: Led by junior ace Sabrina Ryan (203 strikeouts through 16 starts), Pequea Valley is more than capable versus the likes of Section Two, having bested Solanco to open the season.
Why they’ll win the tournament: Clutch performers. Through the first sixteen games this season, the Braves sported seven players batting 0.300 or better, including seniors Alee Feister (0.365), Olivia Weaver (0.326), and Lenea Riehl (0.362).
And those numbers likely increased after Pequea Valley’s nine-inning win over Annville-Cleona on Tuesday which led, ultimately, to a share of Section Four.
QUARTERFINAL #2: Annville-Cleona (Section Four co-champion) versus Solanco (Section Two champion), 11:15 a.m.
Annville-Cleona Little Dutchmen (15-5 overall, 12-4 L-L)
Why they’ll win Saturday: Veteran savvy. Long-time contributors Emma Lerchen, Hannah Fischer, and Morgan Zimmerman figure to lead the way for an Annville side looking to re-assert themselves following Friday’s shift-around.
Why they’ll win the tournament: No backing down. Veteran head coach Dave Bentz always has his team ready to play, regardless of the stage, venue, or opponent.
Solanco Golden Mares (15-4 overall, 13-3 L-L)
Why they’ll win Saturday: A big-game lineup has the Mares kicking-up a fuss, backed by veterans Bekah Borcky (0.429 avg), Abby Heidelbaugh (0.444), and Cait Armstrong (0.436) at the top.
Why they’ll win the tournament: A Triple Crown of sorts. Freshman Hanna Phillips (100+ strikeouts) has been a revelation in the circle, sophomore Randi Rambo has been a defensive whiz at shortstop, and sophomore Liz Mowrer has been a middle-of-the-order mainstay with 23 RBI and eight extra-base hits.
QUARTERFINAL #3: Hempfield (Section One runner-up) versus Lampeter-Strasburg (Section Three champion), 1:30 p.m.
Hempfield Black Knights (14-6 overall, 13-3 L-L)
Why they’ll win Saturday: The Knights have all the skill players to compete in this one. With pitcher Lauren Lichtenwalner (0.42 era) holding down the proverbial fort, leadoff batter Kyra Brakefield (0.449 avg), clean-up hitter Kara Cook (0.460), and the supporting cast could muster enough of a charge to pull the upset.
Why they’ll win the tournament: Lichtenwalner. Having helped the Knights to the L-L title in her freshman season, Hempfield’s dual-threat senior sports an 0.455 batting average, ripping nine doubles and driving-in 25 runs, in addition to her steady work from inside the circle.
Lampeter-Strasburg Pioneers (20-0 overall, 16-0 L-L)
Why they’ll win Saturday: Don’t mess with these wagons. Once Bri Garber (0.667 avg) and Hanna Garber (0.617) set-up shop, the rest of the team unloads.
Why they’ll win the tournament: Team effort, first of all. The Pioneers boast the most talented roster in the league and utilize it together. Secondly, the glue. Senior ace Jordan Weaver (0.80 era) strikes-out twice as many batters as she allows on base, and knows when and how to lean on her team’s defense.
QUARTERFINAL #4: Donegal (Section Three runner-up) versus Penn Manor (Section One champion), 3:45 p.m.
Donegal Indians (16-4 overall, 13-3 L-L)
Why they’ll win Saturday: Experience. The Indians’ junior core of Makyla Yoder (0.500 avg), Kaitlyn Witmer (0.455), and Emily Graham (0.405, 12 stolen bases) have met rival L-S in the league title game each of the last two seasons, and would love to do so again.
Why they’ll win the tournament: The Jake Arrieta among L-L pitchers, when Yoder (1.26 era) is on, she flusters any lineup. But as was the case last year, key contributions from sophomore Savanna Kolenda (0.500 avg) and senior Natalie Orr (0.321) could make Donegal ripe for a repeat.
Penn Manor Comets (17-2 overall, 15-1 L-L)
Why they’ll win Saturday: When the Indians and Comets played in preseason, the game remained close with the starters in place. As such, the Comets may have to rely on starting pitcher Brittany Hook (0.62 era, 190 strikeouts) to get them past round one.
Why they’ll win the tournament: That said, this Penn Manor squad is far from a one-person show. Between Sam Duplissey (six doubles), Dani Wright (20 runs), Morgan Yingling (15 RBI), and Pam Perez (four triples), the Comets have been sharing star-turns all season long.