ANNVILLE — Typically, not everyone gets to play in a state first-round playoff game.
The exception to the rule came Monday afternoon at LVC Softball Park, where the Donegal Indians utilized the extent of their roster in posting a 15-0, run-rule victory over Nueva Esperanza Academy in four innings.
“That’s great, it gives us a break and it gives (younger players) time to get in and perform,” said junior Kaitlyn Witmer, who contributed one of the Indians 15 hits in what was certainly a team effort. “It’s always great to get everybody involved in the game.”
The win advances the Indians (21-5) to Thursday’s PIAA quarterfinals, where they will face West Allegheny (20-2), the runner-up from District 7, which advanced via a 3-2 win over District 9 champion Punxsutawney on Monday.
For the Nueva Esperanza Toros, the runner-ups from District 12 rarely came across an opponent this season which boasted the dominant pitching and potent lineup of the Indians.
That all became obvious in the top of the first inning in which Indians’ starting pitcher Makyla Yoder struck-out the side with the nine-pitch minimum. Yoder finished with game with eight strikeouts and only one pitch thrown outside the strike zone.
In the bottom of the first, the Donegal bats went to work, with Savanna Kolenda and Morgan Biesecker knocking back-to-back hits. After Yoder’s fielder’s-choice brought in the first run, Witmer slugged a two-run double to the warning track in left field for a 3-0 lead off soft-tossing Toros’ pitcher, Ashley Santiago.
“We worked on (the slow pitch) a lot yesterday. You have to get it coming down on the arch so you can make good contact with it,” Witmer explained.
Donegal would tack-on five runs in the second inning on five hits and four Toro errors. Kolenda and Yoder both knocked doubles in the inning.
From that point on, the Indians used a revolving door of bench players to put the game away. Shaianne Boyer contributed an RBI single in the third, while Samantha Miller walked and scored a run in the fourth.
The game ended on Mackenzie Bedwell’s sacrifice fly to left field which easily scored Biesecker (3-for-3, 3R, 2RBI) from third for the run-rule win.
“It was nice to get everybody in because our group of kids, they’re wonderful kids and there’re five or six of them when we get down to this time of year they’re not getting in,” said Indians’ head coach Wayne Emenheiser. “They’re at every practice and they’re cheering everybody on, they’re great teammates, so it’s nice to get that opportunity to get those kids in.”
With the catcher Biesecker calling pitches for the first time all season, Yoder allowed just one hit, coming with two outs in the third when Toros’ batter Katherine Vargas ripped a double to left. Vargas was greeted at second with a high five by Indians’ shortstop Kolenda as well as some loud cheers from her teammates in the visitor’s dugout.
Now, however, Donegal must gear up for a tougher matchup in the quarterfinals, likely against an opposing pitcher that can test the radar gun.
“Last year… we had to go back-to-back because of weather,” Emenheiser explained, having experienced a similar slow-pitch pitcher in the first round a year ago. “We didn’t have time to regroup and get back into our normal hitting technique, I guess you could say, so we’re hoping to have a couple days here to regroup.”
Which, per usual, will be a whole team effort once again.
PIAA AAA FIRST ROUND
Donegal 15, Esperanza Academy 0
EA 0 0 0 0 — 00 01 5
DN 3 5 2 5 — 15 15 0
SO-BB — EA Ashley Santiago 0-3; DN Makyla Yoder 8-0
WP — Yoder; LP — Santiago
2B — EA 1 (Katherine Vargas); DN 4 (Kaitlin Witmer, Savanna Kolenda, Makyla Yoder, Rachael Overlander)