The Vikings improved to 4-1 with an 8-1 win at Elco on Wednesday.
MYERSTOWN - Take a 72-year old, old school head coach and pair him with a young, mostly inexperienced varsity team and what do you get?
A snap judgement might provide an answer centering around generation gap drama and dysfunction.
That snap judgement would be wrong.
Although they're just five games into their working relationship, things are going just fine for the Northern Lebanon softball team and veteran head coach Ed Spittle, who's been a fixture on the local baseball and softball coaching scene for a mere five decades.
In short, Spittle's got a lot of wisdom to dispense, and the young Vikings are doing a nice job soaking it in so far, improving to 4-1 on Wednesday with a thorough 8-1 drubbing of Elco on the Raiders' home field.
Junior pitcher Melanie Showers keyed the win and in a big way, striking out 17 Elco hitters in a stellar complete game effort, while also slugging a pair of triples and scoring twice.
But NL (4-1, 1-1 Section 3) also got solid contributions offensively and defensively from most of its young lineup, which has so far exceeded Spittle's expectations.
"It's always fun to watch kids grow, get better, learn the game," Spittle said, who also coached NL softball in the early 2000s before serving eight years as an assistant coach at Lebanon Valley Coach, where he also coached the baseball team in the 1980s. "It's not important that I win games, it's important that they do. God's been good to me, I've been blessed. If I never win another game as long as I live, I've won more than my fair share.
"We're probably playing a little better than I thought. And the kids down below (on the JV) are playing as well. And I'm surprised that the pitching's this good, because I didn't know what we had coming in."
The pitching was better than good on Wednesday, as Showers dominated the Raiders (1-2, 0-2 Section 3) to the tune of the aforementioned 17 K's, which included a string of 11 in a row in a span from the first to the fourth inning. She also struck out the side in each of the first four innings and walked just one while allowing five hits.
Two of those hits came off the bat of losing pitcher Sarah Yermalovich, who broke up the shutout bid in the sixth by smashing a triple to center and scoring when the Vikings missed the cutoff man on the throw back to the infield.
"She did it all," Spittle said of Showers, who scored the Vikings' first run in the second. "She threw well, she really did."
"We didn't hit, bottom line is we didn't hit," Elco coach Randy Derr said. "She (Showers) threw well. We chased some rise balls and then we started guessing.Then when we were looking for the rise ball and she didn't throw it and we're taking pitches right down the middle. She got in our heads."
Showers also got plenty of support from her teammates, who committed only one error while combining with their pitcher to lace 8 base hits and go down in order only once.
Catcher Kaylee Mauser contributed two hits and three RBIs out of the No. 8 spot in the lineup to lead the offensive support of Showers.
Not that things will always be rosy for the Vikings this spring, particularly since they'll have to deal with traditional powers Donegal, Lampeter-Strasburg and Manheim Central, who handed them an 11-1 loss on Monday night, in Lancaster-Lebanon Section 3.
But 4-1 certainly is a good way for Spittle and his squad to begin their journey together.
"We need to win the games we're supposed to win and then play the big girls tough," Spittle said. "Hopefully we can do that."
Northern Lebanon 8, Elco 1
Northern Lebanon 020 222 0 -- 8 9 0
ELCO 000 001 0 -- 1 6 3
W.P. -- M. Showers (7 I.P, 17 Ks, 1 BB). Catcher, K. Mauser
L.P. -- A. Phillips (7 I.P, 5 Ks, 2 BB) Catcher, E. Speicher
2B -- E, S. Yermalovich. 3B -- NL, M. Showers-2, S. Mengel, E, S. Yermalovich
RBI -- E, S. Yermalovich. NL, K. Mauser-3. Showers-2. Bashore-2. Mengel-1