SOFTBALL: Annville-Cleona falls to Brandywine Heights in district quarters, 4-1
FLEETWOOD >> In the postseason, with talent levels being relatively equal, success or the lack thereof comes down to the little things.
Getting a bunt down. Hitting the cutoff man. Coming up with two-out hits.
An inability to consistently take care of those little things turned out to be a big deal for the Annville-Cleona softball team on Thursday.
The big deal was the end of the Little Dutchmen's season, courtesy of a 4-1 loss to Brandywine Heights in the quarterfinals of the District Three Class AA playoffs at Lyons Park.
A-C, which finishes the 2015 season at 13-7, fell behind for good in the bottom of the third on Renee Wall's two-out two-run single and from there breakdowns in the areas listed above undermined its well-intentioned comeback bid.
The Bullets, meanwhile, improved to 15-6 while advancing to Tuesday's semifinal round against Kutztown, an 11-1 winner over Lancaster Mennonite in the second game of the district doubleheader at Lyons.
"Playing error-less ball was something we needed to do, and we didn't do it," said A-C coach Dave Bentz, whose squad was guilty of two physical errors and a couple mental, cut-off man miscues. "You can't give good teams chances to score and again we did. And we didn't do some things correctly, like bunt the ball.
"We played well enough to win. A play here, a hit there and we're in the game."
A-C, indeed, did not play poorly, getting a well-pitched game from junior ace Emma Lerchen (four hits allowed, three strikeouts in six innings), some occasionally nifty glove work, and a fourth-inning RBI single from senior third baseman Christy Snyder that briefly signaled bigger and better things to come.
That was the good stuff. But along the way there was also a throw to the wrong base that led to one of the third-inning runs, two careless errors that led to two Bullets insurance runs in the sixth, and the failure to capitalize on a two-on, no-out rally in the top of the sixth.
"Without a doubt," Bentz said to the notion that little things get magnified in big games. "Because you don't face teams that you're going to score 10, 11 runs against. You have to take advantage of every chance you get and we didn't do it. We gave them chances, they took advantage. They gave us chances, we didn't take advantage."
The biggest missed opportunity came in the top of the sixth.
Morgan Zimmerman opened the frame with a single off Bullets pitcher Savanna Ruppert, and Sarah Fischer followed with a sac bunt that was booted for an error, putting runners at first and second with no outs.
But that was as good as the rally would get.
The next hitter, Snyder, popped up a bunt for the first out and successive hard-hit grounders by Lerchen and Amber Rexrode were gobbled up by the infield to end the threat.
There was some bad luck mixed in, too. Before grounding out sharply, Lerchen hit a smash just foul down the right field line. Had it stayed fair, Zimmerman and Fischer almost surely would have scored the tying and go-ahead runs.
But it didn't, forcing A-C to remain accountable for all what went wrong on Thursday. The things that were in its control, specifically.
"I'd like to make excuses for them but that's the way the game is, " Bentz said of the inability to come through in the clutch. "You have to kind of accept the way you win and accept the way you lose."
Brandywine Heights 4, Annville-Cleona 1
W — Savanna Ruppert; L — Emma Lerchen;
SO-BB — AC: Lerchen (6 IP, 3 K, 1 BB), BH: Ruppert (3 K, 2 BB);