Central York's softball team seems to have a choreographed chant or jingle for every batter and every situation. If there's a foul ball, the players in the dugout have a chant for that. If the bench wants a double from their teammate, there's a cheer for that, too.
The young Panthers bunch bounce around the dugout high-fiving each other and laughing. Their exuberance is contagious, and it comes in handy when the team is in a stressful situation. Take Wednesday for example. The Panthers had let rival Dallastown, who are the biggest hurdle between Central and a division title, tie the score at 3 late in the game. The Panthers had the go-ahead and possible game-winning run in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings but failed to cross the plate before finally scoring a walk-off run on a wild pitch in the eighth, which gave Central a 4-3 win. But in none of those tense situations did manager Shane Walker see any nervous looks on his players' faces.
"One of the things I absolutely love about this group is they're enjoying playing the game," Walker said. "We've had a couple games where we've had to battle back, but you would never know it from their demeanor. Their demeanor has been awesome. I would rather see them loose, enjoying it and wanting to play. That's what it's all about."
And the Panthers have every reason to be upbeat. They're 10-0 overall and two games ahead of the Wildcats in the Division I race. They've outscored their opponents 98-12 combined, including six shutouts from their impressive pitching trio of Rachel Butler, Courtney Coppersmith and Cheyenne Miller. All this after losing several key pieces from last year''s division title team that finished 20-3 and returned just three seniors.
"I knew we had talent," Walker said. "How it's going to jell is always the question. What you see here in the dugout is what we see day in and day out. They do things together that aren't coach forced. They get along. ... We've really benefited from that chemistry and them buying in. ... We graduated a lot of starters last year, but we're really fortunate. We have a tremendous pool of athletes who are really dedicated to playing softball. We have a lot of depth, so we had players step in and replace key players."
"I was a little worried at first because most of the team is sophomores and we did lose a lot of seniors last year," Butler added. "But they're crazy good, they're positive and everything worked out. We have a great team bond."
Butler was one of the first Panthers out of the dugout to mob Cameryn Rothrock when she scored on Dallastown's wild pitch in the eighth inning Wednesday.
Central York ran its winning streak to 10 games with a 4-3 win in extra innings Wednesday. Brandon Stoneburg
"I was just thinking Kara (Lordan) was going to do her job and get a hit," Rothrock said of representing the go-ahead run at third base. "Fortunately that ball got by and I just took off. When I saw the ball pass, I took off and just kind of went."
Central will now play six games in two weeks before closing the regular season with a rematch against Dallastown.
"What we tell the girls is whoever is in the other dugout is the team to worry about (right now)," Walker said. "We have a lot of big games between now and then. If we don't take care of business, then that game is irrelevant."