Going into this week, it was debatable which softball team was the best in the YAIAA.
Both Central York and Susquehannock had undefeated records and victories over some of the top teams in the league. But with the two teams playing last Monday, only one team would be able to keep its record unblemished.
That team would be Central. The Panthers scored four runs in the fourth inning to erase a one-run deficit and eventually won, 7-2. Despite losing six players from last year's YAIAA championship team, Central York (15-0, 10-0 Division I) looks like the team to beat right now.
With a strong pitching staff led by Rachel Butler, Courtney Coppersmith and Cheyenne Miller and an offense featuring star catcher Briannah Dobson, the Panthers are a very well-rounded team. Still, head coach Shane Walker said he believes the Panthers can improve and will have to take the Warriors seriously if they face them again in the YAIAA tournament finals.
"I don't think the score probably indicates how close these two teams are," Walker said after Monday's game.
Littlestown makes statement against Delone
That wasn't the only game with a playoff-like atmosphere last Monday. At the same time Central York and Susquehannock were playing, Littlestown and Delone Catholic were having their own high-stakes battle.
Both teams entered the game with just one loss, and while Delone led early on, the Thunderbolts rallied for a 5-3 win. Senior pitcher McKenzie Somers pitched a complete game and retired 14 of the last 16 batters she faced.
It was a big win for the Division III-leading Thunderbolts (11-1, 9-0), but it might not be the last time they face Delone Catholic (10-2, 8-1 Division IV) this season. The teams could potentially play in the YAIAA tournament finals.
Last season, Littlestown beat Delone twice in the regular season but lost to the Squirettes, 4-0, in the YAIAA semifinals. Both teams have very similar rosters this season, so you can bet last year's tournament contest will be on everyone's mind if they play again.
Dover, Dallastown still enjoying strong seasons
With so much focus being placed on likely division winners and YAIAA finalists Central York, Susquehannock, Littlestown and Delone Catholic, it's easy to forget about teams like Dover and Dallastown.
While both are in second place in their respective divisions, the Eagles (9-4, 7-3 Division II) and Wildcats (10-2, 8-2 Division I) are likely to qualify for the District 3 playoffs. And both continued to play well this past week, with Dover beating Spring Grove and New Oxford and Dallastown winning its only game against Northeastern.
Both squads will also get one more shot to beat the teams ahead of them in division play. Dover, which is only one game behind Susquehannock, plays the Warriors on May 9. Dallastown, two games back of Central York in Division I, has a rematch against the Panthers the same day.
Spring Grove surprises Susquehannock
There haven't been many upsets in the YAIAA this season. For the most part, the teams expected to be at the top of the standings have lived up to expectations and beaten the teams they're supposed to.
Wednesday, however, provided an upset when Spring Grove beat Susquehannock, 4-2. The Rockets (6-6, 6-4 Division I) have played inconsistently this season but managed to beat the Warriors behind the pitching of Hailey Kessinger and the bat of Julia Wivell, who hit a home run.
After losing twice this week, the previously unbeaten Warriors will look to get back on track against Northeastern on Monday.