The Lady Bolts beat Kennard-Dale, 5-4, on Tuesday to clinch a share of the Division III title
Jeff Laux admitted he was stressed.
The Littlestown head coach had just watched the Lady Bolts clinch a share of the Division III title by scratching out a 5-4 win over rival Kennard-Dale on Tuesday. But while the win didn't come easy, Laux said it was a good thing the game was a battle.
"That was one of the things I said to them, 'these close games give me a heart attack, but they're good for us,'" Laux said. "When we get to districts, that's what we're going to see. You're not blowing out teams 10-0. These games are huge for us."
The Lady Bolts (13-1, 11-0 Division III) have had their fare share of blowouts this season. Of their 13 wins, seven have been by double-digit margins. But in the past two weeks Littlestown has won close games over the Rams (10-6, 9-3 Division III) and Division IV leader Delone Catholic (5-3 on April 25), and Laux thinks the team's confidence has increased as a result.
That surge in confidence has come from producing in big spots. On Tuesday, Lindsey Synder came up to bat in the fourth inning with the game tied 2-2, and ripped a single to right field to score a run. When Kennard-Dale tied the game the next inning, Emily Lanahan responded with a triple and Kaitlin Yealy and McKenzie Somers picked up RBIs to give Littlestown the lead back.
According to Laux, a player can't be taught how to come through in those situations. They can only learn and get better by going through the experience.
"That's confidence, they've got to believe when it's their turn to get a hit, that they're going to go out and get it," Laux said. "When you get that confidence from experience, then the girls know they can do it."
Somers, who struck out five batters and walked one in a complete-game pitching performance Tuesday, said the wins over Kennard-Dale and Delone Catholic have shown the Lady Bolts that they can win close games. She added that the team feels confident in tight contests because almost all of its players were on last season's division-winning squad.
"These games are giving us good practice and we're ready for anything," Somers said. "We're pretty confident, we know we're going to have some really tough games but we're really prepared."
After losing in the YAIAA semifinals and District 3 Class AAA quarterfinals last season, the Lady Bolts have made it their goal to win the league tournament and make the PIAA playoffs this year. They'll have to beat some very talented teams to do both, but Laux and the players believe they are capable.
The Lady Bolts are further motivated by their lone loss this season, a 3-2 decision to Greencastle-Antrim on April 15. While his players may not agree with him, Laux said he's glad they no longer have to deal with the added pressure of being undefeated.
"That was a tough loss on the girls, one of their goals was to go undefeated," Laux said. "That gave them extra motivation to go even further. I think it's better this way, but I don't know if they think that."
Littlestown needs one more win to clinch the Division III title outright, and will play the Division I champion in the YAIAA semifinals if it does.