Thunderbolts senior Kaitlin Yealy hit a grand slam as part of an 11-run inning that gave Littlestown a playoff victory. Zach Miller - GameTimePA.com
As the ball sailed off Kaitlin Yealy's bat and over the fence, so did the feeling that Tuesday's first-round District 3-AAA playoff game would come down to the final inning
The matchup between Littlestown and Hamburg had all the makings of a typical No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed for most of the first three innings, as the teams traded runs. But Yealy lofted a grand slam out of the park in right-center field in the bottom half of the third inning to cap off an 11-run outburst that made the outcome, a 14-7 win by Littlestown, suddenly seem like a foregone conclusion.
“We’ve done that a couple times this year where we’ve had a big inning and just rode it the rest of the way," Littlestown coach Jeff Laux said. "We had a tough first few innings defensively and kind of gave them a couple of those runs. Kaitlin hitting the grand slam just changed the whole dugout’s feel.”
The grand slam capped a frame in which 11 of the first 12 batters reached base. McKenzie Somers got the scoring started with a two-run single, and Jill Gauthier hit a two-run double that gave Littlestown its first lead of the game. Hamburg led 4-1 going into that half-inning.
“We came together and we were like ‘guys, we’re better than this,’" Yealy said of the team's offensive eruption. "We saw we were playing sloppy at first and we knew we needed to put it together. All season, every game we lost we’ve waited until the last inning to start doing something and it was too late by then. We decided we can’t wait anymore, if we wait, we’re out.”
They added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, and Somers made sure that was plenty by pitching a complete game. She struck out five batters and walked just one.
In the top of the seventh inning, with Littlestown just one out away from winning and advancing to the district quarterfinals, sophomore catcher Amanda Dyson called timeout to talk to Somers and the team's infielders. She reminded the four seniors in that huddle —Somers, Yealy, Kelsie Dews, and Victoria Skillman — to enjoy the final out since they will never play another high school game on their home field.
“I saw her out there and I saw her command that huddle; that was huge to see," Laux said of Dyson. "Especially when you’ve got four seniors in that huddle and she’s there calming everybody down and you can see smiles in their faces as they’re going through that. That’s good leadership.”
The Thunderbolts now move on to face No. 1-seeded Lampeter-Strasburg, which went 20-1 this season, in Thursday's quarterfinals. The game will be played in the Hershey area, Laux said.