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The Spring Grove softball team fell to Cedar Cliff, 13-9, in the District 3 Class 5A title game on Thursday. Matt Allibone

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MILLERSVILLE - The Rockets were starting to believe. 

Taking on Cedar Cliff in the District 3 Class 5A title game on Thursday at Millersville University, Spring Grove entered the bottom of the seventh down by 10 runs. But with errors being made and hits starting to drop, the Rockets found themselves down by only four with one out against them.

Unfortunately for Spring Grove, the rally didn't last.

Cedar Cliff's Avery Winchell struck out Sara Jones for the final out, handing Spring Grove a disappointing 13-9 loss. The Rockets season will continue in the first round of the state playoffs on June 5. 

"We didn't give up," Spring Grove coach Mark Hull said. "We just gave them too many upfront and couldn't bounce back. But it was very exciting at the end."

While Spring Grove (18-6) entered the title game hot after winning its first three district games by a combined score of 20-4, the Rockets had no answer for Cedar Cliff's offense. The Colts finished with 14 hits, three home runs and just two strikeouts. 

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The game really turned in the top of the third, when Colts freshman shortstop Jimiah McDonald ripped a two-run home run to tie the game at 3. Cedar Cliff added two runs that inning and then five in the fourth to take a commanding seven-run lead. 

McDonald was a thorn in the Rockets' side all game, finishing 4-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs scored. She added a three-run home run in the top of the seventh to give the Colts more insurance. 

"She's been like that all year," Colts head coach Stephen McCoy said. "The one that set it off was a bottom-of-the-seventh, walk-off, three-run home run (against Greencastle-Antrim). She's a phenomenal athlete, smooth as can be. I'm happy she's a freshman." 

 

Once they began to trail, the Rockets stopped hitting. After scoring three runs in their first two at-bats, they failed to put a runner on base in three of the next four innings. Spring Grove ultimately finished with six hits after its late rally. 

Shortstop Bri DiCandeloro had a strong day for Spring Grove, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Pitchers Julia Wivell and Hailey Kessinger once again split the game, though neither had much success. Kessinger relived Wivell after McDonald's first home run in the third. 

"It was hard to stay positive when they were just hitting the ball so hard and so solid," Spring Grove senior catcher Caraline Cornman said. "I wanted the gold. We have a good team and I think we can do really well (at states)."

For Cedar Cliff, the win continued what has been a remarkable playoff run. The Colts (16-8) entered the tournament as the No. 10 seed and beat three of the top five seeds to win gold. 

"Personally, I never look at seeding," McCoy said. "We play in one of the toughest divisions (the Mid-Penn) around so we beat up on each other all season. It comes back and helps us." 

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