Kennard-Dale's season ends with loss in state quarterfinals
The Kennard-Dale softball team will bring back most of its lineup after winning a District 3 title and reaching the PIAA playoffs this season. Matt Allibone
SHIPPENSBURG - They may have shed a few tears, but the members of the Kennard-Dale softball team felt little regret as their season came to a close Thursday.
The Rams lost to Yough High School, 11-0, in six innings in the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals at Shippensburg University's Robb Field. It was a rough way to end the spring, but it didn't distract the Rams from what they accomplished. Kennard-Dale won division and District 3 titles and a state playoff game before finishing with a 19-4 record.
"I've coached at Kennard-Dale for eight years, I did a lot of neighborhood stuff, I never in my life had girls that bonded like these girls," Rams head coach Gregg Coulton said. "The chemistry is unbelievable and I think that had a lot to do with our success."
As good as the Rams were this season, they have the potential to get even better. Kennard-Dale will graduate just three players and bring back nearly all of its top contributors, including freshman shortstop Jaedyn McKeon, freshman pitcher Alexis Hurley, sophomore outfielder Crystal Mullins and junior first baseman Amber Belt.
One key for the Rams moving forward will be the development of Hurley, who struggled in the circle on Thursday. Coulton said his young hurler should improve as she gets more experience, and that he expects the team to be strong again next season.
"My biggest thing with her is her mentality, but she's been a rock out there and she got a little rattled today but she'll get better," Coulton said of Hurley. "She doesn't throw many balls, doesn't walk anybody, but we preach to her about learning the mental part of the game."
Yough, the runner-up out of District 7, established its offensive dominance right away on Thursday. The Cougars scored seven runs in the first two innings and added four in the bottom of the sixth to end the game an inning early. Olivia Miller hit a two-run home run to end it.
Offensively, the Rams made consistent contact against Cougars pitcher Kierra Waywood but couldn't get hits to drop. Coulton said his players may have been thrown off after facing a slow-pitch hurler (Ashley Santiago in their 15-0 win over Esperanza in the first round.
"When you play a good-hitting team you've got to come out and hit, and we just didn't," senior Megan Gereny said. "I'm still proud of what we did (this season) though."
While the Rams will bring back plenty of talent next season, they'll need someone to replace Gereny's leadership. The senior third baseman organized an offseason conditioning program this year, which Coulton said helped the team develop chemistry.
"That's how you get to know the freshmen, and I think that really helped," Coulton said. "Not to mention getting them in shape. We had no injuries this year."
Added Gereny: "I always tell them that softball is the one time of the day that we get to forget about everything else that is going on and have fun. I'm ready (to graduate), but I'm going to miss it."