The Spring Grove softball team's biggest problem ended its season Tuesday.
The Rockets allowed yet another big inning -- this one a six-run fourth inning -- in a 10-0 mercy-rule, six-inning loss to Cumberland Valley in the first round of the District 3 Class AAAA tournament. They were trailing by just three until the Eagles sent 11 batters to the plate.
"It's pretty much what's killed us all year," Rockets coach Mark Hall said. "We give up these big innings because of mistakes. We gave them extra outs. We didn't play the ball well."
The disastrous inning started when Eagles starting pitcher and cleanup hitter Kayla Sullenberger led off with a walk. Summer Keefer produced an RBI single two batters later, and Kara Holtzman followed with an RBI triple. An RBI groundout extended the Eagles' lead to 6-0 with two outs.
But then came the trouble.
Rockets second baseman Kasey Bentley made an error on a ground ball hit by Eagles No. 9 hitter Zoe St. Cyr, and the next four batters reached base and produced three more runs, all unearned. Rockets starting pitcher Jenna Jacoby induced a fly ball to end the inning.
The numbers from the fourth: six Eagles runs on one error, three walks and four hits. The lead would be enough for Sullenberger, who allowed just three hits over six innings for the complete-game win.
Jacoby took the loss, allowing four walks against just one strikeout.
The Rockets (13-9) squandered a good scoring opportunity in the first inning. With one out, Alex Botts reached on an error and Hayley Norton drew a walk. Jacoby, however, hit into a fielder's choice and Nikki Filbey struck out to end the inning.
"The first inning seems to be the inning where we struggle," Eagles coach Gregg Williams said. "But Kayla is going to battle. It's good to battle out of that early in the game because it gives you confidence."
Sullenberger retired the next seven hitters before hitting Norton to lead off the fourth. Two batters later, Filbey followed with a single and stole second. However, Amy Senft and Bentley struck out to end the inning.
"(Sullenberger) was just hitting her spots," Williams said. "I thought her changeup was pretty good today. I thought she did a great job communicating with her catcher, and Kara called a great game. They were on the same page."
Jacoby threw a scoreless fifth, but the Eagles produced consecutive singles to start the sixth. Cumberland Valley's Hanna Edwards then hit an RBI double to left-center field to end the game.
The Eagles (21-2) advance to Thursday's quarterfinal against Lower Dauphin, which beat Red Lion, 7-4, on Tuesday.
Spring Grove's loss ends what Hall thought would be an uncertain season. The Rockets graduated seven seniors and returned just one infielder: shortstop Amy Bentley, who played second base last year.
"Coming in, I was not sure what we were going to have," Hall said. "It was very difficult with kids learning different positions. Very pleasant surprise with losing seven starting seniors."
The Rockets lose just three seniors: Bentley, Filbey and outfielder Courtney Rhine.
"We're young," Hall said. "Hopefully they'll come back and bounce back and do a lot better next year."
at Messiah College
CUMBERLAND VALLEY 10, SPRING GROVE 0 (6)
Spring Grove 000 000 -- 0 3 3
Cumberland Valley 021 601 -- 10 10 1
SG, Jenna Jacoby and Jayme Hoover; CV, Kayla Sullenberger and Kara Holtzman; SO-BB -- Jacoby 1-4; Sullenberger 8-1. W -- Sullenberger; L -- Jacoby. 2B -- CV, Hanna Edwards 2; 3B -- CV, Holtzman.