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Softball: Palmyra batters Hershey, 14-0

PALMYRA >> It was a good day to hit. And so the Palmyra softball team did.

Again, again and again.

Taking advantage of a rare nice day in an early spring filled with inclement weather, the Cougars pounded out 15 hits and erupted for 10 runs in the second inning en route to a 14-0 shellacking of Hershey in a five-inning mercy-rule shortened contest at Palmyra Area High School on Wednesday afternoon.

Shortstop-second base combo Kayla Bonawitz and Hannah Phillippy led the way with three hits apiece, and Cat Wicker and Bri Long combined for five innings of one-hit ball on the mound as Palmyra evened its overall and Mid-Penn Keystone records at 2-2.

Hershey, meanwhile, fell to 0-4 overall and in the division as the result of Palmyra's offensive onslaught.

"They were all swinging the bats and being aggressive at the plate," said a very pleased Palmyra coach Kathy Wicker, "so I was very happy with that and having them get comfortable. Even the bottom of the lineup was getting comfortable.

"They were ready to go, but a warm day always helps the girls hit better because it doesn't hurt as much or sting (when contact is made.)"

Palmyra's batters didn't absorb any pain on Wednesday, but they did inflict plenty, starting with a three-run bottom of the first highlighted by RBI singles from Bekah Sell and Meagan Quigley and some nifty baserunning from Phillippy, who led off with a single and later scored the game's first run on a wild pitch.

The floodgates really opened in the second, though, as the Cougars batted around plus six and pounded out 10 runs on 10 hits, the biggest of which was Bonawitz's bases-loaded three-run double to left center.

"They're just progressing each game and making contact," Wicker said of her lineup, fronted by a potent top of the order of Phillippy, Bonawitz, Long and Kailey Werkheiser. "The top of the lineup with all the juniors and seniors, it's just solid and they feed off each other, too. Having them all together just makes it even better."

Not that the mound duo of Wicker and Long needed all that much offensive support, combining for nine strikeouts and just one walk in their five-inning tag-team effort.

Senior ace Wicker, battling a quad strain suffered in last Friday's loss to Mechanicsburg, retired all six hitters she faced in her two-inning stint on the hill. Long then came on to work three superb innings of her own, with the only blemish a one-out single to Taylor Massage in the fourth and a leadoff walk to Annika Torp in the fifth.

"Bri is working on hitting her spots a lot more, and I needed a confidence boost for her, too," Coach Wicker said of Long's contribution. "I want the girls that are coming in next year (to pitch) to get some time, too, and Catherine's always wanted pitchers there behind her. She never wanted to do it all by herself before anyway.

"No matter whether she was hurt or not, the other pitchers were definitely going to get their time in."

The additional pitching depth combined with the potent offense — Palmyra also scored double-digits runs in a 12-11 loss to Bishop McDevitt on Monday — has the Cougars eyeing a return trip to the District Three Class AAA playoffs.

It's not a foregone conclusion that they'll be back in the postseason, but they certainly looked to be of playoff caliber on Wednesday.

"That was one of the main goals, just sticking together," Wicker said of hopes for another district berth. "The upperclassmen, they're so solid, they're just trying to get the freshman up to speed and confidence. They're doing a really good job. They're not putting themselves above the freshmen because they know they need them to make it to districts."

Hershey00000—014 Palmyra 3(10)1

W — Wicker; L — Massage;

SO-BB — H: Massage (1 1/3 IP, 0 K, 2 BB), Kroutch (2 2/3 IP, 3 K, 0 BB), P: Wicker (2 IP, 3 K, 0 BB), Long (3 IP, 6 K, 1 BB);

2B — P: Phillippy, Bonawitz