SOFTBALL: Hempfield routs Manheim Township, 10-0
LANDISVILLE - Softball, like Baseball, is a game of adjustments.
By that measure, then, Monday's 10-0 victory for the Hempfield Lady Knights over Section One rival Manheim Township is all the more significant, considering the Lady Knights were coming off a shutout loss just a week ago.
"They're all competitive, I don't have to tell them (what to do)," said Hempfield head coach Brian Lohr of the quick offensive turnaround. "They don't like losing. We've given up four runs, before this, in four games. I'm very proud of that, but they're mad."
Mad, perhaps, to come into Monday's game with just a 2-2 mark, 2-1 in a tough Section One. And mad, according to Lohr, about facing a Township squad that last year won the section title, while the Lady Knights missed out on the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs.
Hempfield (13 hits) was led at the top of the order by junior centerfielder Kyra Brakefield (2-4, 2 runs) and senior shortstop Nikki Rhoads (1-3, RBI, 2 runs), the Lady Knights wasting no time getting on the board in the bottom of the first.
A bunt single from the speedy Brakefield preceded a bunt by Rhoads. But a common theme to the contest were miscues from Township (2-2 Section One and overall), a throwing error on Rhoads' sacrifice produced an early first and third opportunity.
After an out, Hempfield pitcher Lauren Lichtenwalner (2-4, 2RBIs, run) rapped an infield single in the hole toward second for an RBI and the first run off Township starter Lacy Smith. A hit-batter and an RBI base-on-balls to catcher Zoey Schneck (2-3, 2RBIs, run) posted Hempfield to the early 2-0 lead.
That lead became 3-0 after Brakefield hit a sharp single up the middle with one-out in the second, took third on a stolen base and passed ball, and came home on Rhoads' groundout.
"Kyra has the kind of speed (where if) you give her second base, she'll take third if you aren't hustling to the ball," Lohr said. "I don't expect teams will start falling asleep on us too much on that but that's what will happen with her."
Brakefield's fast start to the day also helps loosen things up for the rest of the Township lineup.
"When Kyra gets on, she's a real spark plug for us," said Lohr. "Usually the games where she scores first, those are the games we win because it really sets the tone. All's well that the game is going our way, and then the rest of them start running aggressively."
For which Township had no answer, at least at this juncture of the season.
Smith (3Ks, 2BB) settled into the middle innings, but ran into two-out trouble in the fifth after a dropped infield pop-up and an overthrow from the outfield led to three unearned runs.
"We have to play with our hearts and our heads, and execute like we know how," said first-year Township head coach Jennifer Breton. "It doesn't matter if (we're) a team that has been very successful in the past, we have to take it game-by-game, play-by-play, and just play our hardest to come back."
For the Blue Streaks, therein lies the rub. Considering the success of last season, adjusting to a new coach and a new season will be a necessary component of how well they can defend their section title.
The Black Knights, meanwhile, were intent on finishing off Monday's contest early, a one-out double by Rhoads opening the flood gates in a sixth inning that included a walk and four straight singles. An unorthodox 4-6 fielder's choice brought in Hempfield's tenth run to clinch the run-rule victory.
Just six of those runs against Smith, however, were earned.
"I think frustration set in as well," Breton said of the sixth inning in which Smith appeared to tire. "It's about having our complete, whole team backing her up whether we're up by however many or down by however many."
Lichtenwalner's time in the circle for Hempfield seemed to go far smoother. Township's best scoring opportunity came in the first, leadoff batter Reilly Gearhart (2-2, BB) singling to right and moving to third on an error.
But a fielder's choice from Lichtenwalner to Schneck had Gearhart out at the plate.
On the day, Lichtenwalner allowed just five hits and a walk, striking out eight. Two of those hits went to Township third baseman August Mason.
"I keep trying to tell her we're not trying to replicate your freshman year," Lohr said of Lichtenwalner, who helped pitch Hempfield to the league title in 2013. "Let's just work on your junior year. We're back to taking one inning at a time instead of looking at a whole game or a whole season."
"The leadership we have this year is a little different," Lohr added. "They're self-motivated, (and) they want to get somewhere."
Which, in softball, is an attitude that has little need of adjustment.
Girls' High School Softball
L-L Section One
Hempfield 10, Manheim Township 0
WP-L. Lichtenwalner; LP-L. Smith
K-BB-MT: Smith (5.2 IP, 3K, 2BB, HB) and Alyssa Perkins; HEM: Lichtenwalner (6IP, 8K, 1BB) and Z. Schneck 2B-N. Rhoads (HEM)
MT 0 0 0 0 0 0 -- 0 5 3
HEM 2 1 0 0 3 4 -- 10 13 2