Softball: Annville-Cleona held to two hits in shut-out loss
WILLOWSTREET >> When an ace is working on a masterful performance, sometimes one run is all that's needed.
For Hempfield's Lauren Lichtenwalner, she got a lot of offensive help later in Saturday's Lancaster-Lebanon League softball playoff matchup against Annville-Cleona, and with as hot as the senior was in the circle that was more than enough assistance.
Lichtenwalner struck out eight, all from the third inning on, and handcuffed A-C's offense as Hempfield claimed a 6-0 shutout over the Little Dutchmen at Garrett Field.
A-C will have to wait 12 days until they play again, awaiting an opponent, site and time in the upcoming District 3-AA playoffs.
Hempfield will meet Donegal in Monday's first semifinal at 5:30 p.m. back at Garrett Field. Donegal defeated Solanco 4-0 in Saturday's first quarterfinal.
"We can't gift wrap runs," A-C head coach Dave Bentz said. "We can't give good teams more than three outs in an inning. If we do that, if we keep them to three outs, we're in the game. We get down with four or five runs, our mindset is down. We have to stay up."
Lichtenwalner and A-C counterpart Emma Lerchen appeared set for a battle through seven innings with each coming out strong. Lerchen worked her way out of a basesloaded jam in the first inning and retired six of the next seven batters she faced before Lichtenwalner helped her own cause with a leadoff triple to open the top of the fourth. After fanning Lexie Unangst, Lerchen gave up a sacrifice fly to catcher Zoey Schneck to make it 1-0.
That would be all the run support Lichtenwalner would need as she got out of the bottom of the inning surrendering only a lead-off single to Morgan Zimmerman.
The Hempfield bats went back to work in the fifth as Nikki Rhoads, Danielle Steiner and Mady Popalis picked up three straight hits to open the inning, with Popalis'knock adding two insurance runs to make it 3-0.
"We needed to play error free and we didn't and a hit here and hit there, a play we should've made and before you know it it's four or five nothing and we are fighting our way out of a hole, a big hole," Bentz said.
Lichtenwalner had everything working with the padded lead.
"I just felt comfortable today, and the defense was really good today so I knew I could throw anything and they would be there to back me up," Lichtenwalner said.
Lichtenwalner said with the lead, she felt less afraid to challenge batters, mixing in a nasty changeup later in the game.
"As the innings went by and we didn't get anything positive, our mindset went down. We seem to do that. We seem to struggle with our confidence at times and it showed today for sure," Bentz said.
Lerchen was sharp despite the six runs and nine hits surrendered, striking out four and issuing just one walk. However the A-C offense did not register a hit over the final three innings and finished with just two hits total.
"This is the time of year I like, because we get to play teams we haven't played before, but now it's trying to keep these guys in the game motivated. The seniors are going out, keep them motivated, the younger kids, keep them motivated, and it's tough. It basically comes down to who wants to keep playing. That's it. It's a tough thing," Bentz said.
L-L LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Hempfield 6, Annville-Cleona 0
W — Lichtenwalner; L — Lerchen;
SO-BB — H - Lichtenwalner (8 K, 2 BB), A-C - Lerchen (4 K, 1 BB); 2B — n/a; 3B — n/a; HR — n/a;