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Ryan, Pequea Valley eliminate A-C, 2-0

Sabrina Ryan struck out 12 and allowed just two hits as Pequea Valley ended Annville-Cleona's softball season with a 2-0 win in the district quarterfinals on Thursday.

KINZERS - Back in April, the Annville-Cleona softball team handed ace pitcher Sabrina Ryan and Pequea Valley a 5-4 walk-off defeat on freshman third baseman Ally Binkley's two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh.

Ryan and her teammates probably didn't think so at the time, but it may have been the best thing that could have happened to them.

A-C not so much.

Ryan continued to avenge that early setback on Thursday, firing a 12-strikeout, two-hit shutout to lift the Braves to a 2-0 victory over A-C in a District Three Class AA quarterfinal contest at Pequea Valley High School.

The victory came on the heels of another Ryan gem a few weeks back, in which the strike zone-pounding right-hander whiffed 19 and smacked the game-winning RBI single in a 3-2 nine-inning win over the Little Dutchmen. And it lifted Pequea Valley (14-7) into Tuesday's semifinal round against top-seeded Brandywine Heights, while A-C ends its season with an identical 14-7 mark.

"We got matched up with a pitcher we struggle with," said A-C coach Dave Bentz, lamenting having to face a familiar foe in districts. "The key to her is you have to put the ball in play. If you can get it to their outfield, their outfield is weak. But you have to put the ball in play and we didn't. We had a lot of strikeouts again. I don't even want to know how many.

"Hey, congratulations to them. They scored two runs and that was two more than we had. You can't do much about it."

A-C certainly couldn't do much with Ryan, managing only Morgan Zimmerman's infield single leading off the game and Sarah Fischer's two-out single in the seventh.

Ryan's counterpart, A-C ace Emma Lerchen, was tough as well, but got nicked by Kaitlyn Diluzio's triple and subsequent RBI squeeze bunt by Sophia Weaver in the second, and Weaver's insurance RBI single in the sixth.

"Great motivation," Ryan said with a smile of the impact the first loss to A-C had on her. "I just came out attacking. I just attacked and had faith in my defense."

"I think she was focused and just determined," Pequea coach Amy Rill said of Ryan. "Every school, I think, has a rivalry and that's our softball rivalry. Your kids, especially your pitcher, tend to play up in those games. She's played well all year for us, but I'm sure she had some extra grit for today."

Ryan set down 19 hitters in a row after Zimmerman's leadoff hit, but A-C managed to get her in trouble for the first time in the seventh, when Amber Rexrode reached on a dropped fly ball with one out, and Fischer lined a single to left with two outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.

But Ryan quickly recovered her top form, striking out Lauren Schrader looking - on a questionable call - to end the game.

"We've been working on cutting our swings down and putting the ball in play," Bentz said. "After (Zimmerman) got on, that was the only rally we had until the seventh inning. In between, it's like, you have to play the game and we didn't play the game.

"We got good pitching, I thought Emma pitched well enough to win. Our defense played well enough to win. We just had to get that third part - that hitting part - and we didn't do it."