SOFTBALL: Donegal claims 2015 District 3 championship
GRANTHAM - For the Donegal Lady Indians softball team, it was a bit of a long time coming.
For the bushel of talented sophomores as well as the veteran upperclassmen, it was simply one year in the making.
Thursday afternoon at Messiah College's Starry Field, the top-seeded Lady Indians fulfilled their early promise, winning the District 3 AAA title by a 4-0 margin over No. 2 Twin Valley after falling just short a year ago.
The District title is the first since 2006 for L-L champion Donegal (25-3), despite five trips in-between championships.
"This time it was our turn to win," said head coach of the Lady Indians Wayne Emenheiser. "It's nice to come back after losing last year with the same group pretty much. It was nice, they did a great job, a great group of kids."
Suffering the loss to Shippensburg on the same field last season, Lady Indians' pitcher Makyla Yoder threw a complete-game shutout Thursday, backed-up on both offense and defense by fellow sophomores Emily Graham, Kaitlyn Witmer, and Rachel Robinson.
"We didn't want to come in and be runners-up again, we knew we had to change it," Graham said, who contributed a second-inning sacrifice fly while tracking down a handful of deep flies in centerfield. "Makyla threw really good game, and the whole lineup just contributed one through nine."
After Berks County champion Twin Valley (21-6) was outscored 7-4 by the Lady Indians in a wind-swept regular season game, the Lady Warrior hitters held serve by fouling-off a plethora of Yoder's pitches. But the sophomore hurler never relented, allowing just three hits and no walks, striking out five.
"I was just taking deep breaths, visualizing pitches which helps me a lot," Yoder said of her focus in the circle. "I visualize and take my time, and that's what happens. It helps out a lot when I take my time, breathe."
The Lady Indians opened up some breathing room in the early going off Twin Valley relief pitcher Brittany Charron, Graham lofting her sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to score Witmer (2-for-2, R, 2RBI) in the second before Witmer singled home Grace Miller, pinch-running for Yoder, in the third.
Charron, who faced the Indians during the regular season, was pressed into action when Twin Valley senior starter Devon Haddow had to leave the contest due to illness after just six pitches in the first inning.
"She's a warrior, she tried, she just couldn't do it," said Twin Valley head coach Tony Marsalo, whose Lady Warriors were seeking their first District title in three tries. "(It) just wasn't meant to be for her, that's all there is to it."
Still, Haddow returned to the circle in the fifth inning after Donegal loaded the bases loaded off Charron. Witmer greeted Haddow with a sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead, before freshman Peighton Hornick followed with an infield single to shortstop, plating Miller.
"I wanted to get a line drive or something to get a lot of runs in, but a sacrifice fly, it got a run in so that was good," said Witmer, who also had two hits in the semifinal game versus Conrad Weiser.
"I had a good day," she said of her recent success. "It just hit me, getting the job done and getting the runs in."
Meanwhile, Yoder set-down the Lady Warriors in order in the sixth inning, allowing a one-out single to Emily Webster in the seventh while inducing three pop-up outs in the inning to end it. Ariana DioGuardo (2-for-3) had the only other two hits for Twin Valley.
"She threw a beautiful game, she had complete control the entire game," Marsalo said of Yoder. "She was working up high in the zone and then when we showed her that we could lay off it, she located really well inside and out and we couldn't square anything up."
"She was zoned-in today, I think," Emenheiser said regarding Yoder's team-record 24th victory this season. "That was probably the best she threw all year."
The win was also the Lady Indians' most complete of the District 3 playoffs, coming right as they gear up for the PIAA state tournament to begin Monday versus the District 12 runner-up at a site and time to be determined.
Twin Valley also advances to the State tournament and will play the champions of District 2. Both teams have a quick turnaround as a greater goal remains in reach for both.
"We came out again having fun. Whatever happens, happens, but we worked hard, and like I said hard work pays off," Yoder said. "But we're going to put it behind us, enjoy the moment and then focus on states."
A focus that has been a year - or more - in the making.
Girls' High School Softball
District 3 AAA Final
Donegal 4, Twin Valley 0
TW 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 3 1
DON 0 1 1 0 2 0 x - 4 7 0
WP-M. Yoder; LP-B. Charron
K-BB-D. Haddow (2.1IP, 0K, 0BB), B. Charron (3.2IP, 0K, 4BB, HBP) and K. Duriez; M. Yoder (7IP, 5K, 0BB) and R. Mummau
2B-DON 2 (S. Kolenda, R. Robinson)