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Littlestown tops Kennard-Dale to pull even in YAIAA Division III softball chase

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First-year Littlestown coach Henry Wardrop wouldn't take any credit for his team's 9-5 softball win Monday at Kennard-Dale. His Thunderbolts kept hope alive for a YAIAA Division III softball title, while Wardrop remained quick on his feet.

He can at least take some credit for that.

Wardrop danced near the third-base line more than a few times as his batters belted shots his way.

"I'm 60 years old. I'm too old to be diving out of the way," Wardrop said as his voice raised with laughter.

An assistant coach the last 13 years at New Oxford, Wardrop also enjoys kidding his team about it. The girls just give it right back. Their gregarious nature came with keeping their title chances alive. Littlestown (12-3, 11-1) last won a division championship in 2012.

"We have a division banner on our fence, but that was before us," junior pitcher McKenzie Somers said. "We just want to put our own up there."

Somers and the Thunderbolts inched closer to doing so with a nine-run fifth inning Monday. The flurry came an inning after their coach dodged foul balls.

"You hope it starts to fall in," Wardrop said. "You hope the hits start to drop."

They did, but it took cleanup hitter Kaitlin Yealy's walk to bring in the first run. For four scoreless innings, neither team could generate any offense outside of hard-hit balls that easily bounced into fielders' gloves.

Yealy, a junior shortstop who walked in her previous at-bat, waited for what her coach calls "the perfect pitch." No such delivery came.

"Oh man I wanted to hit. I really wanted to hit," Yealy said.

After the walk is where trouble ensued for Kennard-Dale (14-2, 11-1). A routine throw to first base took a bad skip, another throw was too high. Mistakes compounded, and five errors led to most of the runs.

"You look at the box score and anyone can figure out what happened," Kennard-Dale coach Gregg Coulton said.

A win would have clinched the Division III title for Kennard-Dale, which won it the last two years. The Rams have just two games left, and both teams will try not to slip up during the regular season's final two weeks. Only one team can make the four-team YAIAA tournament, and both are battling for District 3 postseason positioning. Kennard-Dale is eighth and Littlestown 10th in the latest Class AAA rankings.

Coulton hopes his ace pitcher, junior Alexis Valentine, might be able to return by the district tourney. Valentine suffered a knee injury Wednesday against Fairfield, and her future this season is uncertain.

Valentine's pitching replacement, sophomore Brittany Orwig, gave up just five hits in her second start, but the errors were too much. Kennard-Dale rallied in the last inning, but couldn't get enough bounces to equal what already transpired. The Rams' only other loss came against Twin Valley earlier in April at a weekend tournament in Red Lion.

Littlestown bounced back from a Friday defeat to James Buchanan, which is unbeaten and ranked third in the district. Wardrop characterized that game as being similar to Monday or even his Bolts' 3-1 loss to Kennard-Dale earlier this season.

In each instance, it took just one inning to change everything.

Littlestown got to celebrate this one.

The team planned to stop for food on the way home. Wardrop promised to buy ice cream for dessert. He already worked off some calories down the third-base line.

Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.

Littlestown 9, Kennard-Dale 5


Lt, McKenzie Somers and Amanda Dyson. KD, Brittany Orwig and Katelyn Mayle.

SO-BB — Lt, Somers 2-1. KD, Orwig 1-6; W — Somers; L — Orwig; 2B — Lt, Kaitlin Yealy. KD, Orwig.