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YAIAA softball championship preview: Central York, Delone Catholic trust in defenses

Except for school size, Central York and Delone Catholic are not that different.

The YAIAA softball finalists, who meet 5 p.m. Monday at New Oxford High School, don't have pitchers who will try to mow down the batting order and collect double-digit strikeouts. Central's Kayla Resh and Delone's Cassie Rickrode are a little more calculated than that.

Both pitchers are coming off shutout victories in their teams' semifinal victories. Resh had three strikeouts but, more importantly, didn't let Dover do anything with its five hits. Central (19-2) advanced to this league final with a 4-0 victory.

"If you judge her by her stats, you're going to be disappointed," Central coach Shane Walker said.

Resh averages just 85 pitches per game. The Panthers coach said, to him, 21 would be the perfect number. Don't be mistaken. He will take 85 and be happy.

"If we can get somebody to ground out on the first pitch, that's good," Walker said.

Likewise, Rickrode seems to just get better the more she steps inside the pitcher's circle. She had five strikeouts Friday in the Squirettes' 4-0 win against Littlestown, which was the fourth game in five days for Delone (15-4).

Rickrode didn't deny her intentions.

"I don't go to strike a lot of girls out," she said. "I go for ground balls and rely on my defense."

That defense required time to find its footing this season, coach Don Smith said. His Squirettes are coming off a state quarterfinal appearance in 2014 and won their fourth straight YAIAA Division IV title this season. They did it after graduating longtime third baseman Deanna Laughman, who led off and anchored the defense.

Delone is currently atop the District 3 Class AA power rankings, but such a feat seemed unlikely two months ago while finding a replacement for Laughman. Smith tinkered with his lineup, shuffling Laughman's younger sister, junior Katie Laughman, between third and second base.

"We just couldn't get settled with who we'd put there," Smith said. "We just finally made a decision and stuck with it."

Katie took her older sister's spot, and Delone's defense began fitting to form. Offensively, junior shortstop Shelbee Holcomb helped with a .700 batting average.

"Sometimes, I can't believe people are pitching to her," Smith said.

When approaching Central, there are few options to pitch around. Get through the senior-laden first four and you will find capable underclassmen. Sophomore catcher Briannah Dobson leads the team with a .625 batting average. The worst batting average of the Panthers' nine is .293.

Those factors helped Central close out an outright Division I title after it shared last year's title with Dallastown. The Wildcats advanced to the playoffs on a tiebreaker and ultimately won the league championship. Central would have faced the same situation had it lost last week to Dallastown.

Walker said his biggest fear was a longer layoff before the district tournament.

"One of the benefits that goes unmentioned about this is you go two weeks without a game," Walker said. "Instead we get to play a quality Dover team. Now you get to play Delone Catholic. It helps you prepare."

Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.

Delone Catholic (15-4) vs. Central York (19-2)

When: 5 p.m., Monday

Where: New Oxford

How they got here: Central York def. Dover, 4-0. Delone Catholic def. Littlestown, 4-0.

Previous meeting: Did not play.

Projected lineups

Delone Catholic

Shayna Rider, sr., CF

Katie Laughman, jr., 3b

Shelbee Holcomb, jr., SS

Cassie Rickrode, jr., P

McKayla McCleaf, so., 1B

Lauryn King, so., C

Karly Coleman, sr., 2B

Marlee Lackey, fr., LF

Natalie Funk, sr., RF

Central York

Kayla Resh, sr., P

Haley Klunk, sr., RF

Kyla Caruso, sr., SS

Kelsey Wisner, sr., 3B

Rachel Butler, jr., 1B

Briannah Dobson, so., C

Kelsey Shifflett, sr., CF

Lorna Colberg, so., DP

Monica Albers, sr., LF

* Alyssa Stonebraker, 2B

*denotes flex position for designated player.