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Central enjoying success as playoffs approach

The Panthers clinched the Division I title by beating Spring Grove, 10-0, at home on Thursday.

Throughout Central York's home game against Spring Grove on Thursday, Panthers head coach Shane Walker could be heard repeating the same line to his players before every inning.

"Win the at-bat, win the inning."

With the Panthers up by five after the third, Walker was quick to remind his players that they hadn't won that inning because both teams had gone scoreless. The Panthers responded by scoring four runs in the fourth on their way to a 10-0 win over the Rockets in five innings.

The win secured Central York (19-1, 14-1 Division I) its second straight Division I title. The Panthers will now play Division III champion Littlestown in the YAIAA semifinals on Monday.

While the Panthers graduated eight seniors from last season's 20-3 team and only brought back three starters, they've remained one of the league's best teams in 2016. Walker said much of the team's success can be attributed to the Panthers ability to keep the same mindset at all times.

"It's the same thing every inning, win your at-bat, win the inning," Walker said. "You have to come in with that same demeanor. What you did before that is irrelevant, whether it was good or bad."

Of course, the Panthers wouldn't have the best record in the YAIAA if they didn't have plenty of talented players. Seniors Rachel Butler, Cheyenne Miller and Jakihra Santana lead a deep lineup that also features star underclassmen Briannah Dobson and Courtney Coppersmith.

While many of Central York's key contributors didn't play varsity last year, Walker said he wasn't particularly worried entering the season because the team's underclassmen had proven they were strong players at the JV level.

"We've been fortunate to have a very strong, deep program," Walker said. "Our JV team was undefeated again this season, so we had girls coming up who were ready to play. That makes it easier to do."

And while the Panthers take pride in staying focused and keeping the same mindset, they know how to have fun during a game. This season, Central York has become known for the creative and colorful chants its players yell every inning.

Butler said the players knew the chants from their youth playing days, and decided before the season it would be fun to start a new tradition. The Panthers seem to have a specific jingle for every situation, and they're not shy about saying them.

"We used to do it when we were like 10, and it just keeps us loose," Butler said. "Some people make fun of us for it, but we only lost one game. It helps us."

Walker enjoys it when his players spontaneously bust out a rap or song during a teammate's at-bat. To him, it's just a part of the fun of high school sports.

"It's a game, you should have fun playing it," he said. "That's them being engaged in the game and they have yet to demonstrate its not part of their focus. It's a lot of fun to coach."

Now that they've won Division I, the Panthers are hoping to claim their second straight YAIAA title and make a run in the District 3 playoffs. Central York was eliminated in the first round of districts last season.

Still, Walker isn't letting the team get ahead of itself. When asked what his goal for the season is, the coach kept things simple.

"Win the at-bat, win the inning."

Video: Central York having fun with chants
Members of the Central York softball team discuss and display some of the chants they yell during games.
Matt Allibone