Lady Pioneers Return to District Semifinals May 25, 2018
After dropping their opening round L-L League playoff game on May 12, the L-S girls' softball team had plenty of time to prepare for their District Three 5A opener against Mechanicsburg last Wednesday. And they wasted little time in getting down to business. The Pioneers batted around in the first inning, pushing five runs across and plated three more in the second for an 8-0 first round win.
"And Brynn Baker threw a no-hitter," pointed out head coach Gene Charles. "That was her first one this year. And in seven innings. It was legit. She struck out nine batters and helped herself at the plate, going 2-4 with two RBIs and a double," he added. "She was lights out. This was one of her best games this year.
"And Jocelyn Branco's diving catch of a blooper to right field saved that no hitter," Charles said.
Base hits by six straight batters (Summer Peters, Hanna Garber, Baker, Chloe Blantz, Cam Beiler and Gabby Drumm) quickly put L-S in front 4-0. A two out single by Julz Garber plated the final run of the inning.
"Eight of our starters had a hit," said Charles. "And our 6-7-8 hitters had three RBI's."
With their bats already warmed up, L-S headed to Millersville University Thursday afternoon for their quarterfinal matchup against a familiar Donegal squad. The Pioneers dropped a 4-2 result to the Indians on April 5 but have since beaten them 9-3 and then 14-3 for the Section Three title. This time a 10-5 win knocked the Indians to the consolation bracket.
"I still wouldn't be surprised if we see them again," said Charles.
One run at a time, L-S built a 3-0 lead after four-and-a-half innings. Then, just like that, it was gone. Donegal loaded the bags and took advantage of an infield error to push across two runs. A sac fly made it 3-3.
Funny thing about momentum, though, it comes and goes without warning.
Undaunted, L-S roared back with five runs in the top of the sixth. Kylie Weaver opened with a walk and Summer Peters followed with a one out infield hit. Hanna Garber was intentionally walked. With the bases loaded, Baker's popup behind short was misplayed and one run scored. Chloe Blantz added a second straight hit to short that was also misplayed, allowing two more runs to score. Freshman Cam Beiler followed that up with a two run double, pushing Lampeter's lead to 8-3.
"We put the pressure on them," Charles stated.
Beiler was the big hitter of the day, going 3-4 with a double and three RBI.
"Cam had a breakout day," said Charles. "She's starting to come into her own. And Brynn's pitching was effective. She moved the ball pretty well and didn't walk anyone.
Peters' triple in the seventh plated J. Garber, who reached on a walk. Peter's then scored on a pickoff error.
Donegal threatened in the top of the seventh, scoring two runs on an outfield error. But Baker stopped that momentum with a strikeout of cleanup hitter Sierra Neiss and a pop out to third base.
The Pioneers will face Spring Grove in the semifinals this week.
"They knocked us out last year," noted Charles. "It's payback time."
The Section Two runner up Pioneers faced the Manheim Central Barons back on April 14 and won handily, 17-5. Fast-forward to last Monday evening where the Pioneers hosted the Barons (15-6) in the District Three Class 5A opener and advanced with a much closer 5-0 result.
"They are a tough team and we knew that we would have a tougher battle on our hands this time around," said head coach Keith Martin.
Fresh off a disappointing L-L League finals loss to Ephrata, the Pioneers, who have qualified for districts 31 times since 1980 including each of the last five years, jumped out early and never looked back. After a double by Kris Pirozzi, a pair of errors played a key role in Todd Shelley's three run double. L-S batted around in that first inning and posted a 5-0 advantage.
The hitting continued in the second inning with Pirrozzi and Dylan Byler cracking singles and Luke Weigel working a walk to load the bags. The Barons made a pitching change at that point, moving first baseman Bryce Eberly to the hill. And for the bulk of the rest of the game, the lefty kept the Pioneers off balance, giving up just two runs over five innings while striking out three and walking two.
"He worked very quickly," said Martin of Eberly. "He was able to keep us from stringing the necessary hits together to put more runs up."
The Barons, on the other hand, knocked on the door a couple of times. They left runners on in each of the next four innings, including loading the bags in the sixth before starting pitcher Dylan Byler, who helped his own cause with two hits, fanned the last two batters of the inning. He finished with ten strikeouts on the day and did not give up a single walk.
Thursday's outing at Ephrata's War Memorial Field featured another familiar L-L League opponent, Ephrata. The Pioneers just faced the Mounts a week ago in the L-L League Championships which Ephrata won 9-6.
Hoping for a different result this time around, L-S battled back from a 2-0 deficit to score three runs in the top of the seventh to take the lead. Pirozzi opened a string of four straight hits. Byler and Luke Weigel, who pushed in Pirozzi, followed while Thomas Shockey's single plated Byler to knot the score at 2-2.
With one out and two on, Cunningham singled in Weigel with the go ahead run.
That momentum, however, was short-lived as Ephrata came back to score two runs in the bottom half to steal the victory. A walk and a hit batter came home when a bunt was misplayed at first and the wild throw was ruled to have gone out of play, pushing in the game-winning run.
With two hits each from Pirozzi, Byler, Cunningham and Blantz, the Pioneers out hit the Mounts 11-5. They finished with five walks and two errors and gave up two earned runs.
Barons Battle Pioneers in District Opener May 25, 2018
Take away the first inning and Manheim Central played well in its District Three Class 5A first round baseball game Monday at Lampeter-Strasburg High School.
Unfortunately, the first inning counts and the Barons had three uncharacteristic errors, yielding five runs in a 5-0 loss to No. 6 seed L-S (17-5).
The Barons' defense failed them in the first, leading to miscues on two double play balls and a groundball. All five runs were unearned.
Central head coach Matt Huber doesn't believe it was playoff jitters; the team has played in the district semifinals two of the last three years and they've been in the league playoffs the past four seasons, so the guys have experience.
"The ball didn't just didn't bounce our way for whatever reason," Huber said. "Again, this loss can't define us. They've had a good run, and I'll be forever grateful for their effort and what they mean to our program."
Pioneer pitcher Dylan Byler pitched a complete game, yielding seven hits and striking out 10 batters.
Huber said Byler did a nice job keeping the Barons off balance. Taylor Rohrer had two of the Barons seven hits. Bryce Eberly relieved Tyler Simon and pitched six scoreless innings, striking out three.
Eberly, who entered the game with the bases loaded in the second inning, got out of the jam by shutting down the 4, 5 and 6 hitters in the Pioneers' order. Central loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but struck out twice, ending the threat.
"Unfortunately, at this level of play, you can't make errors unless you score runs," said Huber about his 11th seeded Barons. "We didn't score a run in 14 innings dating back to our Warwick loss (in the first round of the league playoffs). That's baffling."
Huber said the nine seniors on the squad poured everything they had into the program the past several years. The Barons also had several underclassmen that were a big part the team's success this year, so the future is bright.
Huber said the impact of the seniors on the program will be felt for years to come.
"While they had accomplishments on the field, they are even better young men off the field," said Huber about the seniors who won the section title this year, as well as two of the last three years. "They have left a lot of memories."
The coach said he is excited to watch and hear about the accomplishments that his seniors will have next year when Nate Loser attends Barton College in North Carolina; Jack Novak, Bryson Morton and Ryan Phillips, Kutztown; Eberly, Lebanon Valley College; Simon, Shippensburg; Dawson Good, Stevens Trade; David Cruz, Penn State and Rohrer, Pasco Hermando in Florida.
The Barons bounced back from losing in the league finals to sweep three games from Cocalico in the District Three Class 2A quarterfinals Monday in Manheim.
After getting a bye in the first round, Central earned a 25-22, 25-11, 25-15 victory against the Eagles (11-9).
"I am very pleased," said head coach Craig Dietrich about his second-seeded Barons. "It would be easy to have a carry over from the league match, but I didn't see any indication that there was in Game Two and Game Three. Cocalico just played at a high level in the first game."
The Eagles led 5-4 in the first set and only trailed 20-19 later on. Central won the set on a kill by junior Mason Nissley, who finished with a team-high 13 kills.
In the next two games, Dietrich said his squad, led by Brandyn Musser, served better and played even more aggressive. Senior setter Ben Burkhart finished the game with 39 assists. It was a team effort.
"I thought our whole team played solid and our serve was really on all night and that kept us a couple steps ahead of Cocalico," Dietrich said. "The guys know what's at stake and they are focused on the next opportunity in front of them."
The next opportunity was a semifinal meeting Wednesday against No. 3 seed Palmyra at Dallastown High School, where the Barons rallied from a first set loss to beat the Cougars 24-26, 25-22, 25-23 and 27-25.
Next up for the Barons is a date with Northeastern in the District Three Class 2A championship. Results were unavailable before press time.
Northeastern knocked the Barons out of the state semifinals last year and beat them in the district championship.
To say the Barons had marked this date on the calendar is an understatement.
"Both Northeastern and us had this match circled," Dietrich said. "Now we get to clash and hopefully let loose like last year in the state semifinal match."
To get to the rematch, Central had to overcome sloppy play early on offense and a strong serving game by Palmyra Wednesday. The Cougars (16-5) used a strong service game to jump out to a 6-0 lead.
The Barons righted the ship and settled in on offense, tying the first set at 17-17 and 24-24, but let the first set slip away.
They made sure to jump out to an early lead in the second set and never looked back. Consecutive blocks by Isaac Shenk and Tanner Stauffer put Central ahead 4-0.
Blocking at the net was key to the victory, Dietrich said.
"We spent half of practice (Tuesday) working on blocking before the match," he said. "The whole team stood out to me, with everyone contributing at different times."
The softball team beat Shippensburg 2-0 Wednesday in the first round of the District Three Class 5A playoffs behind the stellar pitching performance by Madison Walter, who only gave up three hits, while getting 10 strikeouts with no walks.
The Barons had 10 hits and stranded nine batters on base, but came away with the round one win against a very good fifth-seeded Greyhounds team.
Central head coach Gary Lefever said the Barons' defense was very good and the team got timely hitting.
The Barons scored in the top of the first with two outs when Maddy Barbush hit a long single to score Jade Trovinger from second base. Trovinger was a courtesy runner for Walter, who hit a two-out single.
Reagan Rohrer singled in the fifth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Barbush to make it 2-0, more than enough runs behind the pitching of Walter.
Because of rain Tuesday, the Barons were forced to play back-to-back days, meaning they faced Twin Valley Thursday afternoon at Messiah College.
Central ran into a strong pitcher in Grace Marsalo, who scattered seven hits and only gave up one earned run in a 6-2 victory over the Barons. Marsalo struck out 13 batters to lead the No. 4 Raiders (18-4) past the Barons in the quarterfinals.
Central scored both of its runs during a sixth inning rally, but could get no closer.
"We have a very good team," Lefever said. "Our goal back in November was to make it to the state tournament somehow, someway. I am very proud of this team and my staff."
Lefever's team finished one win short of that goal, but that does not take away from a strong team with a 15-7 record overall.
"We can honestly say that we worked very hard for where we are," said Lefever. "Proud to be a Baron!"