Central girls rally past Blue Devils in District semis Lady Barons earn first State playoff berth since 1981
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Manheim Central assistant coach Tim Proffitt had the perfect motivation for the Lady Barons on Tuesday.
With the team trailing 2-0 in the middle innings at sun-baked New Oxford High School, Proffitt offered to buy Rita’s Italian Ice for anyone who got a base hit.
It certainly worked for sophomore third baseman Aerika High, whose RBI single to left field capped a three-run fifth inning rally by the Lady Barons to give them the lead.
"It was in my head that I was going to hit," High said.
Senior Alexa Campbell added an RBI single in the sixth inning and then she pitched out of a one-out, two-on jam in the top of the seventh, as the 2nd-seeded Manheim Central girls defeated 6th-seeded Greencastle-Antrim 4-2 in the District Three Triple-A playoff semis.
Not only did the victory punch the Lady Barons’ ticket to the District Three finals tonight (Thursday) against Donegal, an 8-2 winner over Twin Valley, it also guaranteed them a spot in the PIAA State playoffs for the first time since the 1981 season.
States, however, is next week. The MC girls (21-4) will be thinking about the Lady Indians on Thursday, and they are glad for the chance to avenge their loss in the L-L League finals. The two teams will square off at Garrett Park in Willow Street at 6:30 p.m.
"We want (Donegal)," Campbell said. "We definitely want to beat them."
The Lady Barons beat a quality pitcher in Blue Devils’ senior Autumn Appleby, who held Manheim Central hitless through the first three innings.
In the meantime, G-A jumped on top off of Campbell in the top of the second. With one out, Amanda Wink, Tiffany Briggs and Mary Ward (3-for-3) had consecutive base hits to load the bases, and then Wink scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch. The damage could have been worse, but Campbell avoided further trouble with a K and a ground out.
In the fourth, the Blue Devils (16-7) tacked on an insurance run. Briggs reached on a two-base throwing error, advanced to third on Ward’s base hit and scored on Brittany Norling’s ground out to second base.
But that was all Greencastle-Antrim mustered off of Campbell, who commanded her drop curve and change-up to finish with six K’s while walking none and scattering 10 hits on 97 pitches.
"I know Alexa was able to pitch through the heat — it’s hard to say exactly what happened with (Appleby)," MC coach Steve Ginder said.
Appleby, though, started to show some signs of fatigue in the bottom of the fifth. Although she had an effective rise pitch and was busting Central in on the hands, the Lady Barons worked seven free passes and forced Appleby to throw 127 pitches in the game. Katelyn Grazan, who walked in all three plate appearances, coaxed a one-out free pass and then Campbell was hit by a pitch and Ali Morton followed with a base hit to center field to load the bases.
"I feel like wasn’t as precise (in the fifth inning) as she had been," Campbell said. "Her pitches weren’t as on as they had been earlier in the game."
Next, senior shortstop Sam Ginder delivered a sharply-hit single to left to get Central on the scoreboard, and then Katie VanBlargan had a two-out bases loaded walk to force in courtesy runner Megan Ebersole with the tying run.
"I think in the fifth inning, we started getting a little more serious and we got everyone’s motivation up a little more," Campbell said. "Here and there, we had been getting base hits, but we just hadn’t strung them together yet."
In the six hole, High fell into an 0-2 count against Appleby, but then stroked the next pitch to left to drive in courtesy runner Abi Weaver with the go-ahead run.
"I was mad about striking out in my second at-bat, so I wanted to get that (hit)," High said.
Overall, Appleby allowed five hits in the game and struck out eight.
Central’s fifth and final hit came off the bat of Campbell in the bottom of the sixth, and it was a costly one for the Blue Devils. Sara McKee and Grazan worked one-out walks, and courtesy runner Jessica Iehle scored when Campbell ripped a 2-2 pitch to left field for a key insurance run.
"That was pretty big," Grazan said. "I think (Appleby) got kinda tired, but when we got up and running, she kinda sagged down."
That extra run looked big in the top of the seventh the Blue Devils put the potential tying runs on base with back-to-back one-out base hits by Wendy Wolff and Rachel Kline. But Campbell retired the next two batters to seal it.
"We’re exhilirated right now," Ginder said. "It was certainly a goal that we wanted and to make it (to the District finals) is certainly an accomplishment." More LADY BARONS, page B-6