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L-S edges Lady Barons 1-0 in pitcher’s duel
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
In the early going this season, Manheim Central pitcher Sara McKee hasn’t felt like she’s been on her game.
On Monday at Section Three rival Lampeter-Strasburg, she did.
Unfortunately for McKee and the Lady Barons, however, they didn’t get the results they wanted, as L-S scored a two-out run in the bottom of the fourth and rode ace pitcher Courtney Martin to a 1-0 shutout in Lampeter.
Martin whiffed six, yielded just three hits and drove in the game’s only run with an RBI single to right field while gaining the upper hand in her pitcher’s duel against McKee. The Lady Barons’ senior hurler was sharp in her own right, giving up only two hits while striking out five. But it wasn’t meant to be for Central, as they fell into third place in the Section Three standings with a 2-2 record (3-2 overall).
"We have a big target on our back because of the past few years," McKee said, referring to the Lady Barons’ back-to-back trips to the State Triple-A semi-finals and a PIAA championship game berth in 2011. "We are trying to not look at that and just have this be a new year, while other people are looking at that wanting to beat us. So it’s kinda something that we just have to get past when other people are out to beat us."
Monday’s loss was their second in three games, coupled with a 6-2 setback to Donegal last Wednesday, April 3, and it dropped them into third place in the Section Three standings. Dealing with the graduation of three players from the middle of their batting order, along with a likely season-ending injury to sophomore outfielder Sara Fink, the Lady Barons are still trying to gel.
"There was frustration the other night," Manheim Central coach Steve Ginder said. "It will be interesting tomorrow (at practice)."
There were a lot of batters who went back to the dugout frustrated after facing McKee and Martin on Monday.
The Lady Pioneers’ first batter of the game, center fielder Ashley Braungard, reached on a throwing error and advanced to third on a pair of stolen bases. But then McKee retired the next 11 batters she faced in order, changing speeds masterfully and working both sides of the plate.
"I haven’t been on recently, but today, I overcame a lot," McKee said. "Last week, I just had a rough week, so this week is hopefully getting better. All my pitches were working today and it felt really good."
"(Sara) did well. She shut them down for the most part," Ginder said. "It was a nice outing. She was moving it around, had good control. We’ve just got to get some offense behind it."
Martin, too, had a nice outing for L-S, not allowing a Manheim Central runner past second base. That happened in the first inning, as Miranda Becker worked a four-pitch leadoff walk and moved up on a passed ball, but was stranded there.
Madeline Berger had a one-out infield single in the second, while Courtney Hoffer legged out a leadoff base hit in the third, but Martin controlled the damage.
"(Courtney) moved the ball around nicely," L-S coach Tim Shoff said. "Her pitches were effective, she hit her spots and they took a few pitches and got jammed a few times and they didn’t get good swings. So I was content with that. She’s developing into a real nice pitcher."
Martin also got a lot of help from her teammates on defense. L-S second baseman Ashley Lechner was perfect on six chances in the middle infield. Then in the fourth inning, left fielder Cortney Tantala robbed Aerika High with a diving catch, and Braungard made a nice running catch in deep left-center to steal an extra-base hit from McKee.
"I hit it off the end of the bat," High said, "so I didn’t think it was a great hit. But (Tantala) took it away from me. Not much you can do about that."
In the bottom of the fourth, McKee continued to cruise while retiring the first two batter she faced. But then L-S catcher Bella Miranda, batting in the clean-up spot, worked a five-pitch walk and ran to third base as Sara Braungard beat out an infield base hit. That brought Martin to the plate, and on a 1-2 pitch from McKee, she flared a base hit to right to drive in Miranda.
"It was good base running by our catcher to get to third and then fortunately, Courtney Martin went with that pitch and just kinda blooped it into right field," Shoff said. "We tell them all the time, ‘Try to go with the pitch when you get behind,’ and she did. We were very fortunate. The pitcher, McKee, give her the credit. she pitched really well. But our pitcher is no slouch either. She did a great job."
Martin protected that one-run lead by retiring the next seven she faced in order. Then in the top of the seventh, Central clean-up batter Rachel Clippinger singled to left to get the potential tying run on base. But courtesy runner Marisa Olszewski was stranded at first as Martin retired the final two batters on a pop out and strikeout.
"We just need to all get a fire underneath of us and be able to come back and get that run," McKee said.
The two teams will meet again on May 3 when Manheim Central hosts L-S. With the Lady Barons and Lady Pioneers in the mix for the two L-L playoff berths in Section Three, that will no doubt be another big one.
"With our Section, between Donegal and Central and us, we’ve been battling for years," Shoff said. "Certainly, it’s a big game. Especially this early, it’s always a big game because you can’t afford to lose or you put yourself behind."
Last Friday, Becker went 4-for-5 out of the leadoff spot and the Lady Barons hammered Northern Lebanon 15-0 in a Section Three game in Fredericksburg.
Leading 8-0 through six, Central broke it open with a seven-run seventh-inning rally. Abby Hahn had a two-run base hit to highlight the outburst. High added a two-run single in MC’s four-run fifth inning and McKee helped her own cause with an RBI single in the third.
Katelyn Grazan was on base four times with two hits and two walks, and Clippinger finished the game 2-for-4. McKee K’d 11 and scattered five hits for the decision.
Central was also in action last Wednesday, April 3, suffering a 6-2 loss to Donegal.
Lady Indians’ ace Sophie Leaman limited the MC batters to just two hits and two unearned runs, while striking out six and walking two. She helped her own cause at the plate going 3-for-3 with a walk,
McKee took the loss after yielding six runs on nine hits and six walks. She struck out 11. MC scored its only two runs in the fifth as Hahn and Abi Weaver scored on a dropped fly ball in the outfield. More MC GIRLS, page B-3