Lady Barons return to the L-L finals
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
The Manheim Central softball team nearly ended their Lancaster-Lebanon League title drought last year.
On Wednesday (last night), they got another chance.
The Lady Barons advanced to the L-L championship game for the second year in a row by shutting out Annville-Cleona 2-0 in a semi-final game Tuesday night at Garrett Park in Willow Street.
As of deadline, they were slated to take on the winner of the Warwick-Conestoga Valley semi-final game at 7 p.m. on Thursday back at Garrett Park, looking for their first League crown since 1989 and their fourth-ever in program history.
"We talked about that at practice. We kinda told them about what was happening in 1989," joked Manheim Central boss Steve Ginder, whose squad suffered a 2-1 loss to Donegal in last year’s L-L finals. "We told them assistant coach Michele Achey was six years old, coach Balmer bought his jean shorts back then and they were actually in style and I said (assistant) Tim Proffitt had hair at the time … I think (winning the L-L) is important. They can focus on what’s down the road, but certainly we’d like to add that to one of our accomplishments."
Manheim Central junior Sara McKee added a decision to her win total, as she pitched a four-hit shutout against a Lady Dutchmen squad which defeated Solanco 9-4 in Saturday’s L-L quarterfinals. She again reached double-digits in strikeouts with 11, while walking two.
A-C threatened in the first inning as leadoff batter Chrissi Lerchen singled and Casey Ditzler worked a one-out walk, but McKee recorded back-to-back K’s to get out of it.
Then in the third, Lerchen reached on an error and Anique Varela hit a bloop single, but McKee again escaped further trouble.
"(Sara) kept her head in it when they got some runners on and she got some key strikeouts," Ginder said.
Her composure paid off when the Lady Barons provided McKee with a 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth off of Lerchen, who scattered just four hits with six K’s and three walks. Erika Campbell led off with a double to left, and then she was thrown out at third on a fielder’s choice bunt by Katelyn Grazan. But McKee helped her cause with a base hit and then both runners advanced on a passed ball and scored on a sharp single to right by leadoff batter Abi Weaver.
"(Abi) makes good contact," Ginder said. "It was a solid hit between the first and second baseman. We strung a few hits together in that fifth inning and that was the difference."
The Little Dutchmen had a base runner in the sixth and seventh innings — one on a single and one on an MC error — but they couldn’t push any runs across against McKee, who nailed down the victory.
And with that, the Lady Barons turned their focus toward trying to win their first L-L League title in 23 years.
Last Saturday, Brittani Griffith’s three RBI homer highlighted a five-run first inning by Manheim Central and the Section Three champs went on to defeat Section One runner-up Penn Manor 7-3 in the L-L quarterfinals.
The MC girls scored all seven of their runs in the first two innings, while connecting for five of their seven hits off of PM pitcher Ashley Witmer, who K’d four and walked two.
"To always come out after the first inning with the lead is important and a big lead is even better," Ginder said.
It looked like the Comets might be the team taking the early lead, as they loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the first, but Penn Manor came away empty.
"That was a great boost, because if the other team scores on you right away, it’s intimidating because you have to come back and just get those runs and then you have to keep going," Griffith said. "But (Sara) got us out of it. That was great."
Witmer, though, couldn’t get out of trouble in the bottom of the first. Weaver was hit by a pitch, Ali Morton singled over shortstop and Aerika High walked to load the bases. Two runs scored on an error on Katie VanBlargan’s fielder’s choice grounder, and then with two outs, Griffith smashed a clutch two-out homer to the left-center gap to make it 5-0.
"When (Brittani) was coming past the shortstop, I thought she could (circle the bases)," Ginder said. "And she’s quick. She’s got some speed."
Central added two more runs in the second inning on VanBlargan’s two-run base hit to left center to take a commanding 7-0 lead.
The Comets, who stranded 11 on base, got on the scoreboard in the fifth on an error and Vickie Nase’s RBI single, and then they scored one in the sixth on Witmer’s sac fly, but that was all they could muster off of McKee, who struck out 11 in the win. More LADY BARONS, page B-5