Rams edge Warwick in a pitchers’ duel for District title

By on June 5, 2019
Warwick first baseman Peyton Heisey fields her position in the District Three 6A finals against Central Dauphin last Friday. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Warwick first baseman Peyton Heisey fields her position in the District Three 6A finals against Central Dauphin last Friday. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Facing a Division-One pitcher is nothing new for Warwick’s softball team.

Over the past four years, the Warriors saw plenty of Penn Manor’s Brittany Hook, who is now a freshman at the University of South Florida.

For that matter, one of their own — current St. Joseph’s University freshman Amanda Herr — was part of that elite company.

Lo and behold, yet another Division-One ace stood just 43 feet away last Friday in the form of Central Dauphin senior Sam Gress, a North Carolina State-recruit.

“I don’t think we’re ever in awe of that,” Warrior coach Mark Hough said. “We tried to fight as much as we could.”

No arguing that.

Unfortunately for Warwick, however, it came up just short, as the hard-throwing Gress struck out 12 and surrendered only three hits in a pitchers duel with Warwick sophomore Katelyn Minney, leading Central Dauphin to a 1-0 win in the District Three 6A finals at York College’s Spartan Stadium.

It was the second straight District title for the Rams, who improved to 21-2.

“It’s such a tough loss after getting this far,” Hough said. “The kids persevered throughout the game.”

On the bus ride home, Hough and the Warriors (18-4) were perhaps still thinking about a close play at third base which went against them in the bottom of the sixth inning.

With one out, Emily Beale walked, then advanced to second on Catie Brubaker’s bunt single, but was ruled out on a bang-bang play trying to swipe third.

Warwick thought Beale had slid in safely under the tag, and Hough requested an umpire’s forum. He got it, but the call stood.

“It was a good game all the way through,” Hough said. “I’m kinda kicking myself. I was trying to get a little aggressive in the bottom of the sixth, but I still think she was under the tag. I was really proud of the way the kids played. They were fighting and we had chances early on.”

The first of those came in the first inning, as Beale singled to shallow right, went to second on a throwing error by CD second baseman Bella Culp, then moved up to third with Brubaker at the plate.

Gress, though, escaped with an infield pop up.

One inning later, Marissa Treibley walked, then Mackenzie Stewart legged out a one-out slow roller to shortstop before Gress whiffed the next two.

“I knew (Warwick’s) the one seed for a reason,” Gress said, “they got to the District championship for a reason, so you can’t take them lightly.”

Meanwhile, Minney — who retired the first six batters she faced — was matching the Central Dauphin ace pitch-for-pitch, while getting some sparkling defensive play behind her, including a perfectly-executed rundown play to tag out CD center fielder Jillian Kendra in the third.

Later, shortstop Treibley ranged far down the left field line to grab a pop-up by Sam Burns in the second, then third baseman Danielle Jones snared a fourth-inning line drive by Gress before firing across the diamond to double off Culp, who singled.

“We had that (play by Jones) and then I couldn’t believe Treibs went and fielded that one,” Hough said. “The other thing was, we had Emily Beale coming in from center field for that rundown. That’s where I’m pleased with all the things we do.”

Jones was up to her tricks again in the fifth, fielding a sharply-hit grounder by Kendra for a run-saving stop, and getting a nice scoop by first baseman Peyton Heisey across the diamond.

“Peyton has just kept gaining more confidence as the season went on,” Hough said, “and has really become a top-notch first baseman.”

Gress, though, set down 12 straight Warwick batters between the second and sixth innings, effectively mixing four pitches — fastball, two-seamer, change-up and drop.

“I wasn’t really feeling my change-up,” Gress said, “but as a pitcher, that happens and I have to figure out another way I can attack them. So just going inside on them was my attack mode.”

Minney, too, was in attack mode, recording five K’s while scattering five hits and walking none on 68 total pitches.

“What’s so fun is you always see the smile on her face,” Hough said, “she doesn’t get rattled.”

But in the top of the sixth, CD managed to break through for an unearned run.

With one out, Culp got on board on a fielding error, then Gress reached on a fielder’s choice. Next, Tyler White singled to center put runners at the corners, and then Gress eventually scored on a passed ball, putting CD up 1-0.

“In these types of games,” Gress said, “you kinda figure it’s going to come down to one or two runs. (Warwick) has a great pitcher, they’ve got a great defense, and it was a great game to be in.”

In Warwick’s final at-bats, Gress retired the side in order, and that was the ball game.

“The whole CD team has been here the last three years even though they’re a young team,” Hough said. “Gress is an excellent pitcher.”

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