Section champion Warwick plays spoiler role vs. Knights
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Karlie Watson wasn’t going to swing unless she saw a perfect pitch.
So when a first-pitch fastball from Hempfield’s Rachel Herman came right down the middle of the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning on Monday night, the Warwick junior couldn’t resist.
She was rewarded with her third hit of the night, a sharp single to left field which drove in Cassidy Godber with the game-winning run, lifting the Lady Warriors to a thrilling 4-3 win over Section One rival Hempfield in Lititz. The victory improved Warwick to a perfect 8-0 on their home field this season.
"It was a perfect spot," Watson said of the pitch location. "The first time (facing Herman), I didn’t do good, so I just waited for her and just drove it."
Although the Warwick girls (13-2 L-L, 14-4) clinched their eighth straight Section One title last Wednesday, May 2 with a 5-1 win over Township, the Lady Warriors still had plenty of motivation against the Black Knights. Hempfield’s loss, coupled with Penn Manor’s 16-2 rout of McCaskey, gave the Comets’ the final L-L playoff berth in Section One.
"We wanted to beat Hempfield and we knew that if we won, we’d knock them out of League (playoffs), so it was a pretty big game for us," Watson said.
The win didn’t come easily, however.
Herman, who struck out one, walked one and scattered nine hits while throwing 101 pitches in the complete-game loss, was mixing an effective change-up with a fastball early on. But the Lady Warriors took a 2-0 lead through three. In the second, Madi Derr walked, Ashley Tshudy sacrificed and Alex Condie (2-for-4, RBI) stroked an RBI single to center, and then in the third, Victoria Byler pushed a bunt single past Herman, Godber sacrificed and then Watson (3-for-5, 2 RBI’s) smashed an RBI double to left-center.
"Karlie has been pretty consistent all year long," Warwick coach Don Miller said. "Karlie is just kinda Ms. Consistency. She doesn’t get into any prolonged slump. She’s striking the ball hard."
But the Knights answered in the fourth off of Warwick starter Tessa Eckman. After Emily Johnson and Amber Morris reached on bad-hop base hits, Aubrey Hartman delivered an RBI single to center just out of the reach of a diving Derr at shortstop. Then in the fifth inning, Cortney Prokay squared and slapped a base hit over shortstop, Annie Hartman had a one-out single to right, and courtesy runner Zoey Schneck scored when Hartman got caught in a rundown, tying it 2-2.
It remained deadlocked after seven, but then Hempfield’s Emily Johnson launched a one-out blast over the left-center field fence to give the Knights their first lead, 3-2, in the top of the eighth inning.
In the bottom of the frame, Watson was again in the middle of things, as she laced a one-out double to left-center. After Derr legged out an infield single to push Watson to third, Tshudy hit a game-tying sac fly to center.
Lacey Lefever followed by pitching a scoreless inning in relief of Eckman, who K’d six, walked one and scattered 11 hits while tossing 109 pitches in eight innings.
"I think they started to time (Tessa) a little bit, so I just thought it was good time to get a new look in there with Lacey," Miller said. "She pitched really well."
Lefever looked like she would get the win in the bottom of the ninth, thanks to the bottom of Warwick’s batting order. Condie singled to left, Megan Eyer, in her first at-bat, perfectly executed a bunt single, and both runners advanced on Byler’s sac bunt. Godber then hit a fly out to right, but Hempfield outfielder Lauren Hickey threw a strike to the plate to cut off courtesy runner Jordan May with the winning run.
For Miller, it brought back memories of their 1-0 loss to Conestoga Valley, when the Bucks’ Kelly Martin jumped over a tag at the plate on a sac fly in the bottom of the seventh.
"I was like, ‘Wow, we can’t catch a break on those plays at the plate,’" Miller laughed. "But (Hickey) made a nice throw. It was a nice play. You’ve got to make them make the play and they made the play and that’s the way it works."
With the international tiebreaker in effect starting in the 10th, Hempfield loaded the bases with no outs. But Lefever pitched out of it with back-to-back fielder’s choices and then a ground out to second base.
"When you get in those situations, I think bases loaded is sometimes an easier position because it takes a lot of the thinking out of it," Miller said. "You get it and you throw it home. The bad thing about that is, if they do get a hit, then you’re scoring multiple runs (to try to tie the game)."
It was a golden opportunity squandered by the Black Knights, and Warwick made them pay. Godber started the bottom of the 10th at second, then advanced on Lefever’s sacrifice, and scored the game-winner on Watson’s base hit to left field. Lefever got the win with two scoreless innings of relief.
"I was thinking about a safety squeeze there," Miller acknowledged. "Cass is a great base runner, Karlie can get a bunt down. I actually said something to Cass and she said, ‘Let her hit.’ First pitch, boom. I was like, ‘You made me look good. Thanks Cass.’"
Last Wednesday, May 2, Godber went 1-for-3 and scored a pair of runs as Warwick defeated Manheim Township 5-1 in a Section One game in Lititz.
The Blue Streaks took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but it was all Warwick after that. Lacey Lefever and Alex Condie delivered RBI doubles, Victoria Byler slammed a run-scoring triple and Karlie Watson added an RBI base hit, as Warwick took the lead for good with two in the bottom of the first and then added single runs in the second, fifth and sixth.
Tessa Eckman whiffed six, walked two and scattered five hits in the complete-game win. More LADY WARRIORS, page B-8