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Sweet revenge for the Lady Barons Win in District finals avenges L-L loss to Donegal
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
At one time, the thought of rooting against Donegal wouldn’t have even crossed Steve Ginder’s mind.
Manheim Central’s softball coach bled green growing up prior to graduating from Donegal.
Ditto for his father, Clair Ginder, an assistant coach for the Lady Barons.
Last Friday, however, their loyalties were definitely with the maroon and silver as Manheim Central and Donegal squared off for the fourth time this season.
And the Ginders were right in the middle of the celebration when the Lady Barons defeated their long-time rivals 3-1 to claim their first-ever District Three Triple-A crown at Willow Street’s Garrett Park.
While evening the season series record to 2-2, the Manheim Central girls (23-4) also avenged a 2-1 loss to Donegal in the L-L League finals just a couple of weeks earlier.
"I told them to remember how they felt after that game and let’s not feel that way the rest of the season," Steve Ginder said.
It was Lady Barons’ ace Alexa Campbell who predicted a long run in Districts for her squad in the wake of that emotional loss to the Lady Indians for the League crown. Last Friday, as she hoisted the District trophy, her words proved prophetic.
"I knew we could do it and I knew that there was a chance it could be against Donegal," Campbell said, "and that just makes it so much sweeter is the fact that we could come back and beat them in Districts."
Her teammates echoed that. And they got a big boost by scoring all three of their runs with two outs.
"We know that when we’re up to bat, no matter what it’s never over even if there’s two outs," Campbell said. "We can always string base hits together. It’s all about staying focused and trying to get your base hit."
Sam Ginder was focused while working a four-pitch free pass from Donegal ace Kelsey Hannold in the bottom of the first. Rachel Clippinger’s base hit to right center sent her to third and then Ginder scored when VanBlargan reached on an error by Donegal second baseman Hayley Bollinger.
Hannold, who scattered just four hits and walked two, had a strong rise ball while recording eight K’s. But sophomore Miranda Becker caught up with a Hannold offering for a leadoff base hit to left-center in the second. Two outs later, Campbell ripped a 1-1 pitch to left for an RBI double and then she advanced to third on an error.
"I just wanted to make contact and to look for pitches and really try to hit the sweet spot on my bat," Campbell said.
Next, junior Ali Morton followed with an RBI double to right field to stretch the Lady Barons’ lead to 3-0.
"I think we came into this game and we were like, ‘Hannold is a great pitcher and we’ve just got to be focused and honed in,’" sophomore catcher Katie VanBlargan said. "(Hitting) is what we do mostly during practice because we know we need to hit in order to win. You can’t just play the field."
The Lady Barons also had another key ingredient in their recipe for success — stellar pitching from Campbell. While throwing first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 27 batters she faced, she allowed only one base runner through the first three frames, as Donegal’s Steph Gainer reached on a strikeout-passed ball in the first.
The Lady Indians, though, finally got their first real threat in the top of the fourth. With one out, Hannold’s blooper fell in for a base hit and then cleanup hitter Laura Gebhart (2-for-3) slapped a base hit to right. After Campbell K’d Brooke Swarr, Maddy Emenheiser worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases.
But Campbell, who fired 112 total pitches in the game, escaped the jam by retiring April Yost on strikes, protecting the 3-0 lead. She finished with eight K’s while walking just one and holding Donegal to only three hits.
"That’s a stressful part in the game, but that’s when you have to really stay focused as much as you can and really work on every single pitch," Campbell said.
"(Alexa) doesn’t lose her composure ever," Ginder said. "That doesn’t rattle her at all. She just came back and started throwing strikes and we did what we had to do."
The bad news for the Lady Indians was that Campbell had what Ginder estimated was one of her top-five changeups all season.
"I’d say a good amount were changeups," Campbell smiled. "When it’s on, it’s working good. That and my drop curve are my favorite ones to throw."
VanBlargan said that Campbell’s ability to hide the changeup adds to its effectiveness.
"Tonight she was right on with it," VanBlargan said. "You can’t ever really tell when it’s coming and it really fakes the girls out. It’s the same motion and you don’t see it coming and then you swing the bat and you’re like, ‘Ah crap, I could’ve swung it twice.’"
Ginder added, "It was as good as it gets. They didn’t have any real hard hits. She controlled the plate."
Donegal broke through in the top of the fifth for an unearned run, as Tianna Hatt reached on a two-base fielding error and scored on Bollinger’s RBI ground out to short, cutting the Lady Barons’ lead to 3-1.
Hannold, meanwhile, held Central hitless over the final four frames, although VanBlargan was twice hit by a pitch and Campbell worked a leadoff walk in the fifth.
But the three runs were enough for Campbell, who retired nine of the final 10 batters she faced and clinched the victory by striking out Katrina Martin in the seventh.
With that, the Lady Barons successfully put their loss to Donegal in the L-L championship game behind them.
"I wanted revenge on them because they’re a really good team and to beat them is a big thing," VanBlargan said. "I just really wanted this one." More CHAMPS, page B-2