‘Ya gotta believe’

By on June 15, 2011

To think of how far the Manheim Central softball team has come this year is mind-boggling. At this stage, with only one win separating the girls from a State Triple-A championship, it’s easy to forget that they were just a 4-3 team in early April.

It’s hard to believe that anyone had them pegged as a State finalist at that point.

Shoot, the last time they advanced as far as the L-L League semi-finals, prior to doing so this spring against Warwick, was nearly a decade ago in 2002. I remember interviewing a couple of the Manheim Central players after they beat Elizabethtown 2-0 in the first round of Leagues and they talked about their goals of beating Warwick, of getting to the L-L’s Final Four and of accomplishing some feats that they hadn’t reached in several years.

Yes, the State tournament was still another step or two away, but I’m not sure that playing in the State finals was on anyone’s radar at that point.

Back in 2004, the Warwick softball team had its sights set on a State crown and there were probably a lot of people who were talking about them as being a contender. But they had taken home the District title in 2003. They had gotten their feet wet in the State playoffs before suffering a first-round loss to Neshaminy. And they had a few key seniors back, including pitcher Courtney Gingrich.

Prior to this year, the Lady Barons hadn’t been to States since the 1986 season. But you wouldn’t know it by the poise they have shown in their wins over Pottsgrove, Lansdale Catholic and Valley View, having scored the winning runs in the sixth inning or later in every game.

With their 22-1 record since early April as evidence, the Lady Barons got themselves on a roll and now they are a very confident team that is hard to beat. That confidence can be a very powerful thing, and at this point, people should be asking themselves, "Why not Manheim Central as State champs?"

Junior catcher Katie VanBlargan said on Monday, "I feel like this is our year and we’re making history." They are starting to get a whole lot of people to feel the same way.

I have to admit that Valley View scared me a bit in the State semi-finals. That was based largely on the scores from their first two games, when they beat District Four champ Jersey Shore 11-1 and District One champ Pope John Paul II by a 14-1 score.

To hold that Valley View team scoreless while giving them their first loss of the season is saying something in my book. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t be shocked in the least to see them finish the job on Friday in the State finals.

Following their win over Lansdale Catholic in the State quarterfinals last Thursday, MC assistant coach Tim Proffitt said, "The team really believes in themselves and that’s huge."

There’s that word — "believe." I’m not sure if Tim is old enough to have the same reference that I have, but I can’t help thinking of Tug McGraw’s slogan, ‘Ya Gotta Believe,’ with the 1973 Mets as they rallied from being a last-place team to winning the NL Pennant.

Manheim Central was never a last-place team, but they have come a long way nevertheless. And they have done so with a relatively small number of seniors. Alexa Campbell, Victoria Farkas and Samantha Ginder are the only three seniors on the squad, but their contributions have been big.

You can’t understimate the value of pitching in softball, and Campbell has proven to be a gem. Ditto for Ginder, who has made every play at shortstop and been a rock on defense for the Lady Barons. Both have also carried big sticks in the top three spots in the batting order. Generally, the seniors are the backbone of any team and that seems to be the case for this Manheim Central team.

Here’s hoping those seniors end their high school career with a gold medal at Penn State this Friday.

*****

It was reported in last week’s issue of the Lititz Record that 1981 was the last time Manheim Central advanced to the PIAA State playoffs. But thanks to a nice phone call I received this week, I learned that it was actually 1980 when Central played at States. (And according to Jeff Reinhart’s blog, they also reached the PIAA Tourney in 1986).

Bob Miller, whose daughter Lynn pitched in all 29 games for the Lady Barons’ team that went 24-5, informed me that the 1980 squad won three games in what was then a double-elimination tournament. He still has the proof, having saved the old newspaper clippings from that season. They beat Twin Valley, Wyoming Area and Langley, before ending their season with defeats to Whitehall and Lehigh Valley.

Just as the 2011 Manheim Central team lost to Donegal in the L-L finals, then turned around and beat their rivals for the District crown, the 1980 team lost to Twin Valley in the District finals and then beat them in the State playoffs.

Thanks for the phone call, Bob. It was great talking with you. Bruce Morgan

Record Express

Sports Editor More MORGAN, page B-4