Warwick holds off Comets in L-L opener

By on April 2, 2014

It seemed to be a dire situation for the Warwick softball team.

The Lady Warriors were leading, but Penn Manor had the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the seventh inning with only one out on Monday.

No matter.

Senior pitcher Tessa Eckman stranded both runners on base with back-to-back strikeouts and the Warwick girls held on to win their Section One opener, defeating the Comets 5-4 in wind-swept Lititz.

Eckman picked up the win, allowing just one earned run in four innings of relief behind starting pitcher Lacey Lefever.

“That was huge,” Warwick coach Mark Hough said. “With the pitching by committee, I think Tessa and Lacey have both bought into it, they know their strengths and weaknesses, so I think that’s how we’re attacking it.”

While Warwick (1-0 L-L, 2-1 overall) will gladly take the one-run win, it wasn’t pretty at times –  for either them or Penn Manor. The two teams combined for a number of defensive lapses and left runners aplenty on the bases. The Lady Warriors had the bags filled in the first and second innings, but managed just one run after Penn Manor had taken an early 2-0 edge.

For the game, Warwick managed only four hits, but they capitalized on three Penn Manor errors and six walks by pitcher Victoria Kauffman.

“I still think that we’re not getting the big hit when we need it,” Hough said. “And I think that we’re going to have to work tomorrow in practice, and (Wednesday) when we face Cedar Crest, we’re going to have to learn how to manufacture runs as we did in the (third inning).”

The Comets got a couple big hits in the opening frame while making Lefever throw 30 pitches. Neither Liz Burkholder (2-for-4) nor Kauffman (2-for-4) scalded the ball, but they found open spaces for RBI base hits to put visiting Penn Manor up 2-0.

Kauffman battled with her control in the home half of the inning, and Vanessa Strohm’s bases-loaded free pass forced in Ashley Royer to get Warwick on the board, cutting its deficit to 2-1.

Lefever had some command struggles of her own in the top of the third, walking the bases full with two outs. She worked her way out of trouble by getting Long on an inning-ending ground out.

“I don’t think she was 100 percent health-wise today and she was getting the ball up in the strike zone early on,” Hough said of Lefever, who struck out four, walked six and scattered three hits on 79 pitches in three innings. “Coach Byler had noticed that, so we kinda thought, ‘How far can we go?’ It was a little bit hairy with the bases loaded and two outs, but I wanted to show that I have the confidence in her to get that out. Then once we got that out, we knew that we were going to go to Tessa and both of them accept their roles very well.”

Escaping that jam looked big when Warwick scored the equalizer in the bottom of the third. Vanessa Strohm singled off the third base bag, Jenny George sacrificed, and a Penn Manor throwing error following August Mason’s ground out allowed Strohm to circle the bases for the tying run.

It was still tied 2-2 when Royer (2-for-3, 2 runs) slugged a leadoff triple to right-center through the gusting wind with one out in the fourth inning.

“(Ashley) is kind of our table-setter,” Hough said. “She’s been crushing the ball all winter long and I think she’s just starting to get into her form now. She hit that shot to center field, she’s quick and she can get things moving for us and that really makes it easy for me.”

Lefever’s RBI ground out drove in Royer with the go-ahead run, and then after Victoria Byler and Nikole Rottkamp walked, both runners scored when Strohm’s fly ball was dropped in shallow left field, putting the Lady Warriors in front 5-2.

Penn Manor got two runs back in the top of the fourth inning to make it interesting. Kauffman reached on a Warwick fielding error and later scored on a wild pitch. Curtis, who singled, crossed the plate to get the Comets within 5-4, although she looked to be hung up between third and home when Warwick’s third baseman took the out at first base on Wright’s ground ball.

“Those are just some minor miscues that could have cost us the game, but didn’t,” Hough said. “We can’t be making those kind of mistakes later on in the season.”

Although the Comets threatened in their final at-bat, they would get no closer, as Eckman sealed it with two of her five K’s.

Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4451.

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