If there's one thing that Dallastown softball coach Jeff Deardorff likes about his team, it's this: They never quit.
Despite looking at a 4-2 deficit heading into the final inning Wednesday afternoon, the Wildcats continued to believe.
As it turned out, that faith was justified.
Dallastown rallied to score three times in the seventh inning off Central York starter Taylor Rohrbaugh to take the lead in the District 3-AAAA semifinal contest at Memorial Park.
After the Panthers tied the score in the bottom of the inning, the Wildcats did it again in the top of the 10th. Haylee Anders drove in the eventual game-winning run with a sacrifice fly and Dallastown survived a squeeze play in the bottom of the inning to claim a 6-5 victory.
The triumph sends the third-seeded Wildcats (19-3) into the district final opposite fourth-seeded Central Dauphin (20-3) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Millersville University. The Rams knocked off top-seeded Lower Dauphin, 2-1, in the other semifinal Wednesday.
"One thing I love about them is that they don't ever give up," Deardorff said. "They don't ever give up. It doesn't matter what the score is or what inning it is. They believe that they can score five or six runs at any time."
Anders started the seventh-inning rally with a one-out single. Catcher Sam Hartman followed with a double over the left-fielder's head that plated Anders and cut the Central lead in half at 4-3. Shortstop Amanda Jones wasted no time in squaring the contest, lacing a single that scored Hartman on the first offering she saw. Two batters later, Jones crossed the plate when freshman Kayla Collins ripped a double to left.
"I was just happy that I got a hit," said Collins, who finished with four hits in five at-bats. "I was so nervous getting up to bat. You have no idea ... I was shaking so much."
Collins' sister, Dallastown starting pitcher Kelsey Collins, never had doubt in Kayla's hitting prowess.
"She's been hitting well all year," Kelsey Collins said. "We had a tournament this past weekend and she hit really, really well. I thought it would follow through to this game and it did."
Central waited until their last strike to even up the contest in the bottom of the inning. Rohrbaugh led off the frame with a double, was sacrificed to third and remained there after Kelsey Collins got a strikeout for the second out of the inning. Kelsey Collins had Central catcher Ally Dziwis down to her last strike, but the Panther sophomore got enough of a pitch to send it into center to plate Rohrbaugh.
Each club squandered a couple scoring chances in the eighth and ninth innings before the international tiebreaker went into effect in the 10th. The tiebreaker gives the batting team an automatic runner on second to begin the inning and the Wildcats took advantage of it.
A botched sacrifice bunt allowed Julia Snyder to reach and sent Kelsey Collins to third with no outs. Another bunt was fielded without a play to load the bases with no outs. Enter Anders, who managed to get a ball elevated into center. The ball was caught, but Kelsey Collins was able to score easily without a play to give Dallastown a 6-5 advantage.
In the bottom of the inning, the Panthers tried to duplicate what their rivals accomplished. Dziwis started at second and was successfully bunted to third on a sacrifice. Instead of playing for a hit, though, the York-Adams League champions tried a squeeze play. The ball was bunted back to Collins, who made a quick reaction to field the ball and flipped it to Hartman at the plate. The Dallastown catcher completely blocked the plate and never allowed Dziwis to touch the plate before tagging her out.
"I was like, 'Oh my gosh,'" the Wildcat starting pitcher said. "Sam made a really good play. I didn't realize that (Dziwis) was coming home. I just looked up and flipped the ball to Sam. I thought (Dziwis) got in. I was like, 'Sam, thank you.'"
Central coach Barry Brenneman didn't regret the play, just the outcome.
"That's something that we work on," he said. "I thought that (Dziwis) would get the job done, but the catcher (Hartman) just blocked the plate. The umpire said she never hit home plate. We work on the squeeze all the time and we're going to use it. She got it down perfectly, but (Dziwis) just didn't get there in time."
Central remained alive after Kelsey Wisner laced a single up the middle to make it first and second, before the Panthers pulled off a double-steal. Kelsey Collins, however, fanned the last batter, which set off a huge on-field celebration.
Deardorff, for one, couldn't have been more proud.
"We have a real team," Deardorff said. "These girls all play hard and play with each other. We're making history and that's a lot of fun too."
Neither pitcher got off to a great start. The Wildcats touched Rohrbaugh for two first-inning runs. The Panthers followed with three runs off Kelsey Collins in the first and another in the second to take a 4-2 lead.
Jones, Jenna Eckenrode, and Kayla Collins combined for nine hits and four RBIs. Kelsey Collins went the distance, striking out 11 while allowing nine hits in getting the victory.
Central had three players -- Rohrbaugh, Angie Delise and Wisner -- finish with two hits apiece. Rohrbaugh struck out seven and surrendered 11 hits while suffering the loss.
The Panthers still have a shot at reaching the PIAA tournament if they defeat Lower Dauphin in the third-place contest Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Garrett Park in Willow Street.
Dallastown, which will be play in the program's first district championship contest, already clinched a PIAA berth with Wednesday's victory.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.