Ask any softball player and she'll tell you that the best way to start a game is to get runs early to help out the starting pitcher.
Well, Dallastown pitcher Jaelynn Harbold took matters into her own hands in Wednesday's game at West York. The righty launched a three-run home run in the top of the first inning, the biggest blow in a five-run frame for the Wildcats, pacing the team to a 15-0 victory over the Bulldogs in five innings.
"It's always good to get a couple runs in," Harbold said. "It helps settle everyone down. ... Our offense makes everything go and makes us so comfortable and gives us that edge."
It did just that for Harbold and the rest of the Dallastown club, which scored five runs in each of the first two innings, then tacked on five more over the next three to end the game early. In the first two innings, all nine hitters came to the plate for the Wildcats (6-1 overall, 5-0 in York-Adams Division I).
But, it wasn't just at the plate where Harbold led Dallastown.
In the circle, she tossed a one-hitter, giving up a one-out single to Madisyn Johnson in the bottom of the fifth. At that point, it was much too little and way too late for West York (4-2 overall, 3-1 Division II). The Bulldogs only had four base runners all game.
"Jaelynn really pitched a great game," Wildcats coach Jeff Deardorff said. "She kept them off balance the whole time. She was mixing pitches and keeping her change-up down low."
Only once did the Bulldogs put a runner in scoring position, when Gabrielle Ilyes stole second and third base with one out in the first inning. But, she was stranded there after a strikeout and flyout ended the inning — and the only real threat in the game for West York.
Harbold retired 10 straight hitters once Ilyes reached third, striking out half of them, and keeping the entire Bulldogs' lineup off balance.
"The girls just weren't ready to play and that was obvious," West York coach Chris Ilyes said. "You can't come into a game like that against a caliber team that Dallastown is and expect to win, or even compete, if you don't have fire and competitiveness."
Wednesday's game was only the latest example of the offensive firepower that Dallastown possesses. As a team, it returns seven players who hit over .300 for last year's club. Since losing their only game of the season on March 30 against Kennard-Dale, the Wildcats have now scored 50 runs over their last four games.
All nine starters for Dallastown recorded at least one hit, including multi-hit performances from Harbold, Haylee Anders, Kayla Collins, Danielle Ludwig, Mel Grant, Madisyn Johnson and Maggie Noll. As a team, they slugged 16 hits in the contest, including seven extra-base hits. Harbold scored three of the four times she reached base and drove in four runs.
In the circle, Harbold's final pitching line was a complete game, surrendering only one hit and two walks, while striking out seven. She faced only three hitters over the minimum.
It was the first time the Bulldogs, who entered the contest averaging 9.4 runs per game over their first five games, were shut out on the season.
Wednesday's game was just another dominant performance by a Wildcats squad that looks to be on a mission since dropping an extra-innings contest to the Rams 10 days ago. But, for West York, it's a game that it will need to quickly forget. The Bulldogs will look to right the ship and snap their current two-game slide.
"It's one of those games," Chris Ilyes said. "What do you say? Other than you learn from it, you pick up your pride and you come back fighting tomorrow. Tomorrow's another day. It's a long season."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org