EMIGSVILLE — When a title is on the line, nothing beats experience, especially the big-game variety.
So it was only fitting that Central York's two most prominent veterans proved their value on several occasions Monday afternoon against rival Dallastown in a showdown for the York-Adams Division I softball championship.
Panther senior standouts Kayla Resh and Kelsey Wisner took control. Wisner first did it with her bat. The third baseman led off the third inning by smacking a triple before scoring her team's fourth run. Then she did it with her glove, turning a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth inning into an inning-killing double play.
Resh did it on the mound, where she held the Wildcats mostly off balance despite some fielding errors behind her. The biggest contribution from the right-hander, however, came at the plate in the bottom of the seventh when she hit a walk-off RBI single up the middle to give her team a 5-4 victory.
The Panthers claimed a fourth consecutive Division I title with the victory to improve to 13-2 in the league and 18-2 overall. Dallastown dropped to 11-3 in the league and 12-4 overall.
"I was trying to relax and make sure I was calm," Resh said of her clutch hit. "All I needed was a base hit that gets through."
She did that, chopping a ball past Dallastown pitcher Jaelyn Harbold that dribbled past second base for the game-winner with the bases loaded. As courtesy runner Erin Cabry crossed the plate, it assured the Panthers they would own the division crown outright and earn a berth into the York-Adams League Tournament.
"I was just so excited," Resh said, while holding her bouquet of flowers from the team's Senior Night festivities. "It was Senior Night and it's just like 'we got to win.' And to do it against Dallastown makes it even better."
Defensive struggles: The truth of the matter is, Resh's hit probably should not have been needed. Typically a solid defensive squad, Central committed an unseemly five errors, the last of which allowed the Wildcats to tie the score in the top of the seventh.
"It didn't affect me," said Resh, who yielded 10 hits and struck out two without walking a batter. "I know that they're a good fielding team behind me. We just had to push through everything."
The Wildcats were able to threaten in every inning, but were undone by either bad luck or a lack of timely hitting. The visitors stranded 11 runners, including four over the first two innings, when they only scored a single run.
That proved to be costly. The Panthers were able to erase a 1-0 deficit after an inning by getting some big hits in the second. The first one was a two-out single by Monica Albers that drove in Kelsey Shifflett to tie it. After Resh walked, Haley Klunk singled to center. A Dallastown error allowed Albers to score before Kyla Caruso singled in Resh to make it 3-1.
The lead grew to 4-1 before the Wildcats finally got the bats going in the fourth. A single by Madisyn Johnson was followed by a triple by Lyndee Anders and then a single by Haylee Anders that cut the lead to 4-3.
Key double plays: Resh was able to escape further damage that inning, as well as each of the following three innings, despite allowing a combined 11 base runners. A double play ended the fifth when Resh caught a line drive before throwing to Wisner at third to double off Harbold.
But it was Wisner's 5-2-3 double play that killed a Dallastown rally in the sixth that was really the difference maker. She fielded a grounder cleanly, threw to catcher Briannah Dobson, who then threw to first to complete the pretty play.
"That was just fantastic," Wisner said. "It was a nice hop for me, for once, which is not often on this field. It's not a friendly field. So I got a nice hop and threw it as hard as I could to Bri. Then I was screaming 'get the double play' and (Dobson) has a great arm. She just turned that and nailed her at first. That was great."
Resh and company didn't get down when a routine fly ball to left was misplayed in the seventh, allowing the tying run to get to second with one out. One batter later, it was Dallastown's Kayla Flemmens who drove in the game-tying run with a single to left.
Despite the circumstances, the mood on the Central side was far from dejected.
"No one dropped their head, ever," said Central York coach Shane Walker, whose team will face Division II champion Dover on Friday in the league playoff semifinals. "No one let up. Those things happen, it's just how you bounce back."
Wildcats look to rebound: That will be something that the Wildcats will have to do before they enter the District 3 tournament in a couple of weeks. Hoping to make the league playoffs for a second year in a row (they won a tie-breaker with Central last year), Coach Jeff Deardorff's team will have to rebound.
"I guess the bottom line is that we just couldn't get the runs in," he said. "We got them on base, but we just couldn't do it. But they (Central) are a really good team. One of our goals was to win the county championship, so obviously we're not going to make that goal. But we have some goals of what we want to do in districts, so we'll concentrate on that."
Both Lyndee and Haylee Anders finished with two hits each, as did Harbold, who struck out three and walked four, and Flemmens for Dallastown. Caruso led the Panthers with three hits, while Dobson and Albers collected a pair each as part of an 11-hit attack.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.