ANNVILLE — The Delone Catholic softball team was in a hurry to get back to school in time for the seniors' baccalaureate service on Thursday evening.
But first, it had to take care of business on the diamond in the District 3-AA championship game. And nothing would've made the seniors prouder than to walk into the auditorium with gold medals around their necks.
While there were some tense moments, it was again business as usual for the Squirettes, who dispatched Kutztown, 10-3, on Thursday afternoon at Lebanon Valley College to earn the Class AA title, ending the program's 16-year district title drought.
"It's really exciting," junior Cassie Rickrode said. "It feels like it was meant to be because it feels like we always come up short, but this time we really wanted it and came out and got it."
Key moments: During the early innings, Delone (18-4) seemed in control, but the score was always close enough that one big play on offense or defense by the Cougars (18-6) could've resulted in a completely different ballgame.
The first of those moments came in the bottom of the third, with the Squirettes up 5-2. With the bases loaded and two outs, Delone was either one pitch away from stranding three runners or blowing the game wide open. With freshman Marlee Lackey facing Kutztown starter Jenna Grimm, Lackey drove a ball into the left-center-field gap, clearing the bases and putting Delone up 8-2.
Then, in the top-half of the next inning, the Cougars had a chance of their own to claw right back into the game. Already with one run across, they had a bases-loaded, two-out situation of their own. One swing could change the entire dynamic of the game.
With nowhere to put Kutztown's top hitter, Courtney Stump, Rickrode dug deep and delivered her best pitch, getting Stump to line out to second baseman Karley Coleman to end the inning and keep the Squirettes on top, 8-3.
"I just worked my pitches because I knew she was a good hitter," Rickrode said. "I knew that I just had to keep my pitches spinning the right way to get her to either ground out or line out."
Delone cruised the rest of the way, tacking on two more runs, one in the fourth and one in the sixth, to close out the win.
Fast start: While the Squirettes are typically a team that takes a couple innings to get their offense rolling, Thursday that wasn't the case. After spotting the Cougars a 2-0 lead after the top of the first, Delone instantly responded, scoring five unearned runs off of Grimm to build a 5-2 advantage.
"That's the first time in a long while we scored in the first inning," Squirettes coach Don Smith said. "We usually wait until the fifth or the sixth, but today we did it early."
Even though eight of the 10 runs were unearned because of five fielding errors by Kutztown, it was still up to Delone to take advantage of the opportunities it was given. In the first inning alone, the Cougars committed three errors, allowing eight Squirettes to come to bat.
Top performers: Offensively, four different Delone hitters had multi-hit games, led by Rickrode's 3-for-4 game with two RBIs. Lackey led the team with three RBIs, all coming on her third-inning double.
In the circle, Rickrode also pitched a complete game, giving up three runs, two earned, on nine hits and a walk, but struck out four.
For Kutztown, despite registering nine hits, they were scattered, with only Maria Meigio coming up with a multi-hit performance. Grimm only lasted 3 1/3 innings in the circle, giving up nine runs, but only one earned, on six hits and walk, while striking out three. Stump was strong in relief of Grimm, tossing the final 2 2/3 innings, allowing only one earned run on five hits.
Up next: Just by making the final, the Squirettes qualified for the PIAA Class AA state tournament. But, by winning the District 3 title, they enter the 16-team field with momentum fully on their side.
"It puts a lot more confidence in you coming off of a win," Rickrode said. "... It gets you excited knowing that you can beat good teams."
Delone will begin its state tournament run on Monday, when it will take on District 12 runner-up Philadelphia Academy Charter at York College.
Making York-Adams history: The Squirettes became the first York-Adams school to win more than one district softball title. They also won the Class A title in 1999. They are also the first York-Adams team to win a district title since South Western's AAAA crown in 2006. The other York-Adams district champions were: Central York (AAAA, 2005), Hanover (A, 2003), New Oxford (AAA, 1999) and Kennard-Dale (AA, 1990).
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com