FAWN GROVE — Players occasionally need some time to adjust to coaching changes.
Especially early in the season.
The Dallastown softball team is dealing with a coaching change after former coach Jeff Deardorff moved down to Glen Rock to take over the Susquehannock program.
The Wildcats may not be doing things exactly the same way they used to under Deardorff, but new head coach Howie Merriman has the Wildcats off to a fast start.
Merriman, a very successful club coach over the summer with the PA Ball Hawks, has coached nearly all of the Dallastown players during club season. So the Wildcats are very familiar with their new leader.
That was evident Thursday afternoon when Dallastown traveled to Fawn Grove to take on Kennard-Dale. The Wildcat offense piled up the runs early and often while standout pitcher Jaelynn Harbold dominated the Rams on the mound en route to an impressive 13-2 triumph in a contest called by the 10-run rule after five innings.
“The girls were kind of teasing me because I come from the travel world where I have close to 1,000 wins,” Merriman said. “They asked me how I would feel if I lost my first high school game after having so many in the travel world. But this feels pretty good. We prepared hard for this game.”
For the Wildcats, it was almost like second nature to play for Merriman. One of the few noticeable changes with the club stems from the fact that the coach likes to be connected with his players. After staking an early 3-0 lead after the top of the first, the whole team lined up near first base to smack his hand before heading out to the field.
“That’s something that I’ve done for a really long time,” he said. “And I’m a coach that likes to be in tune with the players. For me, it’s like a sense of ‘hey, I’m with you’. And I just want to remind them of that every time they take the field.”
It certainly worked on Thursday. The Wildcats looked every bit the part of a York-Adams League Division I contender.
A lot of focus falls on the senior Harbold, who smacked a wind-aided two-run homer in the second inning that helped her team take a 6-0 lead at the time. She added a single and a triple in a 13-hit Dallastown outburst.
Harbold sounded excited to get back on the field with her teammates in her final high school campaign.
“This is just so good to be back on the field with the girls,” Harbold said. “For us seniors, this is our last shot.”
Having to deal with a coaching change was no big deal for Harbold or her teammates.
“We’re getting comfortable and just going out playing our game,” said Harbold, who allowed just six hits (all singles) while fanning five in the victory. “We’re still just a family. We do things the same every time.”
It won’t be much longer before a mini-reunion of sorts comes about for the Dallastown girls. Next Thursday, the Wildcats will travel to Glen Rock to take on their old coach at Susquehannock.
“Susquehannock has a very good coach now,” said Harbold, who helped Deardorff earn his 100th career coaching victory last year at Dallastown. “But (Howie) is too, so we’re both lucky. And they’re our third game, next Thursday, so we’re excited for that.”
Maggie Noll collected three hits for Dallastown, while Krista Flemmens and Madisyn Johnson each collected two hits.
Kennard-Dale pitcher Alexis Valentine led the Rams with two hits.
York Suburban 6, Northern York 5: At Dillsburg, the Trojans withstood a four-run Northern rally in the bottom of the seventh. Olivia Eytcheson had three hits for Suburban, while Sarah Hartinger, Susan Lloyd and Caitlin Peters each added three hits. Peters scored three runs and Hartinger drove in two runs. Eytcheson pitched a complete game to get the win.
Big Spring 6, Northeastern 1: At Manchester, Belle Bortner led the Bobcats by connecting for all three of the home team's hits. Bortner also threw a complete game on the mound, striking out three and walking one.
Penn Manor 9, Spring Grove 0: At Penn Manor, a five-run bottom of the sixth by the Comets broke open a 4-0 game. Julia Wivell struck out six Penn Manor hitters for Spring Grove, which committed seven errors and allowed seven unearned runs..
Eastern York 12, Columbia 3: At Columbia, the Golden Knights rolled. No other details were available.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.