Dallastown senior Madisyn Johnson saved Monday's game against Central York in the top of the sixth inning with her glove.
Then she won it with her arm at the plate in the bottom half of the inning.
With Monday's showdown between the top two teams in the York-Adams League Division I softball standings tied at 3-3 in the top of the sixth, the Panthers were on the verge of breaking the game wide open.
Already having rallied from a 3-0 hole, No. 3 hitter Lorna Colberg came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. She squared up the pitch from Wildcats' reliever Delaney Kolb, scorching a line drive to straight away center. It had grand slam written all over it, until Johnson leaped up and made a remarkable catch to record the out. The runner at third had drifted off the bag and was unable to score. Kolb got the next batter out to escape the jam.
Then, after making a great play in the field, Johnson found herself at the plate in the bottom of the sixth with the bases loaded and one out facing Central's hard-tossing Courtney Coppersmith. After fighting off a couple of two-strike pitches, Johnson brought in the eventual game-winning run, not by using her bat, but her body, taking a 2-2 offering off the arm and bringing in Danielle Ludwig from third. Johnson's heroics in the field and then her sacrifice at the plate wound up earning Dallastown the 4-3 home win and keeping its chances of sharing the Division I title with the Panthers alive.
"I was playing a little bit left-center, just based off her swing," Johnson said of her game-saving catch. "Then, I saw the ball and ran and reacted. I didn't think. I just jumped and trusted my instincts."
She added about her hit-by-pitch: "I just took it. ... I'll take that sacrifice any day."
Traditionally, the Wildcats and Central are always at the top of the Division I standings, but it's usually Dallastown playing second fiddle to the Panthers. Including this year, Central has now won at least a share of the last five division titles, while the Wildcats have just one — a co-championship in 2014 — since 2004.
It was also a bit of a revenge game for Dallastown after losing the previous meeting between the two teams earlier in the season, also by a 4-3 score.
Back-and-forth game: Dallastown (13-2 overall, 11-2 Division I) struck first in Monday's contest, scoring the game's first three runs, all in the bottom of the third. No. 9 hitter Krista Flemmens launched a two-run home run to put the Wildcats up 2-0. That was followed by a single and a walk. Lyndee Anders wound up scoring on an error to make it 3-0 after three innings.
However, the Panthers (17-1 overall, 12-1 Division I) showed why they were the only unbeaten team remaining in District 3-AAAA going into the contest, rallying to tie the score, with each run coming in completely different styles. First, in the top of the fifth, Central showed off its power, hitting back-to-back triples to make it 3-1. That was followed by a double steal, which brought in Cheyenne Miller to make it 3-2 after five. The Panthers tied the game in the top of the sixth, this time playing a little small ball, using a single by Cameryn Rothrock and then a stolen base and squeeze bunt to bring home Rothrock and tie the game at 3-3.
"We try and take advantage of where we can at the time," Central coach Shane Walker said. "Those two long balls were hit early on, nobody on, put pressure on and then we were able to get some small ball. ... Part of that is putting pressure on and seeing what happens."
Ultimately, Dallastown responded to the pressure, scratching out the victory, earning a split in the season series and putting a bit of pressure on the Panthers to close out the outright division title in their final regular-season league game against Spring Grove.
"We prepped for this game for the last couple days," Wildcats coach Howie Merriman said. "We knew going in, it would come down to the final inning, perhaps the final play, which it did, and when we jumped up 3-0, we knew that 3-0 was not enough against a good team, so we didn't think too much of it. We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us."
Jaelynn Harbold pitched the first 4 2/3 innings for Dallastown and then gave way to Kolb in the fifth. Kolb wound up earning the win, recording four outs, before Harbold re-entered with a runner on first and nobody out in the seventh to earn the save. Harbold gave up two earned runs on seven hits, two walks and three strikeouts, while Kolb allowed one earned run on three hits and a walk.
For Central, Rachel Butler took the loss, allowing four runs, three earned, in 5 1/3 innings, allowing four hits, one walk and striking out four.
The Panthers will close out their season with a home game against the Rockets on Thursday, while the Wildcats close out their league schedule at home against Red Lion on Tuesday.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.