NEW OXFORD — The way high school rosters can change on a yearly basis, a dynasty can be a rare thing.
Yet, in the York-Adams League, the Central York softball team is about as close to one as you're going to get right now.
On Tuesday, the Panthers repeated as league champions and won their fourth league crown in the last five years, knocking off Susquehannock, 3-1, at New Oxford High School.
"We're fortunate that we have depth," Central head coach Shane Walker said. "We have a lot of kids that buy into softball and play year 'round, and we reap that reward, so when they come in the door, we're able to start working on some of the other aspects of the game and that really makes us successful."
The Warriors (16-4) wasted little time jumping on Central starter Rachel Butler, using a lead-off single by Mallory Lebo to plate the game's first run thanks to an RBI single by Maddy Staub. The start was very similar to Monday's semifinal win over Littlestown for Butler, who also conceded the only run of her outing in the top of the first. But, in both cases, she was in shutdown mode the rest of the way.
"I just get more confident after facing a couple batters and getting used to my spin pitches," she said. "Then, I stop being as careful when I throw and it works out better."
Just like in Monday's win, Butler was immediately picked up by her offense. This time, the Panthers (21-1) used some small ball to tie the game after shortstop Erin Cabry led off their half of the inning with a double. She was driven in by Courtney Coppersmith.
Butler, who was in a groove in the circle, then gave Central the lead in the bottom of the third when she drove in Kara Lordan from third with a sacrifice fly to put the Panthers ahead 2-1. Central then extended its lead in the next inning, getting a lead-off single from catcher Briannah Dobson, who then gave way to courtesy runner Kristina Landis, who was later brought home on an RBI single by Lordan to make it 3-1.
Yet, despite how much the Panthers are known for their offense, they may very well have won the game on defense.
Before they could even take the 2-1 lead in the third and then extend it to 3-1 in the fourth, they needed two crucial defensive plays to keep the game tied. The first came in the top of the third, when shortstop Cabry made a tremendous leaping catch off the bat of Lebo, robbing her not only of a lead-off hit, but potentially keeping the speedy runner from turning it into extra bases. The ball seemed destined for the left-center gap. Then, in the top of the fourth, with Central clinging to its first lead of the contest, Susquehannock was poised to immediately respond and potentially make it a big inning.
With the bases loaded and just one out, Butler faced her toughest test of the afternoon. Facing No. 9 hitter Lexi Morin, Butler induced a come backer, first getting the force out at home. Dobson then fired down to Coppersmith at first to complete the inning-ending 1-2-3 double play, preserving the Panthers' lead and ultimately swinging the momentum in the contest.
"They made a couple plays out there that, had they not made them, would've changed the complexion of the game," Warriors' head coach Jeff Deardorff said. "That double play with bases loaded really hurt, and that ball that Mallory Lebo hit to shortstop, where the shortstop went up in the air and caught it, there was nobody behind the shortstop and the way (Lebo) runs, that was either a triple or a home run. Just the little things like that. They made all the plays."
Once Central got through the fourth inning, Walker then employed the same pitching tactic he used in Monday's win, bringing in the hard-tossing lefty, Coppersmith, to shut the door. She did just that, allowing just one hit in her three innings of work, while striking out three. Butler earned the win, allowing just the lone earned run on six hits, a walk and two strikeouts in four innings.
For Susquehannock, Staub pitched her second strong game in as many days, but came out on the losing end on Tuesday. She went the distance, allowing three earned runs on seven hits, three walks and striking out one.
The Panthers have a number of underclassmen this season, meaning the future could be bright for the program and bleak for the rest of the league. However, that's down the road. Right now, Central is still focused on the next step of its 2016 journey — the District 3 playoffs.
"It certainly bodes well for the future for what we can come back and do," Walker said. "But, we still have some work we have to get done this season."
Cumberland Valley 5, Dover 3: At Dover, the visiting Eagles scored all five runs in the fourth and fifth innings to overcome a 1-0 hole and knock off the York County Eagles in a non-league regular-season contest. Cassandra Root and Abbey Lower each had an RBI for Dover, while Lower was the only member of the team to have a multi-hit game, going 2 for 3. Taylor Lamparter pitched a complete game for Dover.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.