Central York coach Shane Walker has been around long enough to know that, at this point in the season, you don’t put much stock in seeds.
So, despite Hempfield being a No. 12 seed and his own team being a No. 5 seed, the Panthers' coach understood that his club was in for a tough game.
He was right.
Led by outstanding senior pitcher Lauren Lichtenwalner, the Black Knights (18-6) shut down Central, 6-0, Tuesday afternoon in an opening-round District 3-AAAA softball contest. The loss ends the York-Adams champs’ season at 21-2. It was the second straight season Central had its season end in the opening round of district play.
“She’s a phenomenal pitcher,” Walker said. “It’s not an accident to win the (Lancaster-Lebanon) League and show up here, so we knew going in it was going to be a tough draw. We were hoping to put the ball in play and put a little more pressure on them, but she responded and threw a heck of a game.”
Lichtenwalner allowed just four hits and had stellar defense behind her. Hempfield played error-free ball, compared with the four errors that Central made. Ironically, Lichtenwalner had just three strikeouts, but her coach, Brian Lohr, is OK with that.
“When she was younger, Lauren was like a lot of pitchers who think they need to strike everybody out, but as she’s matured she’s realized that it’s more important to keep the ball down and let her defense do the work and that’s what she did today,” Lohr said.
Meanwhile, Central senior Rachel Butler took the loss. She threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk. Courtney Coppersmith pitched 2 2/3 innings for the Panthers.
Hempfield plated all the runs it would need in the third inning when, with two outs Lichtenwalner hit a shallow pop to the outfield grass that second baseman Lorna Colberg couldn’t grab, allowing catcher Kyra Brakefield to score. Brakefield had reached base on a walk. Two more singles followed, with Kara Cook and Gabi Turner each getting hits to plate another run.
“Whoever scores first is going to have an advantage. It changes the way you want to do things, you start chasing runs and you’re a little less likely to do small ball because you have to try to string a few things together and we just didn’t have the opportunity to get the hits together today,” Walker said. “We made more errors today than we have in the last 10 games.”
It was only the second time this year that the Panthers had allowed at least six runs in a game, too.
Central’s best chance to score came in the bottom of the third inning when right fielder Karly Fink led off with a single. Two consecutive fielder’s choices advanced Fink to third, but Cheyenne Miller grounded out to end the threat.
Lichtenwalner then retired 10 straight before shortstop Erin Cabry and Coppersmith singled in the sixth. But the runners were stranded.
Hempfield added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings and two more in the sixth on a two-run single by Cook, who had three hits and three RBIs.
Although disappointed with the loss, Walker couldn’t say enough about his three seniors — Butler, Miller and Jakihra Santana.
“It’s always harder on the seniors, but this is a really good group of girls,” he said. “The seniors’ impact has been enormous on this team. Rachel was a selfless leader, Cheyenne is a quiet kid who just comes out and produces, and even Jakihra, who didn’t get a ton playing time this year, she was a huge support system for the girls. I can’t say enough about them.”
Dallastown 3, Mechanicsburg 2: At Dallastown, the Wildcats scored three times in the bottom of the seventh on four hits and a walk in a District 3-AAAA first-round game. Lyndee Anders had a two-run single to tie it at 2-2. Danielle Ludwig then got the game-winning walk-off RBI single. Kayla Flemmens and Kelsie Merriman also had hits in the seventh, while Jaelynn Harbold walked. Harbold went the distance to get the win, allowing just four hits while striking out five and walking two. No. 7 seed Dallastown improved to 17-2 and will face No. 15 seed Wilson (13-9) in Thursday's quarterfinals at Millersville University at 4:30 p.m.. Wilson upset No. 2 seed Exeter (18-4) on Tuesday, 1-0 in eight innings.
Kennard-Dale 10, West Perry 7: At West Perry, the 14th-seeded Rams upset third-seeded West Perry. K-D improved to 13-6, while West Perry finished at 18-3. The Rams now move on to the District-AAA quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday vs. sixth-seeded Garden Spot (13-7), which beat 11th-seeded Twin Valley 12-5 on Tuesday. K-D scored six runs in the top of the fifth, breaking a 4-4 tie. They were helped by three West Perry errors in the inning.Madelyn Miller led K-D, going 4 for 4 with three runs scored.
Littlestown 14, Hamburg 7: At Littlestown, Kaitlin Yealy led the Thunderbolts to a first-round District 3-AAA victory by going 2 for 4, including a homer, with four RBIs, and two runs scored. Also for Littlestown, McKenzie Somers went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, Jill Gauthier went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs while Amanda Dyson went 2 for 4 with two runs scored. Littlestown improved to 17-4 overall and now moves on to the quarterfinals and will face Lampeter-Strasburg on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at Hershey High School..
Donegal 7, Dover 6: At Donegal, the No. 12-seeded Eagles saw their season come to a close with a narrow District 3-AAA defeat. The Eagles were outhit, 11-6. The game was tied 5-5 after four innings before Donegal scored twice in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead for good. Taylor Lamparter went the distance for Dover, striking out one and walking three. Dover finished at 12-8. Fifth-seeded Donegal improved to 16-5.
Reach George Hammond at email@example.com.