GLEN ROCK — Susquehannock softball coach Jeff Deardorff knew he had a special team from the onset of preseason practices.
Peppered with seven seniors with a lot of talent, the Warriors had plans to make this season quite special.
Sometimes, though, even the best plans fall a little short.
Such was the case Tuesday afternoon when the York-Adams Division II champs played host to Manheim Central in a District 3-AAA first-round playoff contest.
Entering with a 15-4 record and the No. 4 seed, the hosts had plans to make this postseason a lengthy one. But Baron starter Maddie Walter proved that solid pitching can be the best asset during the playoffs.
Walter wasn’t overly dominating — she surrendered 10 Susquehannock hits — but she was adept at making the right pitches at the right time. That penchant kept the Warriors off the scoreboard over the first eight innings before her team broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the top of the ninth. The home team managed to break through for a single run in the bottom of the ninth, but left the tying run on second and the game concluded in a 2-1 setback for the Warriors.
The 13th-seeded Barons improved to 14-6 and will face No. 5 seed Donegal in the quarterfinals Thursday. Susquehannock’s magical season ends at 15-5.
“We couldn’t get any hits when we needed them,” Deardorff said, noting that his team left 12 runners on base. “(Walter) didn’t have anything special that I saw, but she worked the other side of the plate a lot and I think that was part of it.”
The Warriors appeared to be in great shape to take the lead several times, but none was more disappointing than the fifth inning. The home team loaded up the bases with just one out in that frame, but Walter got a pair of popups to the infield to escape unscathed.
For all of the struggles scoring, the Barons had an equally difficult time against Susquehannock starter Maddy Staub. The right-hander took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before yielding a pair of singles.
Those were the only hits she allowed until the top of the ninth, when she appeared to tire a bit. Manheim Central laced four hits off Staub in the frame, including a double by Codi Bollinger that put runners on second and third with no outs.
“(Bollinger) is their No. 4 hitter, so we didn’t know for sure,” Deardorff said, when asked if his team was expecting a bunt in that situation. “We still had to play for the bunt in case she did lay it down.”
A sacrifice fly and a pair of singles plated two runs before Staub got the final two outs.
Deardorff’s club attempted to rally in the ninth. With one out, Mallory Lebo came up with a bunt single. After a fielder’s choice grounder moved Lebo to second, Staub (4 for 5) hit a double over the center fielder’s head to score Lebo.
But Walter was able to get a popup to the catcher to end the threat and the Warriors’ season.
“That was just the way it was all day,” Deardorff said. “Just couldn’t get that hit.”
While many of the girls had tears in their eyes, Deardorff reminded them that, regardless of the outcome, that he was proud of how they prepared and played. It was his first year at Susquehannock since resigning from Dallastown a season ago, which made the run a bit more special for him as well.
“This is the hardest-working group of girls that I’ve ever coached,” he said. “They just wanted this so bad. From Day 1 they wanted to be a good softball team and they worked their (behinds) off. And we worked them hard. Lots of stiff muscles and soreness, but they did everything we asked them to.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.