MILLERSVILLE — There is a little that is more disappointing than a 1-0 loss for a high school softball team.
Especially when golden opportunities go wasted.
After dropping a heart-breaking one-run decision in the semifinals to Penn Manor, the same outcome befell the Dallastown Wildcats on Thursday in the District 3-AAAA third-place contest. Lower Dauphin scratched across a run in the sixth inning, which was enough to secure a 1-0 triumph at Millersville University.
The victory secured the No. 3 seed from District 3 in next week's PIAA playoffs for Lower Dauphin. LD will battle District 6 champion Mifflin County Monday at a time and location yet to be determined. Dallastown, now the No. 4 seed out of District 3, will face District 1 champ Perkiomen Valley on Monday.
“We had a chance," Dallastown coach Howie Merriman said. "And that's the frustrating part.”
Thursday's tilt had an eerily similar feel to Tuesday's semifinal loss for the Wildcats. In that contest, the Comets cashed in after getting the leadoff hitter on base in the second, while Dallastown could not convert a similar situation during the sixth.
This time, after Dallastown stranded a leadoff triple in the top of the sixth, the Falcons scored during the bottom part of the frame.
A close call at first that went for a single by Kaylee Stoner put LD in position to win it. A sacrifice bunt moved Stoner to second. That was followed by a ground out and then a double by LD starter Ava Bottiglia, which plated Stoner with the game-winning run.
The Wildcats appeared to be in great shape to score the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth against Bottiglia, who allowed just four hits and struck out 12. Lyndee Anders, who finished with two of her team's four hits, ripped a lead-off triple to the fence in right. After a pair of strikeouts, Jaelynn Harbold stroked a liner up the middle, but Falcon shortstop Stoner picked it off to end the threat.
“As a coach you go back and think, 'would I bunt the two-hole hitter?,'" Merriman said. "That was like the same decision I had Tuesday. Our two-hole hitter is a pretty good bunter, but they played their defense in and their call was for a play at the plate.”
Hindsight now being 20-20, Merriman would probably go a different route if he could.
"Sure, since it wasn't the result I wanted, yeah I'd go back and maybe try (to bunt)," he said.
Lost again in the narrow defeat was another standout performance in the circle by Harbold. She suffered a tough-luck loss, despite surrendering just three hits, against Penn Manor. Against LD, Harbold allowed just four hits while fanning five.
Merriman, however, was not despondent, despite a pair of disappointments this week. He has a good idea of what his team needs to do to flip the script on Monday.
“We just have to find a way to win these close ones," Merriman said. "We're going to have to work on some small ball and work on executing at the end of games.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.