One of the great challenges in sports comes when a team must try to back up a huge victory with another win.
When the Spring Grove and Red Lion softball teams squared off Wednesday, both were trying to do just that. The Rockets were coming off a big win over state qualifier Dallastown on Monday, while the Lions took down reigning York-Adams League champion Central York on the same day.
Only one of the two could validate Monday's wins with another victory on Wednesday, and it took a big rally to do so. After squandering a three-run lead in the top of the sixth, Spring Grove stormed back with a huge bottom half of the inning to down Red Lion, 9-5, at home and improve to 4-1 overall and 4-0 in Division I play. The Lions fell to 1-3 overall and within the league.
"They didn't give up," Rockets' head coach Mark Hull said. "That's one thing about this team that I've seen, is that it doesn't bother them when things go wrong, or something like that. They've been through it before and they adjusted well."
Spring Grove carried a 4-1 lead into the sixth, but sloppy defense let Red Lion back into the game. Two errors and a pair of defensive miscues by the Rockets on base hits allowed the Lions to plate four runners and grab a 5-4 lead, needing just six outs to secure another signature win.
Rallying back: Instead of caving, however, Spring Grove thrived, instantly mounting a comeback of its own. After Hailey Kessinger opened the frame with a leadoff single and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, No. 9 hitter Hannah Shaffer delivered a game-tying triple to really get the rally going. That was followed by three more hits from the top and heart of the Rockets' order, plating four runs in the process to regain the lead.
"When your ninth hitter comes up and hits a triple, it pumps everybody else up," Hull said. "It kind of gives everybody a 'We can do this' feel and I think that's what happened. We just got a little bit more of a spark when Hannah Shaffer hit that triple."
Kessinger, who had to come in to relieve Spring Grove starter Julia Wivell in the top of the sixth, never gave Red Lion a chance to mount a second rally in the seventh, retiring the heart of the Lions' order in 1-2-3 fashion.
The Rockets began the game by scoring a run in the bottom of the second to grab an early 1-0 lead. They extended that cushion to 4-0 with a three-run third, including getting a two-run double from Bailey Rapson and an RBI double from Kessinger with two outs.
Red Lion got a run back in the top of the fourth, but blew a chance to get more, leaving two runners on base, including one on third.
Kessinger ended up earning the win for Spring Grove, facing the minimum to get four outs. Wivell pitched a strong game for Spring Grove until her defense let her down in the sixth. She lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs, but just two earned, on six hits, two walks and striking out six.
For the Lions, a team trying to bounce back from an 0-19 campaign last season, the blown lead is like deja vu. According to head coach Troy Eveler, Red Lion blew leads or ties in the fifth inning or later in 14 of the team's 19 losses last year, so trying to back up a shocking win over the reigning league champs with a victory over another quality foe is going to take time.
"We've had talent on our team the last two years," Eveler said. "We own the fact that we have not put that on the field. We own that and don't run away from it. ... We just have to learn to win again."
Dallastown 6, South Western 1: At Hanover, Kelsie Merriman led the Wildcats by throwing a complete game, striking out eight, walking three and allowing two hits. Also for the Wildcats (3-2 overall, 3-1 in York-Adams Division I), Delaney Kolb went 3 for 4, with a solo homer, Krista Flemmens went 3 for 3 with one run, Elena Rosas went 2 for 4 with a double and three RBIs and Sadie Bowman went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
West York 16, Big Spring 5: At Newville, Paige Weekly drove in five runs with a pair of homers and also scored three runs as West York (3-2 overall) used a 10-run third inning to pull away. Gabrielle Ilyes tossed seven innings, striking out two and walking a batter while picking up the win.
Kennard-Dale 7, Eastern York 2: At Wrightsville, Alexis Hurley led the Rams by throwing a complete game, striking out six, walking one and allowing three hits. Also for K-D, Jaedyn McKeon went 2 for 4, including a double, while Madelyn Miller went 2 for 3. For the Golden Knights, Maelynn Leber went 2 for 3, while Kenni Buchmyer had a two-run homer.
Central York 8, New Oxford 1: At New Oxford, the Panthers exploded for seven runs in the top of the seventh. Courtney Coppersmith pitched a complete game for Central, while also driving in two runs. Central improved to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in York-Adams Division I.
Littlestown 8, York Suburban 4: At Suburban, the Thunderbolts scored seven times in the first inning. Lindsey Snyder drove in a team-high three runs and added a triple for Littlestown. Suburban got three runs from Zoe Pratts.
Gettysburg 7, Northeastern 5: At Gettysburg, Shanna Martin led the Warriors by going 2 for 4 with one run scored. For the Bobcats, Haley Updegraft went 2 for 3 with a double, one run and one RBI, while Peyton Eckenrode went 2 for 4 and Isabelle Bortner doubled with two RBIs.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.