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Spring Grove softball coach Mark Hull understands that the perception around his program has changed.

After a hot start to the season, the Rockets are no longer viewed as afterthoughts in a challenging York-Adams League Division I. Instead, Spring Grove is very much looked on as a contender, meaning every game will bring out the best in its opponents.

Taking on the reigning Y-A League champions on Wednesday afternoon on the road, Central York, the Rockets were unable to stay on top of the division, dropping a 5-3 decision and costing themselves an opportunity to take a full-game lead in the division.

"We didn't come to play," Hull said. "We gave them too many extra outs. When you have 13 strikeouts, you're not expected to win. We came in here intimidated for some reason and we showed it."

Leading the Panthers by a half game entering play, it was the hosts who took advantage of their opportunities. Locked in a 1-1 tie going to the bottom of the third inning, Central York (8-1 overall, 6-1 D-I) grabbed its first lead of the game by striking for three runs in the frame. The Panthers have the capability to score in bunches, so whenever a team gives them any extra chances to do so, they'll make it count more often than not.

In this case, all three runs came with two outs in the inning and all were unearned, a product of a two-out error on Spring Grove (6-2, 5-1 D-I). The 4-1 lead was plenty of support for Central starting pitcher Courtney Coppersmith, who was dialed in almost from the beginning.

While the Rockets did pull back to within a run in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by Bryn Sporer and then an RBI double from Caraline Cornman, Coppersmith never relinquished the lead once she got it. For good measure, the Panthers added an insurance marker in the bottom of the sixth, again, an unearned run, to push their lead to 5-3.

Coppersmith didn't let Spring Grove sniff a rally in the seventh, finishing off her complete game with her 12th and 13th strikeouts of the day.

"I felt like I was locked in by the second inning," she said. "The first inning is always a little scary because I'm like, 'It's a big game.' It doesn't matter how many big games you've pitched in varsity, it's still scary, every single one of them."

Even though she didn't feel like she fully settled in until the second inning, Coppersmith was still strong in the first. It was her defense that let her down in that frame. Two errors in the inning allowed the Rockets to grab a quick 1-0 lead with an unearned run, but Central got it back by the second inning with a sacrifice fly from No. 9 hitter Karly Fink. Lorna Colberg was the only other Panther to get credited with an RBI, a nice complement to her 3-for-3 day at the plate.

Hailey Kessinger took the loss in the circle for Spring Grove, despite only allowing one earned run. She went 4 1/3 innings before giving way to Julia Wivell, who faced just seven batters to get five outs, but also was on the hook for one unearned run. The Rockets committed three errors in the game.

With the win, Central is now in a familiar place atop the D-I standings, even if head coach K.J. Livingston claims to not have even looked at them. Regardless, she knows her team is in a good place and really knows only her players can prevent themselves from reaching their goals.

"(This game) is just part of the goal," she said. "Each game is separate. Our challenges are against ourselves, not necessarily our opponent. Every game we get better and work on something and the success comes with that."

OTHER SOFTBALL

Dallastown 2, New Oxford 1: At Dallastown, Krista Flemmens' sixth-inning homer broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Wildcats the win. Kelsie Merriman went the distance to get the win, striking out eight, walking two and allowing four hits. Lyndee Anders added an RBI double for Dallastown, which improved to 5-3 overall and 5-1 in York-Adams Division I.

Delone Catholic 2, York Catholic 1 (10 innings): At McSherrystown, the Squirettes won in thrilling fashion over the Fighting Irish in a game between the top two teams in Division IV. Delone is now 6-2 overall and 6-1 in the league, while York Catholic dropped to 4-2 overall and in the league. Lauryn King won the game on a bunt single in the bottom of the 10th  for the Squirettes, while Maggie Rickrode struck out 13 batters in the win. Katie Baum had four hits to lead the Fighting Irish and also struck out 20 as the tough-luck loser.

Red Lion 9, South Western 8: At Hanover, Red Lion erased a 6-3 deficit with a six-run top of the fifth. Hailey Inguanti had a home run for the Lions, while Hayley Taylor and Taylor Radziewicz each went 3 for 4.

Fairfield 24, York Tech 9 (4 innings): At Fairfield, Alexis Fournier collected three RBIs to pace Tech's offense in the loss. Brooke Glass doubled and had two RBIs. Tech was hurt by 13 errors. Only three of Fairfield's runs were earned.

Eastern York 15, Bermudian Springs 2 (6 Innings): At York Springs, Amber Forry led the Golden Knights by going 2 for 3, including a triple. Teammate Maelynn Leber threw three innings on the mound, striking out seven and walking none to pick up the win. Eastern improved 4-1 in the York-Adams Division III.

Kennard-Dale 7, York Suburban 1: At Suburban, the Rams broke open a 1-1 tie with a four-run sixth. Alexis Hurley did it all for K-D, pitching a complete game, while also roping a double and a triple. Sarah Hartinger had the only extra-base hit for Suburban, a double, while Emily Myers later brought her in for the team’s only run.

Littlestown 4, Susquehannock 3: At Glen Rock, Chelsey Walls led the Thunderbolts to the road victory by going 3 for 4, including two homers while collecting all four RBIs. For the Warriors, Anna Bryan had two hits, including a double, and two RBIs, while teammate Gabi Almiroudis had a homer.

Gettysburg 8, West York 6: At West York, Briana Crushong led the Warriors by going 3 for 4, including a double, with three RBIs and two runs scored. For the Bulldogs, Bre Harvey went 3 for 4, including a triple, with one RBI. Also for West York, Gabby Ilyes and Leah Jamison each went 2 for 3 with one run scored and one double, while Paige Weekly went 2 for 4 with a double, one run and one RBI.

Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com.

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