SPRING GROVE — Put two of the top teams from York-Adams Division I on the same softball diamond and what do you get?
A down-to-the-last-out game that Spring Grove and Dallastown played on Thursday afternoon.
"It was very exciting," Spring Grove head coach Mark Hull said after his team edged the visiting Wildcats, 3-2. "There couldn't be more evenly-matched teams."
Both teams collected eight hits, and the pitchers, Hailey Kessinger of Spring Grove and Kelsie Merriman of Dallastown, recorded almost identical numbers — five strikeouts and two earned runs. Kessinger didn't walk a single batter, and Merriman gave up just one walk.
Spring Grove opened a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and fourth innings, but Dallastown rallied to tie by scoring twice in the top of the fifth. The Rockets responded by answering with the the winning run in the bottom of the fifth.
Hannah Shaffer opened the Spring Grove fifth with a single, and, with one out, Briana DiCandeloro drove a ball into the right-center field gap, which brought in the deciding run. DiCandeloro's double was her second hit of the day. The junior also scored a run in the first.
"It felt pretty good," DiCandeloro said of the game-winning hit. "I knew I had to get the runner in, or we would go into another inning tied."
DiCandeloro fell behind on the count, one and two, before taking the next pitch the opposite way.
Following DiCandeloro's double, Dallastown had one more at bat, and the Wildcats didn't go down without a fight. Merrriman singled up the middle with two outs, and the next hitter, Delaney Kolb ripped a hard shot down the third-base line. Hannah Gartrell, a freshman, made a fine backhand stop on the ball and threw across the diamond to first for the final out. Spring Grove (10-2 overall) improved its league record to 9-1, and Dallastown (8-7 overall) slipped to 8-3. The Rockets are now alone in first, a half game ahead of idle Central York (8-1).
"At the beginning of the season, I thought we would be competitive, but I didn't think we would be in this position," Hull said. "Our pitching has really formed up, and our defense has been really solid as well."
Julia Wivell matched her teammate, DiCandeloro, with two hits. Merriman responded with two hits for Dallastown. Both Merriman and Krista Flemmens came within a foot of a home run. Each Wildcats' player drove a ball off the top part of the left-field fence for a double.
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.