SPRING GROVE — Spring Grove pitcher Hailey Kessinger admitted she was a lot more nervous going into Tuesday's District 3 softball game than she was heading into regular-season outings.
The Rockets' sophomore, though, didn't let the nerves hurt her performance. She was in a zone all afternoon.
Kessinger struck out six and didn't issue a single walk as Spring Grove opened its bid for a district Class 5-A title with a 6-1 victory over Garden Spot.
The right-hander, who needed just 84 pitches in her complete-game performance, pitched shutout ball for six innings before Garden Spot broke through for its run in the seventh.
"She (Kessinger) was hitting everything I was calling," Spring Grove catcher Caraline Cornman said. "Her curveball was working well, and her rise ball was going anytime I called it. Anything I asked her to throw, she threw for me."
Kessinger held the visitors to four hits, two of which came in the first inning.
"I was throwing low and outside, hoping they would hit the ball more on the ground and not so much in the air," she said. "When I got to two strikes, I tried to go high and outside to get them to swing. I was a lot more nervous today because I wanted us to keep going (in districts) and see how far we could go."
Garden Spot's only threat against Kessinger in the first six innings came in the first when the Spartans used two singles to put runners at first and second with two outs. Kessinger, though, ended the threat by striking out the next batter.
Spring Grove scored in its first at bat when Briana DiCandeloro singled and raced home when Julia Wivell crushed a pitch into the right-center field gap for a triple.
The Rockets gave Kessinger a more comfortable cushion when they broke through for four more runs in the third. Cornman helped her battery mate by drilling a two-run single in the inning. Hannah Gartrell added a RBI single, and the fourth run scored on an error.
"That (the four-run inning) felt good," Kessinger said. "I had time to relax a little bit and not feel so much pressure."
DiCandeloro led Spring Grove with two hits. Cornman made a bid for a second hit in the fifth, but Garden Spot right fielder Abigail Foor made an excellent catch to foil Cornman's bid. The Rockets collected eight hits in six at bats.
"We hit the ball well today," Spring Grove head coach Mark Hull said. "I could tell the girls were ready to play today, Maybe, not so much ready to play as tired of practice. It was hard to have a week and a half layoff."
In addition to his team's offense, Hull was impressed with Kessinger's performance.
"Even when they got hits off her, she buckled down and didn't let them score, except for the last inning," he said.
The victory allowed Spring Grove to move into the quarterfinals. The fifth-seeded Rockets (16-5) will take on fourth-seeded Lower Dauphin (17-3) in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The game will be played at Lower Dauphin. Lower Dauphin won its first-round game over 13th-seeded New Oxford, 5-0. No. 12 seed Garden Spot finished 11-9.
Dallastown 2, Warwick 1: At Warwick, the 10th-seeded Wildcats upset seventh-seeded Warwick in a District 3 Class 6-A first-round contest. Kelsie Merriman got the win, pitching a complete-game four-hitter with two strikeouts and no walks. Elena Rosas, Lyndee Anders, Delaney Kolb and Barbara Black doubled for the winners. Rosas' RBI double in the sixth broke a 1-1 tie. Dallastown improved to 12-8, while Warwick finished at 13-7. The Wildcats will now get another crack at York-Adams League Division I rival Central York in the quarterfinals. That game is set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Central. The Panthers (19-1), who won the York-Adams Division I regular-season and York-Adams League playoff titles, are seeded No. 2. Central had a bye in the first round.
West York 14, Northern Lebanon 7: At Northern Lebanon, the 10th-seeded Bulldogs surprised the No. 7 seed in a District 3 Class 4-A first-round battle. West York (9-12) will now take on another York County school in Thursday's semifinals at 4:30 p.m. The 'Dogs will travel to No. 2 seed Kennard-Dale (14-2), which had a bye on Tuesday. K-D is the York-Adams Division III champion. Northern Lebanon finished at 12-9.
Tulpehocken 8, Delone Catholic 2: At McSherrystown, the Squirettes' season ended with a District 3 Class 3-A quarterfinal loss. Fourth-seeded Delone, which won the York-Adams Division IV crown, finishes at 13-5. Fifth-seeded Tulpehocken improved to 15-6.
Lower Dauphin 5, New Oxford 0: At Lower Dauphin, the 13th-seeded Colonials fell to the No. 4 seed in a District 3 Class 5-A first-round battle. New Oxford finishes at 12-9. Lower Dauphin improved to 17-3.
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.