SPRING GROVE — When Spring Grove's Sara Jones moved from second base to pitcher in Wednesday's District 3 Class 5-A softball game, there were Elizabethtown runners on every base and no outs.
Seventh-seeded Spring Grove held a four-run lead, but 10th-seeded Elizabethtown had the potential to tie the game with one swing of the bat.
Jones made sure that didn't happen.
The Rockets' sophomore worked out of the pressure-packed jam with minimal damage (one run) and followed with a one-two-three seventh inning to help the Rockets advance to the quarterfinals with a 6-3 victory.
Jones came on in relief of Bailey Rapson, who held the Lancaster County team to five hits in her five innings of work.
"Bailey's done a great job for us," Spring Grove head coach Mark Hull said. "She held Central down, and this team here, she threw all around them. When we put the other pitcher, Sara, in, it maybe made a little difference in (Elizabethtown's) timing. They had the bases loaded, no outs, and only got one run. That was great."
The clutch pitching, combined with timely hitting and flawless fielding (no errors) lifted the Rockets (14-6) into the next round.
Briana DeCandeloro, Bryn Sporer and Hannah Gartrell supplied two hits apiece for the York County team, and Hannah Shaffer drove in two runs with a solo home run and a sacrifice fly.
Shaffer's homer was a no-doubt-about-it shot that cleared the left-center-field fence near the 205-foot sign.
"It was my first one," Shaffer said. "Usually, I'm a practice hitter, but today, I connected, and it was gone."
Shaffer, a sophomore, is hoping that Wednesday's victory is the beginning of another playoff run..
"We want to go as far as we did last year or maybe, further," she said.
Spring Grove advanced all the way to the District 3 final last year, where it bowed to Cedar Cliff.
The Rockets never trailed in this year's opening game, although Elizabethtown (12-8) did forge a 2-2 tie when Sadie Seaman slammed a two-run homer over the left-center-field fence in the top of the second.
Spring Grove immediately broke the tie and went ahead for good in the bottom of the second when Olivia Lillich walked, raced to third on DeCandeloro's double and scored on Sporer's base hit to right field.
The Rockets padded the lead with a single run in the third inning and two more in the fifth.
"Our hitting is very good," Hull said. "We don't have the home run power we had last year, but we get doubles and triples, and we use the gaps. We have two freshmen starting, and we have a good group of juniors and sophomores who are with me from last year."
Hull's team will see a familiar opponent in the quarterfinals: Northeastern, which earned a 5-4 win over Daniel Boone on Wednesday.
"We're peaking, and they're peaking. It should be a close game," Hull said.
Thursday's contest is set for 4:30 p.m. at York College. Spring Grove beat Northeastern in regular season, 4-1.
Northeastern 5, Daniel Boone 4: At Daniel Boone, the 15th-seeded Bobcats upset the second-seeded Blazers in a District 3 Class 5-A first-round game.
Belle Bortner pitched a complete game, allowing three earned runs, to get the win. Haley Updegraff (two hits, double, two runs), Krista Anderson (two hits, RBI, run), Jiselle Costano (two hits, double, RBI, run) and Nikki Stone (two RBIs) paced the Northeastern attack.
The York-Adams Division II champion Bobcats improved to 14-7. Daniel Boone finished 18-4.
Northeastern will now advance to the District 3 5-A quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at York College vs. York-Adams rival Spring Grove.
Eastern York 17, Fleetwood 1 (3 innings): At Wrightsville, in a game that lasted just 2 1/2 innings because of the 15-run mercy rule, the Golden Knights rolled to a District 3 Class 4-A first-round victory.
Maelynn Leber led the way, going 3 for 3, including a double, with four RBIs and three runs scored. She also got the win on the mound, allowing two hits and one run over three innings with five strikeouts.
Other hitting standouts for Eastern were Morgan Winter (two hits, double, two RBIs, three runs), McKenzie Buchmyer (two hits, two RBIs, run), Katherine Lehman (two hits, three runs, RBI), Analise Fenwick (two hits, double, three runs, RBI), Kelsey Felix (two RBIs, run) and Amber Forry (two RBIs, run).
The seventh-seeded Knights improved to 13-5. Tenth-seeded Fleetwood finished 9-10. Eastern will now travel to second-seeded Kennard-Dale for a District 3 4-A quarterfinal at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. K-D (16-0) had a bye in the first round. The defending District 3 4-A champion Rams beat the Knights twice during the regular season en route to the York-Adams Division III title.
Hamburg 9, West York 0: At Hamburg, eighth-seeded Hamburg eliminated ninth-seeded West York from the District 3 Class 4-A playoffs behind a two-hit, 14-strikeout effort from Halle Gerner.
Dorian Ilyes and Kourtney Hartzel had West York's hits. The Bulldogs finished at 10-11. Hamburg improved to 12-10.
Delone Catholic 7, Oley Valley 6: At McSherrystown, the third-seeded Squirettes nipped sixth-seeded Oley Valley in a District 3 Class 3-A first-round game.
Maggie Rickrode hit a double in the seventh inning to drive in the winning run. She was also the winning pitcher.
The York-Adams Division IV-champion Squirettes improved to 13-5. Oley Valley finished 9-10.
Delone now advances to the District 3 3-A semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday at Lyons Park in Fleetwood vs. second-seeded Kutztown (17-5), which had a bye on Wednesday.
Donegal 5, New Oxford 0: At Mount Joy, the 14th-seeded Colonials suffered a District 3 Class 5-A first-round setback vs. third-seeded Donegal.
New Oxford finished at 12-8. Donegal improved to 21-3.
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.