Although the Panthers hadn't played in nearly two weeks, top-seeded Central York showed no signs of rust on Thursday, cruising past Hempfield 9-1 in District 3 Class 6-A quarterfinal softball action.
The victory sends the unbeaten Panthers (20-0) to the semifinals Tuesday, when they'll meet the winner of the Dallastown-Warwick quarterfinal, which was played Thursday night. One more victory sends Central to the state playoffs, but that's down the road. Presently, the Panthers, who lost in the District 3 semis last year and who haven't won a district title since 2005, are taking the cliche "one game at a time" seriously.
"We're just looking at the next game," Panthers' coach Jim Miller said. "We divide the season up the way we want it to go. First, we had the regular season, then the counties, which didn't go the way we wanted because they got rained out. Today, it was Hempfield. Now our focus is on the next game.That's how we have to look at it. Ultimately, the goal is states, but you have to focus on the next game."
The Panthers again relied on the outstanding pitching of left-hander Courtney Coppersmith. She allowed just three hits (two coming in the seventh inning) and six walks. Coppersmith finished with 10 strikeouts. The only run she allowed came in the seventh, when Hempfield strung together a walk, a single and a bunt single (plus a throwing error) to score.
However, Coppersmith got starting pitcher Gabi Turner to hit into a 1-2-3 double-play to end the contest.
"It was really hot out here today, but the best thing about Courtney is she just battles," Miller said. "She just settled back down and got out of the jam. That's what I like best about this team is that everybody just backs up everybody else, and to be that focused that late in the game was tremendous."
The Panthers scored all they would need in the first inning when they put up a three-spot. Leadoff hitter Erin Cabry, who scored three runs, including her 100th career run, got Central rolling with a stand-up triple. She later scored on a fielder's choice grounder off the bat of Taylor Sanders. Coppersmith then rounded the bases on a blast over the right-fielder's head, and before the inning was over, Briana Smith and Allison Twigg had belted back-to-back doubles.
Central made it 7-0 in the fourth on an RBI singles by Cabry and Natalie Craig and a two-run single by Emily Smith.
"When we got those early runs, it made it more comfortable for us," Cabry said. "We wanted to get some early runs, and with knowing Courtney was on the mound, it was a good combination."
"Once we got a couple of runs there in the first couple of innings we felt pretty confident," he said.
Coppersmith helped her own cause in the sixth when she knocked in Cabry, who had reached on an error, with another blast to deep right. She circled the bases again when the Black Knights made a throwing error on the play to give Central a 9-0 cushion. Although Hempfield did score in the final at-bat, it was too little, too late.
"When they jumped out early on us, that really hurt," Hempfield coach Terry Shreiner said. "Central has a real nice team. My hat's off to them. They have a combination of speed and power, and with that crafty lefty on the mound, they always have a chance."
Ninth-seeded Central finished at 12-9.
Eastern York 4, Kennard-Dale 3: At Fawn Grove, the seventh-seeded Golden Knights ended the Rams' perfect season in a District 3 Class 4-A quarterfinal contest.
Second-seeded K-D, the defending district 4-A champion, finished at 16-1. Eastern improved to 14-5. It was Eastern's first win over K-D this season after two regular-season losses. Eastern advances to the district semifinals on Tuesday.
Maelynn Leber pitched a complete game to get the win, striking out six. Leber also had three hits (including two doubles), with two RBIs and a run scored. Kelsey Felix (two hits, two RBIs) and Analise Fenwick (two hits, two runs) also excelled at the plate for Eastern.
K-D's Alexis Hurley also pitched a complete game but took the loss, despite striking out 11. Lexie Kopko (three hits, RBI) and Jaedyn McKeon (two hits, two runs, RBI) led the Rams' offense.
Spring Grove 6, Northeastern 3: At York College, the seventh-seeded Rockets broke a 2-2 tie with five runs combined over the third and fourth innings to earn a District 3 Class 5-A quarterfinal win vs. 15th-seeded Northeastern.
Bailey Rapson pitched the first four innings to get the win. Sara Jones pitched three scoreless innings to get the save. They limited Northeastern to five hits.
Hannah Gartrell (two hits, homer, two runs, two RBIs), Jones (double, two RBIs) and Siera Guinard (hit, two runs) led the offense for Spring Grove (15-6).
Krista Anderson and Jiselle Castano each doubled for Northeastern. Belle Bortner pitched a complete-game seven-hitter for the Bobcats, who are 14-8.
It marked the second time the Rockets beat the Bobcats this season.
Spring Grove now advances to the district 5-A semifinals on Tuesday.
Warwick 11, Dallastown 6: At Warwick, fifth-seeded Dallastown fell to the fourth-seeded home team in a District 3 Class 6-A quarterfinal.
The Wildcats finished at 13-6. Warwick improved to 15-4.
Dallastown got big offensive games from Shauna Stotler (two hits, RBI), Delaney Kolb (two hits, triple, two RBIs), Elena Rosas (two hits) and Kyndall Hopkins (two hits).
Upper Dauphin 3, York Catholic 0: At Upper Dauphin, the Lady Irish couldn't break through against Upper Dauphin pitcher Lexi Weaver, who hurled a four-hit shutout, striking out 13.
The District 3 Class 2-A semifinal loss ends York Catholic's season at 9-10. Second-seeded Upper Dauphin improved to 12-8. The Irish were seeded third.
YC's Rebecca Baum was nearly as good as Weaver, pitching a complete-game three-hitter and allowing two earned runs, while striking out nine.
Grace Gardini had two of YC's four hits.
Delone Catholic 3, Kutztown 0: At Kutztown, Maggie Rickrode pitched a two-hit shutout to lift Delone into the District 3 Class 3-A title game.
The third-seeded Squirettes improved to 14-5. Second-seeded Kutztown finished 17-6.
Delone scored single runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings. Emma Schneider had an RBI single for Delone.
The Squirettes will now face top-seeded Brandywine Heights on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Brandywine (18-4) crushed fifth-seeded Annville-Cleona in the other semifinal on Thursday, 14-2 in five innings.
Fairfield 17, Camp Hill 11: At Fairfield, the top-seeded Green Knights outslugged fourth-seeded Camp Hill to advance to the District 3 Class 2-A title game.
Fairfield will take on second-seeded Upper Dauphin for the title on Tuesday. Fairfield must win that game to earn a state berth.
Gena Eiker (five hits, homer, double, four RBIs, three runs), Hailey Joy (four hits, two runs, RBI) and Courtney Harbaugh (three hits, two RBIs, two runs, two walks) led the Knights (13-5). Camp Hill finished 7-13.
Reach George Hammond at email@example.com.