MANCHESTER — Spring Grove softball coach Mark Hull likes to say that the sport isn’t easy.
When it comes to facing Northeastern, however, Hull and his Rockets have made it look fairly simple.
For the second time this season the Rockets and Bobcats squared off in a pivotal York-Adams League Division I showdown Monday afternoon. And for the second time, Spring Grove prevailed.
Led by homers from Hannah Shaffer and Hannah Gartrell, the Rockets scored a 6-3 triumph over their Division I rivals in a contest that helped Spring Grove take a giant stride toward clinching the division title.
Spring Grove improved to 13-1 overall and 11-1 in the division, while Northeastern dropped to 13-2 and 10-2.
“I don’t know if we have their number,” Hull said after his team earned a third-straight triumph over the Bobcats dating back to last year’s District 3 playoffs. “We made some plays on the field and they made some errors. And that’s a huge thing when it comes to a game that’s decided by one run, two runs, three runs.”
The hosts were charged with four errors, leading to three unearned runs, which coincidentally or not, was the margin of defeat for the Bobcats. That margin was especially significant for Spring Grove pitcher Hailey Kessinger, who avoided facing the top of Northeastern’s lineup in the bottom of the seventh.
The Bobcats' top four hitters collected six of the seven hits off Kessinger. That included Northeastern leadoff hitter Hailey Updegraff, who doubled and homered in her three at-bats.
“I was like, ‘please, no one get a hit’,” Kessinger said with a laugh.
The Rocket standout didn’t have to worry. She quickly set down the side in the seventh to earn her second victory over the Bobcats this season.
Bobcats start fast, Rockets finish strong: Kessinger, however, was a tad bit anxious early on. The Bobcats staked out an early lead. Updegraff smoked a homer to center to begin the scoring in the bottom of the first. Two innings later, Updegraff hit a one-out double and then scored on a single by Paige Eckenrode to make it 2-0.
The Spring Grove pitcher, however, avoided falling further behind when she stranded a pair of runners in scoring position before ending the inning.
The Rockets started to get their bats going against Northeastern starter Belle Bortner in the fourth. Aided by an error to begin the inning, the visitors evened the score behind a two-run homer by Shaffer. The third run crossed after another Bobcat miscue on a bunt by Kessinger, allowing Bailey Rapson to score from second.
After trading runs in the sixth, the Spring Grove girls showcased the team’s terrific power in the seventh, when Gartrell helped ice the victory with a two-run homer.
Powerful Rockets: Hull, who has coached at Spring Grove for most of the past decade, couldn’t even put a definitive number on the amount of homers his team has hit this season.
“I can’t even tell you that,” he said. “But it absolutely, by far, the most we’ve ever hit since I’ve been here. And it’s multiple girls. It’s not just one.”
While Monday’s victory was key, Hull and his team know the season is far from over. Spring Grove’s only loss this season came vs. Central York, 1-0, a few weeks ago. The Panthers and Rockets will square off one more time this season next week. The Rockets have other big games vs. Dallastown and South Western looming.
“That Central game was one where an error at the end of the game cost us,” Hull said. “This is a tough sport. It’s a game of failure. Even if you’re 3 for 10 or 4 for 10, you’re doing all right, but six or seven times you’re going to fail. You just have to keep that mental, positive state going through the game, and I think our girls are all very focused on doing just that.”
Central York 9, South Western 2: At Hanover, Briana Smith pitched a complete game to get the win, striking out seven. Brynn Weigle (two hits, two walks, three runs), Smith (two hits, two runs, RBI), Natalie Craig (homer, two RBIs, two runs, two walks), Emily Smith (two RBIs) and Payton Ness (double, run) led Central's attack. The Panthers improved to 10-7 overall and 8-4 in Y-A D-I. Ryleigh Sprague had four hits, including a double, for South Western, while Kendall Snyder homered and drove in two runs and Bri Lankford added two hits, including a double, with a run scored.
West York 4, Bermudian Springs 1: At West York, Dorian Ilyes pitched a complete-game five-hitter to get the win, striking out five and walking two. Ilyes also had two hits, including a double, and a run scored. West York's other offensive leaders were Alli Cullen (two hits, double, two runs), Alexis Colon (two hits) Savannah Bortner (two RBIs), Breanna Harvey (triple) and Hannah Harlacher (double). The Bulldogs are 9-6 overall and 7-6 in Y-A D-III. Bermudian fell to 11-4, 9-4.
Littlestown 5, Kennard-Dale 4: At Littlestown, the Lady Bolts emerged victorious in a battle Y-A D-III powers. First-place Littlestown improved to 12-3 overall and 12-1 in the division. K-D fell to 10-4 and 8-4. Carter Clabaugh homered and drove in two runs for the winners. For K-D, Crystal Mullins had three hits, including a double, with a run scored, while Megan Thomas added two hits and an RBI. Amaya Bowman got the complete-game win, scattering 10 hits and allowing two earned runs. K-D starter Lexie Kopko allowed one earned run over five innings. Littlestown trailed 4-0 after 4 1/2 innings, but scored five runs over the next two frames to earn the win.
Eastern York 7, Dover 0: At Dover, Maelynn Leber led the Golden Knights by throwing a shutout, striking out six, walking none and allowing just one single. She also went 2 for 3 with a double and one RBI. Also for Eastern, Kelsey Felix went 2 for 4, including a double, with one RBI and one run scored; Morgan Winter went 2 for 5 with a double, two runs scored and one RBI; and McKenzie Buchmyer doubled. First-place Eastern improved to 8-4 overall and 7-4 in D-II.
New Oxford 12, Susquehannock 4: At Glen Rock, Mikayla Hagerman led the Colonials by going 2 for 2, including a double, with two runs scored. Also for New Oxford, Julia Hess went 2 for 4 with a double and one RBI, while Jordan Wolf went 2 for 4 with two runs scored and one RBI. For the Warriors, Anna Bryan had two doubles and one run scored, Abigail Paterniti went 2 for 3 with one run scored and one RBI and Allyson Koller went 2 for 4 with one run scored.
Fairfield 4, York Catholic 1: At Fairfield, Ryleigh Bulyard led the home team with a homer, a double and two RBI’s. Teammate Haylee Wastler threw a complete game, striking out seven, walking three and allowing five hits. For the Irish, Rebecca Baum went doubled with one RBI and threw a complete game, striking out 10, walking none and allowing six hits. Fairfield is 13-3 overall and 12-2 in Y-A D-IV.
Biglerville 10, York Tech 5: At Biglerville, Tech couldn't hold on to a 4-0 lead. Biglerville scored eight runs in its final two at-bats. Alissa Shue (two hits, triple, three runs), Josilyn Bond (two hits, double), Zeyonee Hawkins (triple) and Alazaya Watts (double, run) led the Tech attack. Biglerville pitcher Hayleigh Smith limited Tech to three hits.
York Suburban 15, Dallastown 14: The Trojans snapped a four-game losing skid behind big nights from Dom Corto (seven goals, four assists) and Evan LeCates (six goals, assist). Suburban improved to 8-5 overall and 7-4 in the Y-A League. Dallastown fell to 7-5 and 6-5. Dallastown was paced by Coleton Mahorney (three goals, two assists) and Josh Sebastian (four goals).
Eastern York 13, West York 10: The Golden Knights triumphed behind strong efforts from Jake Crumling (five goals, assist), Cadyn Michael (three goals), Bryce Henise (three goals), Gavin Evans (two goals) and Kade Wiley (nine saves). West York’s leaders were Brady Halloran (six goals), Colby Goodling (two goals, three assists), Alex Kohler (goal, two assists) and Sean McNicholas (12 saves).
Central York 17, New Oxford 2: The surging Panthers cruised to their seventh-straight triumph to improve to 12-2 overall and 10-2 in Y-A League action. Central was led by Jimmy Kohr (six goals, two assists), Ryan Kilgour (goal, four assists), Ryan Fahs (three goals), Kade Bricker (goal, two assists), Drake Little (two goals), Matt Hawksworth (two goals) and Robbie Wiley (goal, assist).
Central York 17, New Oxford 13: The Panthers were led by Liz Rader (seven goals), Abby McFerren (two goals, three assists) and Madison Kurland (two goals, two assists). Eryn Little (four goals, two assists) paced New Oxford.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.