HERSHEY — Three more outs and a milkshake.
That unique team motto for the Eastern York softball team was called upon heading to the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday afternoon.
There wasn't much at stake — just a trip to the District 3 Class 4-A title game and a state playoff berth.
“That’s our motto and we get (the players) at max (effort) every time,” Eastern York coach Brad Rohrbaugh said.
Rohrbaugh goes with a chocolate banana milkshake to celebrate victories.
The Golden Knights earned their postgame milkshake trip after they battled to get the final three outs in their 3-0 semifinal victory over Northern Lebanon (18-5) at Hershey High School.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Northern Lebanon brought the tying run to the plate. Eastern York pitcher Maelynn Leber was locked in on the mound all game, but needed to come through with one more out for the win. Leber fired the ball toward Northern Lebanon’s Brooke Graby, who watched as a called third strike sent the Golden Knights (13-7) to the district title game and into the state playoffs.
Eastern is chasing the first district softball title in the history of the program.
Leber's strong outing: Leber tossed seven scoreless innings with four strikeouts, while allowing two walks and two hits. A pair of walks got her into trouble earlier in the game, but she was able to strand the runners and keep her team in the game. Leber needed 108 pitches and was able to overcome four errors committed by her defense.
In addition to her strong pitching performance, Leber, who prefers a chocolate milkshake, came through with the go-ahead hit for Eastern York in the sixth. An RBI triple put the Golden Knights on the board and eased some of the pressure off herself on the mound in a tight game.
Northern Lebanon pitcher Emma Kelliher turned in a solid game as well. Kelliher went seven innings. She had four strikeouts and allowed all three runs after five shutout innings.
Following Leber’s triple, Katie Lehman drove in another run for Eastern with a single. Lehman went 3 for 3 at the plate and was the only Golden Knight with multiple hits in the game.
“Everybody had a great game today,” Rohrbaugh said. “Every person in that dugout contributed to this 3-0 win.”
Experienced group: To pull of the upset over the No. 2 seed, No. 6 seed Eastern York leaned on its experienced group of seven seniors and two juniors to stay focused on the game and not let the moment get to them.
“Our veteran players were like, ‘All right, everybody, stay calm, stay within yourself. Do what you know you can do,’” Rohrbaugh said.
With the victory, Eastern reached the district championship game for the second time in three years. Rohrbaugh gave all the credit to his players after game for giving him another postseason run.
“I’m not really an emotional kind of guy, but I’ll tell you, when you get to do this twice with the same group of girls and you love them, they are one special group,” Rohrbaugh said. “They always will be in my life. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
James Buchanan up next: Up next for Eastern York is a meeting with James Buchanan (15-6). The last time the two teams met it was in the 2017 district semifinal. Eastern York won, 2-1, in eight innings.
Before she set her sights on this year’s district championship game, Leber reflected on the loss in the 2017 title game, 3-2 to York-Adams rival Kennard-Dale in eight innings. That motivated her to get another opportunity to bring some hardware back to Eastern.
“That loss really hurt,” said Leber. “We talked before (Thursday’s game) that if we win this game today, we’re going to try the best we can to bring home a district championship for our school.”
Eastern and James Buchanan will meet for the title at 1 p.m. Friday at Messiah College. James Buchanan earned its berth in the title game earlier in the week with a 10-0 pounding of top-seeded West Perry. Buchanan's opening district win came over K-D, 5-3.
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.