Littlestown softball wins 1-0 over South Western for York-Adams League title

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

The two best teams from the York-Adams League softball season were deadlocked all the way through seven innings, as the league's two most dominant pitchers tossed up one zero after another. Both Littlestown and South Western knew one swing could make the difference. And it did.

Thunderbolts shortstop Ashlynn Gorsuch blasted a leadoff home run in the top of the eighth inning, senior ace Chelsey Stonesifer slammed the door in the bottom half and Littlestown celebrated a league championship thanks to a 1-0 win over the Mustangs at Spring Grove on Wednesday afternoon.

Littlestown team members cheering on Ashlynn Gorsuch's (8) hit resulting in a run against South Western in the 2023 YAIAA softball championship in Spring Grove on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

Stonesifer and South Western's Jayda Koontz both went the distance, each allowing two hits and one walk. Stonesifer, the powerful senior right-hander, struck out 14 batters, while the sophomore lefty Koontz fanned seven. Two of the league's most prominent offenses managed one hit apiece in the game's first seven innings.

So of course it was Gorsuch, a freshman who hit under .200 with one home run during the regular season, who delivered the big blow. The decisive at-bat started inauspiciously, as she swung and missed at Koontz's first two offerings to fall behind 0-2. But Gorsuch fouled off three pitches before lacing a line drive over the center-field fence and rounding the bases as her teammates poured out of the dugout to meet her at home plate.

The blast carried plenty of emotion. Gorsuch's older brother, Zach, recently received a cancer diagnosis and began chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Wednesday. Thunderbolts head coach James Loveless told Gorsuch as she rounded third base that he could hear her family cheering from Hopkins, he said after the game.

Littlestown improved to 21-1 with the victory, while South Western dropped to 19-2.

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Koontz had a no-hitter going through 5 2/3 innings before Bailey Rucker delivered a single in the sixth. Kinsley Proepper and Kelly Green recorded the lone hits for the Mustangs.

South Western's Jayda Koontz (29) against Littlestown in the 2023 YAIAA softball championship in Spring Grove on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

South Western's best scoring chance came in the first inning, as Proepper smacked a triple to right field with two outs. But Koontz, also the Mustangs' cleanup hitter, popped out to second base on the first pitch to end the brief threat. The York-Adams Division I champions opened the bottom of the third with a Riley Crowl walk, but after the senior advanced to second on a passed ball, she was caught stealing third. Olivia Bateman reached later in the frame on a dropped third strike but was stranded at first as Stonesifer retired 14 straight batters.

Littlestown threatened in the top of the second. Koontz walked Emma Peart after an 11-pitch battle, then plunked Isabella Olvera to put two runners on base. Libby Brown bunted the runners to second and third, only for the Thunderbolts to slap consecutive grounders right back to Koontz and come up empty. Koontz was also riding a streak of 14 straight hitters retired before Rucker's two-out single in the sixth, then sat down four more to complete seven scoreless innings.

With South Western down to its last three outs in the bottom of the eighth, Green grounded a one-out single into center field to give the Mustangs life against Stonesifer. The Thunderbolt superstar, however, struck out Crowl before inducing a Madison Hershey groundout to first and igniting the championship celebration.

Littlestown's Chelsea Stonesifer (22) against South Western in the 2023 YAIAA softball championship in Spring Grove on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

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Both teams were dominant on their way to the league final. South Western, after winning the Division II title last year, bumped up to Division I and finished first once again, beating established frontrunners Dallastown and Central York three of four times. Littlestown didn't drop a league game all season, going 14-0 in D-III games and losing only at Trinity on May 9 by a 4-3 final.

The Mustangs cruised to an 11-1 win over D-II champion Northeastern in Monday's semifinal at Susquehannock, taking a 7-0 lead through two innings. Koontz allowed one unearned run in a dominant outing while going 3 for 5 at the plate; Kelsey Smith was also 3 for 5 and Proepper and Bateman added two hits apiece. The Bolts needed only five frames to dismiss Delone Catholic, 11-0, at Spring Grove on Monday. Stonesifer struck out 11 while blasting a three-run homer, while Brown was 3 for 3 and Olvera also went deep.

There could be more hardware in both teams' future, as Littlestown will be the No. 1 seed in the District 3 Class 3A tournament and South Western will be the No. 3 seed in Class 5A when the brackets are officially released. The Mustangs are expected to host Palmyra at 4:30 p.m. next Monday, with the Bolts having a bye until Thursday's 3A semifinals.