BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – It’s been a miserable and barren spring for Lebanon County scholastic sports.
While no one would like to win a section championship more than the Annville-Cleona softball squad, in many ways the Little Dutchmen are carrying a torch of pride for the entire county.
On Friday afternoon, Annville-Cleona missed out on a chance to clinch a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four title when it dropped a hard-fought, 1-0 decision to Pequea Valley. Though they played solid defensively, the Little Dutchmen experienced difficulties putting the ball in play in support of another steady outing from junior right-hander Emma Lerchen,
The result created a virtual tie atop the Section Four standings, between Annville-Cleona and Pequea Valley. The outcome dropped Annville-Cleona, which had scored a 7-3 win at Pequea Valley last month, to 13-5 on the year and 11-4 in the section.
Should the two teams finish in a tie for first place, a special playoff to determine the Section Four championship would be contested, quite possibly on Tuesday, at a site and time to be determined. Annville-Cleona has not worn a section crown since 2010.
The Little Dutchmen, who are sitting second in the District Three Class AA power rankings, have already secured themselves a spot in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, which are slated to open May 9.
“We missed a great opportunity at home,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Dave Bentz. “We’re plying good softball. Now we’ve got to go over to the confines of Lancaster County and play them (the Braves) again.
“Every year we’re battling for the section,” continued Bentz. “I don’t know how many years in-a-row we’ve gone to leagues. It might be 25. Yeah, I watch that (how other Lebanon County teams are faring in other sports). I want to be the best (softball) team in the county. I think we have ‘the’ team every year. We’ll have a better effort next time we play them (the Braves).”
Despite striking out 15 times against Brave starter Sabrina Ryan, the Little Dutchmen stranded seven runners on base. Annville-Cleona also had the potential tying run thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, when Veronica Wampler was gunned down for the second out, after trying to score on a grounder to second off the bat of Morgan Zimmerman.
Zimmerman had also reached third base in the bottom of the first, on a walk, a stolen base and a wild pitch, as did the courtesy runner for teammate Emma Lerchen in the fourth, on a one-out walk and a single from Amber Rexrode. The only other Little Dutchmen hits off of Ryan were Wampler’s and Mindy Reigle’s in the seventh.
“The kid (Ryan) had 15 strikeouts. Really? Really?,” said Bentz. “She threw a riser with two strikes. We looked bad. We’re taking good strikes and swinging at bad ones. I don’t know. I can’t figure them (his players) out and what makes them tick. We’re a better team than we showed on the field. Fifteen strikeouts out of 21 outs, and we couldn’t get two bunts down.
“Herb Brooks said, ‘Great moments are made from great opportunities,'” added Bentz. “A couple of times all we had to do was put the bat on the ball. We’re getting into the tough part of the season. Nothing is easy. We’ve got to play. I don’t know if they (his players) were pressing or what.”
The Braves got to Lerchen for their only run in the top of the third, after having two outs and the bases empty.
From the top of the batting order, Braves Lydia Cacciola and Aleessha Feister singled. And when Feister’s hit got through the Annville-Cleona left-fielder, Cacciola came all the way around from first base to score.
“Fundamentals,” sighed Bentz. “Kids getting a chance to play, looking up and not fielding the ball. I thought one run wasn’t going to do it. But it did. We still have head-hanging. I can’t tolerate that.
“Yeah, we played well. But it’s still a loss,” Bentz continued. “With 15 strikeouts, you’ve got to pat someone on the back a little bit. Maybe they (his players) did know what was at stake. But why do they wait to big games to be vocal? We’ll have to see what happens down the road. But I’m not afraid to play them (the Braves) again.”
Lerchen surrendered four hits, and retired the Braves in order in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings – at one point 13 in-a-row. Lerchen whiffed seven and walked one.
“There’s only been one game this season when a team has gotten hits on her,” said Bentz. “Other than that, she’s pitched very well. She doesn’t walk anyone. If she hadn’t pitched well, we’d be in trouble.
“After losing today, with the way these kids think – regardless of what happens in the playoff, we’re going to have to play a Section One team in the first round of the league playoffs – we could have two straight losses heading into districts,” Bentz added. “It’s every year that it (the section title) comes down to them (the Braves) and us, and it’ll keep continuing. We have a good bunch of kids and they’re young.”
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Section Four Standings
Annville-Cleona 2015 Results
|4:15 PM||W 11-1|
|4:15 PM||W 6-0|
|4:15 PM||W 15-0|
|4:15 PM||W 19-0|
|4:15 PM||W 7-3|
|4:15 PM||W 21-1|
|4:15 PM||L 3-13|
|4:15 PM||W 10-7|
|4:15 PM||W 12-1|
|4:15 PM||L 0-2|
|1:45 PM||L 1-6|
|4:15 PM||W 12-3|
|4:15 PM||W 7-2|
|4:15 PM||L 0-17|
|4:15 PM||W 16-1|
|4:15 PM||L 0-1|
PIAA District Three
Class AA Power Rankings
AA School W L T Rating
1 Susquenita 12- 3- 0 0.642480
2 Annville Cleona 12- 3- 0 0.633474
3 Brandywine Heights Area 11- 4- 0 0.627559
4 Kutztown Area 13- 3- 0 0.620662
5 Delone Catholic 11- 4- 0 0.601123
6 Pequea Valley 9- 5- 0 0.56934
7 Trinity 6- 7- 0 0.478179
8 Upper Dauphin Area 5- 7- 0 0.45685
9 Lancaster Mennonite 8- 9- 0 0.433064
10 Biglerville 6- 10- 0 0.423187
11 Fairfield 5- 9- 0 0.401040
12 Tulpehocken 4- 9- 0 0.387906
13 Hanover 4- 13- 0 0.359903
14 Bermudian Springs 3- 14- 0 0.338117
15 Oley Valley 2- 10- 0 0.272398
16 Wyomissing Area 2- 9- 0 0.271556
17 Lancaster Catholic 1- 12- 0 0.268154
18 York Catholic 0- 12- 0 0.207136