BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – Playing from behind can be a dangerous and risky proposition. It is akin to playing with fire.
Sure it’s cool and exciting when it works out. But the odds dictate that eventually you’re going to get burned.
Falling behind early didn’t work out all that well for the Cedar Crest softball team on Wednesday afternoon. The Falcons couldn’t overcome early 2-0 and 4-1 deficits and endured an 8-3 home setback at the hands of Conestoga Valley.
A day prior Cedar Crest had erased an early five-run deficit to shock Elizabethtown. But Wednesday’s result left the Falcons 7-8 on the season and 6-5 in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
The Buckskins are now 12-3 on the season and 9-2 in Section Two of the L-L.
“That’s been our Achilles’ Heel,” said Cedar Crest head coach Jerry Stover of his club’s slow starts. “Last night we spotted Elizabethtown five early runs, and then fought back. When we give up cheap runs it puts us behind early. If I knew what it was we’d fix it. We pointed it out to the kids and obviously they’re not trying to do it.
“But the kids never give up,” Stover continued. “That’s one thing they’ve been about all year. They never give up. The team has a lot of character.”
In the bottom of the first, Kayla Seyfert’s RBI double pulled Cedar Crest to within 2-1. Seyfert’s blast plated lead-off hitter Katie Ford, who had singled and reached second on a wild pitch.
Then in the fourth, the Falcons got back to 4-3 with a little help from the Buckskins. A dropped pop-up directly led to a pair of Cedar Crest runs.
The Falcons scored their runs thanks to a walk, a sacrifice and a hit-batsman.
“Against any decent pitcher, you’ve got to get her early in the count,” said Stover. “If you find yourself taking the first pitch down the middle of the plate, you’re doomed. And if you get behind, you’re going to go fishing.
“We’ve lost a bunch of close games this year,” added Stover, “where we gave up some easy runs. Some of the games we lost were close, so our season, record-wise, could be better. It’s a couple of runs here and there.”
The Falcons experienced difficulties handling the speed and athleticism the Buckskins featured at the top of their batting order. CV’s top three hitters, Glorian Plank, Jill Blank and pitcher Courtney Allen went a combined eight-for-12, with three RBIs and seven runs scored.
A double steal pulled off by Plank and Blank resulted in the Buckskins’ initial run. And C. Allen followed with an RBI-grounder that made it 2-0.
“I don’t think we played very good defense,” said Stover. “We didn’t handle their short game very well. They have speed at the top of their order and it hurt us. They have a bunter (Plank) and a slapper (Blank) at the top of their order. And it seemed like they were on base all night.”
C. Allen, who threw well but wasn’t overwhelming, went the distance on a six-hitter, struck out 11 Falcons and walked two.
“She had pretty good movement on the ball,” said Stover of C. Allen. “We don’t normally strike out as much as we did today. We didn’t get as many good hacks as we usually get.”
A suicide bunt in the top of the sixth gave Conestoga Valley a bit of breathing room, at 5-3. Then with the top of the order up in the seventh, the Buckskins first four batters reached, and they scored three times to put the outcome out of reach.
“We’re either tied with, or a game behind Hempfield, for second place in the section, and for a playoff position,” said Stover. “That’s definitely the goal, to get into the playoffs. That’s always one of our goals, to try and win the section or get into the playoffs.”
As of Monday, Cedar Crest sat in the 21st position in the District Three Class AAAA power rankings, with five Section One games remaining on its regular-season schedule. Twenty teams qualify for districts in Class AAAA.
“Friday, that’s the key,” said Stover of an upcoming showdown with Hempfield. “We’re going head-to-head with Hempfield and if we can pull that game out it’ll be a big win. We want to control our own destiny. We got our hopes up from last night’s game (win over Elizabethtown), but tonight we might have been a little flat because of it.”
Seyfert finished her afternoon two-for-three at the plate, while teammate Katie Lutz also contributed a pair of hits.