BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – The Cedar Crest softball team knows where it wants to go. And the Falcons know how to get there – directly through rivals Manheim Township, Hempfield and Warwick.
May seem like a simple enough formula. But for the Falcons it’s been a lot more difficult than it sounds.
On Monday afternoon at home, the Falcons lost their fifth straight game to the elite of Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Cedar Crest encountered difficulties generating offense against the pinpoint accuracy of Warwick righthander Tessa Eckman and dropped a 2-0 decision to her Warriors.
With the setback, Cedar Crest, which had lost an earlier 7-6 decision to Warwick in Lititz, fell to 6-9 overall, 5-8 in the league, and remained in fourth place in the section, behind the Blue Streaks, Black Knights and Warriors. With time running out on the regular season, the Falcons hopes of qualifying for the league and District Three Class AAAA postseasons are dimming.
The result improved Warwick to 10-4 on the year and 9-3 in the section.
“The season has gone pretty good, but with those top three teams it’s been tough,” said Cedar Crest first-year head coach Eric Edwards. “It’s frustrating for us because we have been competitive with those top three teams, but we haven’t been able to pull out a win. We’re encouraged by the fact that we’re real close. We just kind of can’t get over the hump.
“The success of the season has yet to be determined,” continued Edwards. “One of our goals was to play together as a team, and we’ve done that. Our record doesn’t necessarily show that. We’re right on the edge for the district playoffs. It’s still in our hands. But we’ve got to win against teams like this who are ahead of you in the standings.”
Eckman wasn’t overpowering with her stuff, but she was certainly able to place it where the Cedar Crest bats weren’t. Eckman surrendered a one-out single to Molly Finley in the bottom of the first and Brandi Deaven’s two-out single in the fourth, and that was about it.
Eckman whiffed six and walked none, and then finished what she started. In retiring ten CC hitters in-a-row on two separate occasions, Eckman faced two batters above the minimum.
Warwick did not commit an error behind her.
“She does a great job of locating pitches,” said Edwards of Eckman. “She kept us off balance. She worked outside off the plate. We just couldn’t get our bats on the ball.
“We’re certainly preaching being aggressive at the plate, and we don’t always take that approach,” Edwards added. “Tonight we were aggressive, but she (Eckman) hit her spots. She controlled the game. We had to reach for those pitches on the outside part of the plate.”
Except for a couple of blips on her radar in the top of the second inning, Cedar Crest sophomore chucker Maddie Gable nearly matched Eckman pitch-for-pitch. Gable was also spot on, limiting Warwick to five hits, striking out two and issuing two free passes.
M. Gable retired the Warriors in order in their first, fifth and sixth at-bats.
“Tonight she threw really well,” said Edwards of M. Gable. “She worked ahead in the count. She spotted her ball well. She made some good pitches. She threw so well against a good team, and we couldn’t push a run across. It’s sort of been that way for us this year.
“She’s at her best when she’s hitting her spots,” added Edwards. “When she locates her fastball, everything else falls into place. She’s a very competitive kid. She takes charge on the mound, and she’s only a sophomore, which is good news for us.”
Warwick opened the second frame with a Nicole Rottkamp single and a walk. Then an out later, Nikki Mengle ripped an M. Gable offering into the gap in right-centerfield for a double and two RBIs.
“Yeah, it was a good game,” said Edwards of the 90-minute masterpiece. “We struggled a little bit at the plate. When we get good pitching and play good defense, we’ve struggled at the plate. Maddie’s been throwing really well, and we played good defense, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to hit the ball. But they (the Warriors) made some nice defensive plays.
“We don’t really have a pitching formula,” Edwards added. “We were going every other game (with M. Gable and Kayli Martinez), but Kayli’s been dealing with a back issue. It’s not a matter of one being better than the other.”
Cedar Crest has five games remaining in its regular season, three of which are within Section One.
“We’ve seen improvement each week,” said Edwards. “We’re constantly improving. Our M.O. this season seems to be when we have good pitching, we struggle at the plate, and when we have good hitting, we struggle with our pitching. What I’d like to see is more complete games, where we put them all together. We did well tonight.”
Class AAAA Power Rankings
RANK SCHOOL NAME POWER RANKING
1 Daniel Boone (13-0) 0.808540
2 Dallastown Area (13-1) 0.800254
3 Central York (10-2) 0.776657
4 Solanco (10-2) 0.768405
5 Manheim Township (12-2) 0.768199
6 Elizabethtown Area (12-2) 0.757088
7 Lower Dauphin (9-2) 0.750479
8 Red Lion Area (8-3) 0.750064
9 Central Dauphin (8-3) 0.734283
10 Warwick (10-4) 0.733557
11 Cumberland Valley (9-4) 0.728245
12 Hempfield (9-5) 0.706617
13 Central Dauphin East (5-3) 0.658705
14 Wilson (5-6) 0.640360 0.585586
15 South Western (6-5) 0.637742
16 Cedar Crest (6-7) 0.628363
17 Mechanicsburg Area (8-5) 0.626547
18 Governor Mifflin (6-7) 0.626006
19 Ephrata Area (6-7) 0.621719
20 Red Land (5-6) 0.604538
21 Chambersburg Area (4-6) 0.595826
22 Exeter Township (4-6) 0.564400
23 Conestoga Valley (4-7) 0.559006
24 Penn Manor (5-9) 0.554007
25 Waynesboro Area (5-7) 0.551830
26 Spring Grove Area (4-7) 0.518345
27 Harrisburg (4-6) 0.503090
28 J P McCaskey (3-10) 0.493181
29 Garden Spot (5-8) 0.461945
30 Cedar Cliff (2-8) 0.443539
31 New Oxford (2-10) 0.433319
32 Hershey (3-11) 0.430103
33 Carlisle (0-13) 0.304718
34 Reading (0-12) 0.289565
35 Lebanon (0-12) 0.289042
36 York County School Of Technology (1-9) 0.238500