BY JEFF FALK
Expectations are as fragile as eggs. If they are not handled with care and somehow become broken, they can be lost forever.
Right now, the Palmyra softball team is struggling to live up to its pre-season expectations. On Tuesday afternoon, the Cougars fell to Bishop McDevitt 6-1 in a battle of Mid-Penn Conference programs seeking their initial wins of the spring.
With one-quarter of their 20-game season complete, the Cougars are now 0-5 overall and 0-4 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. Despite being a young club, Palmyra was seeking to improve on its win total of three in 2011.
“We were looking to be competitive this season,” said Palmyra head coach Kathy Wicker. “With the league being the way it is, there are not a lot of very strong teams. There are not a lot of dominating teams, except for LD (Lower Dauphin).
“I would say we’re not where we want to be,” Wicker continued. “We played a couple of teams that not only should’ve we contended with, but we should’ve beaten. We’re not putting the ball in play.”
While putting the ball in play was a problem for Palmyra on this particular day, it was not the only difficulty the Cougars experienced.
The Cougars managed only two safeties, singles from seniors Chelsea Ebersole in the third and by Alex Newhard in the fifth. Palmyra batters whiffed a total of four times.
More glaring was Palmyra’s defensive deficiencies. The Cougars were guilty of five errors afield and all six of the runs they surrendered were of the unearned variety.
The Crusaders scored half of their runs after two outs had been recorded.
“Today was our worst defensive game so far,” said Wicker. “One of our starters had a concussion and was out and she’s a key player for us. Not having her messed up our infield.
“We need to hit the ball,” added Wicker. “To be successful, we have to play good defense. But we’ve been in a slump with the bats since the season started. In scrimmages, we hit the ball well. For the season, we’re not hitting.
“It’s a lack of confidence. We have five freshmen. They have the skills, but they’re lacking confidence. Our program isn’t as strong as others.”
Palmyra scored its lone run in the fifth, after having fallen behind 5-0. C.C. Mann walked, went to second on a passed ball, stole third and scored on Becca Sell’s RBI-grounder.
“I’m just trying to bring them (her players) all together and have the light bulb come on,” said Wicker. “They just have to know what they can do. Once they come together, they’ll be fine.
“Yeah, they seem to be upbeat,” continued Wicker. “At practices, they’re all there. But they freeze up in games. We’ve got to try not to be practice players.”
Bishop McDevitt touched Cougar freshman starter Cat Wicker for a run in the top of the first. An error and a passed ball figured into the scoring.
In the fourth, the Crusaders broke the game open by scoring four times. Palmyra stoked the fire by committing three errors and a passed ball.
“She actually threw well,” said Wicker of her starter and daughter Cat Wicker. “She’s learning to hit her spots well against the older hitters. The key is confidence and knowing that the team is behind her. She can’t let that ball out over the plate.”
Bishop McDevitt plated its final run in the sixth.
“It’s frustrating,” said Wicker. “I just hope they (her players) can get that fire lit and get going. There’s no point getting upset with things if you’re not having fun.”
Point well taken.