SOUTH LEBANON – As the spring has unfolded, the factors which motivate the Cedar Crest softball team have fluctuated. But the Falcons have always played for pride and for each other.
On Monday afternoon at Cedar Crest Middle School, loyalty and pride weren’t quite enough for the Falcons to get over the hump against Manheim Township, and in light of the outcome, those two intangibles may now be the only things they have left to play for. Cedar Crest got off to another sluggish start and couldn’t make it up, in a 4-3 loss to the Blue Streaks.
After falling behind 4-0 in the third inning, the Falcons rallied to score three times in the bottom of the sixth. On the strength of a walk to Ashley Wolf and a single from Katie Gable, the Falcons got the potential tying run to second base in the bottom of the seventh, before being retired on a hump-back liner to shortstop.
The setback, in the Falcons’ Lancaster-Lebanon Section One finale, could prove to be fatal for Cedar Crest’s District Three Class AAA postseason hopes. With two non-league games remaining this week, Cedar Crest, which was ranked 17th in the latest district power ratings, is 10-8 overall and 8-8 in the section.
Manheim Township improved to 13-5 on the year and 11-5 in Section One. Cedar Crest finished 3-7 against Section One competition this season.
“My experience is that they (his players) don’t look at the district playoffs,” continued Stover. “We talk about it and some follow it, but a lot of them are playing for pride. I’d say more so than not, they’re not aware of districts.”
Trailing by four runs, Netanyia Valentin got the Falcons’ sixth-inning outburst going with a single, and Katie Gable kept it going with another safety. Kayla Seyfert’s two-run single brought Cedar Crest to within a couple of runs of the lead, and an RBI-grounder off the bat of Ashley Austin made it 4-3.
“She’s fast,” said Stover of Blue Streak starter and winner Lacy Smith. “But I didn’t see a whole lot of movement on her ball. As the game wore on, she lost some of her control. I don’t know if she got arm-weary or not. But we had better at-bats as the game went on.
“We never say die,” Stover added. “They (his players) never give up until the last out is made. That shows a lot of heart.”
Manheim Township reached Falcon starter Seyfert for an RBI-grounder in the top of the first inning. Then in the third, the Blue Streaks tacked on three more runs on four hits – three of which were of the extra-base variety that drove home runs with two outs.
“It’s not only what I said to them, but it was also what they said to me,” said Stover of the post-game pow-wow with his troops. “It was a fun game because we came back. It came down to the last pitch.
At one point in the middle of the game, Stover had a relief pitcher warming up for Seyfert in the bullpen. But it never came to that, as Seyfert settled down and pitched better as the innings got later.
In going the distance, Seyfert struck out eight and didn’t issue a free pass.
“They have one of the toughest top of the lineups in the league, and she (Seyfert) pitched them tough,” said Stover of the Blue Streaks. “I thought she could’ve packed it in early. But she toughed it out.
“She (Seyfert) changed her eye-level a lot,” Stover added. “She doesn’t have a great change-up, so she had to rely on her screwball, her rise-ball and her location.”
Smith retired the first seven Falcon batters she faced, until Brandi Deaven singled in the bottom of the third. Deaven finished with two CC hits, as did Gable.
“The approach I take is I try to be patient,” said Stover. “You can’t get frustrated. Slow and steady and be patient. It doesn’t work all the time, but it works a lot of the time.