PALMYRA – It’s like water, sunshine and fertilizer all rolled into one. There’s nothing that has the power to grow a program like a trip to the playoffs.
Right now, a young Palmyra softball team is scuffling to reach the postseason. If the Cougars could somehow discover a way in, it would be the single-most important event in their re-evolution.
On Friday afternoon, Palmyra’s progression took a step backwards, in the form of a 13-2 home loss to mighty Lower Dauphin. In reality, yesterday’s outcome was the conclusion of a game suspended by rain on Tuesday, when the Falcons had opened an 8-1 lead through three innings of play.
With two games remaining on its regular-season docket, the Cougars are 10-8 overall, 7-7 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference and rated 11th in the latest District Three Class AAA power rankings. Certainly a win in one of those two games would strengthen the Palmyra case for its first district appearance in three seasons.
The triumph made Lower Dauphin 13-5 overall and 11-1 in the division. Earlier in the campaign, the Falcons had defeated the Cougars 5-2 in Hummelstown.
“I feel like we need both of them,” said Palmyra head coach Kathy Wicker of her club’s two remaining games. “But someone said we should be in no matter what. If we could make it, it would be huge. That was the seniors’ thing. I didn’t think we’d get there. But I hope we do it for the seniors. I know the girls coming up will get there.
“We’re playing against a lot of juniors and seniors, and my team is freshmen and sophomores,” Wicker continued. “We’re starting to reap the benefits of the youth programs, but we’re still young. But I don’t like to use that as an excuse.”
Trailing 8-1 in the top of the fourth inning, Palmyra’s assignment yesterday was to shut down the Falcons early and figure out some way to generate momentum. But the Falcons proved to be uncooperative, as they turned two lead-off walks into a 10-1 advantage.
Over the final four innings on Friday, Lower Dauphin outscored Palmyra 5-1.
“It’s difficult in any sport,” said Wicker of the split-game proposition. “We’re obviously struggling. It’s not that they (the Falcons) out played us. We didn’t play well.
“That team (Lower Dauphin) is nothing special,” Wicker added. “They can use that intimidation factor. It’s a big deal, and all schools will say that. It’s always been that way. It’s about your confidence level.”
The duo of Mystery Piper and Morgan Bucks collaborated on the Cougar run that made it a 10-2 game. Piper opened the home half of the fifth with a triple to center field, and Bucks brought her home on a sacrifice fly to right.
Three day earlier, amid darkening skies and intensifying rain, Palmyra had scored its first run thanks to the same pair. In the bottom of the third on Tuesday, Piper drew a lead-off walk and Bucks drove her in with an RBI-triple.
But it came at a time when Lower Dauphin had scored the first eight runs of the game.
“They didn’t do well,” said Wicker of her hitters’ work in the batter’s box. “Harrisburg has better pitching than Lower Dauphin. But if you can’t go into the box with confidence, you’re not going to hit well.
“I don’t care who we go up against,” continued Wicker. “But the kids got it in their heads. They’re (the Falcons) notf the dominant team. There is no dominant team in the division.”
What really decided yesterday’s outcome was Lower Dauphin’s five-run top of the first on Tuesday. Palmyra sophomore hurler Cat Wicker hit two batters, walked another and surrendered a double to the first four Falcon hitters she saw, and all four came around to score.
Another hit-batsman, a free pass and an error proved to be Palmyra’s undoing during a Falcon second in which they tacked on three runs.
“She’s struggling,” said Wicker of her pitcher and daughter. “She’s mentally struggling, and it’s her mechanics. Yeah, that (pitching a lot in a long season) can be part of it. She’s tired.
While softball certainly has made in roads at Palmyra over the last couple years, the sport is still relatively low in the pecking order of girls’ athletic pursuits at the school.
“It’s been growing every year,” said Wicker. “We have three ten-and-under teams, two 12-and-under teams and one 14-and-under team, and on the verge of another. We have to get the word out about softball and grow it. Pitching’s where it’s at. We’re really working on getting pitchers, and how the youth program is being run.”