KINZERS – The Annville-Cleona softball team had a good year. It would’ve been a very good year if the Little Dutchmen could’ve figure out some way to manage the Pequea Valley Braves better.
Remember, it’s hard to beat a good team three times in a season.
On a warm Thursday evening at Pequea Valley High School, during the quarterfinals of the District Three Class AAA playoffs, Annville-Cleona’s third loss to the hometown Braves this year – to the tune of 10-1 – ended its season. After the Little Dutchmen kept it tight for a while, the Braves scored seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to threaten the ten-run rule.
With the setback, the sixth-seeded Little Dutchmen concluded their spring with a 9-11 record. Earlier in the season, Annville-Cleona lost 12-1 to the Braves in Kinzers on April 7, and then 4-0 at home on May 10.
With the outcome, third-seeded Pequea Valley pushed its overall mark to 14-4 and moved into next week’s semifinal round of the AAA tournament.
“All three games against them, we didn’t hit,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Jim Wright. “We never remembered to bring our bats. Their pitcher (right-hander Olivia Ammon) is one of the premiere pitchers in the section (Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League). Going against her, we knew we had our hands full.
“They’re (the Braves) going to go along way, in my opinion,” Wright continued. “They have a great team. They just have an all-around team. They’ve got the complete package.”
With the ten-run rule very much in play, Annville-Cleona extended the game and its season by plating a run in the top of the fifth inning.
Lead-off hitter Grace Renninger started it with a two-out single, and stole a base. Noelle Martin followed with an RBI-double that made it a 10-1 game.
O. Ammon finished with a four-hitter, fanned nine and walked three.
“We’ve struggled all year with hitting,” said Wright. “The girls like everything above their heads. There’s too much of that. We tried to correct it the best we could in practice, but then in games we’d fall apart.
“She’s (O. Ammon) fast,” Wright added. “She moves the ball and she doesn’t get rattled. She’s a good pitcher, and she’s got it in her head.”
Pequea Valley’s first two hitters of the game, Abby Tobelman and Emily Ammon, coaxed walks from Little Dutchmen starter Renninger, and both scored. The Braves did it without the benefit of a hit, as Tobelman came home on a wild pitch and E. Ammon scored on an error.
In the bottom of the third inning, Pequea Valley upped its lead to 3-0. Hailey Yothers’ deep sacrifice fly to center field scored E. Ammon all the way from second.
“We were confident all week,” said Wright. “We thought if we could hit the ball, we could beat them. With our pitching and defense, we knew we could stay with them.
“Grace (Renninger) just got tired,” Wright continued. “She’s probably our best pitcher, but she didn’t get a lot of work. She was the girl we depended on all year. I wish we could have ten of her on the team.”
The Braves rallied for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to make it a 10-0 game. Pequea Valley’s first six hitters reached base in the at-bat, which featured two-run safeties from Tobelman, E. Ammon and Olivia Clark.
In the midst of the rally, Renninger was relieved by Ella Andrews. Before she departed, Renninger struck out four and walked four.
“We had high hopes coming into the season,” said Wright. “We had 24 girls at the start, and seven pitchers. We wanted to get everybody playing time and keep the pitchers sharp. But we lost six players, and then lost another to an injury, and we couldn’t field a JV team.
“We had three four-year starters (Renninger, Martin and Alyssa Ulrich), and that was the leadership we needed,” concluded Wright. “We could do good against weaker teams, but we just couldn’t hit fast pitching, and that was our downfall. I don’t think anyone expected us to make the playoffs, but we pulled it off. We’re very happy with what we did, Sure, we would’ve liked to do better. But we were excited all year and the girls kept a good attitude.”
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