ELIZABETHTOWN – The Annville-Cleona softball team experienced many positives this season. But by their high standards, not enought for the Little Dutchmen to consider it a success.
On Thursday evening at Elizabethtown Community Park, Annvile -Cleona’s season reached an empty climax with a 15-5 loss to Susquenita, in the quarterfinl round of the District Three Class AA playoffs. A two-run triple by Susquenita’s Cassy Auxt with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning ended the contest via the mercy rule.
The aggressive Hawks applied pressure to the Annville-Cleona defense and Little Dutchmen pitcher Chrisi Lerchen incessantly all night, and the A-C contingent never did figure it out.
The Little Dutchmen’s third straight postseason loss ended their year at 12-9. Annville-Cleona finished second in Section Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League and qualified for both the league and District tournaments.
Third-seeded Susquenita improved to 18-3 overall.
“It was a success in that way, but not the way it ended,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Dave Bentz. “It’s a successful season. They’re great kids. I get on them, but I get results.
“We needed a rah-rah person, and no, we never had a leader,” Bentz continued. “No one showed up. I think it’s very important, but they (his players) might not see it that way. You need that kid to pick everyone up when they’re down.”
The highlight of the evening for the Little Dutchmen came in the top of the first inning, before Susquenita got a chance to bat.
Annville-Cleona junior catcher Haley Hirn slammed a two-run homer to left field that scored C. Lerchen, who had walked, to give her side a 2-0 edge. It would prove to be the Little Dutchmen’s only lead of the contest.
“We battled at the bat,” said Bentz. “Chrisi battled on the mound. But we can’t give up runs. We’re not a comeback team.
“I didn’t see their pitcher (Rachel Sterner) being anything dominant, and we did get some hitting,” Bentz continued. “We have to take advantage of situations. They (the Hawks) were a better seed and nobody expected us to do anything.”
Susquenita’s response to A-C’s first-inng was three runs in the bottom of the frame. The first three Hawk hitters against C.Lerchen reached base and all three scored.
A big part of the rally was an amazing five stolen bases by Susquenita.
Then in the bottom of the second, the Hawks registered two more runs to up their advantage to 5-2. The Little Dutchmen were guilty of three errors in the second.
“We didn’t make the plays,” said Bentz. “They (the Hawks) were always moving. They were going to keep running until we threw somebody out.
“It’s always tough to lose seniors,” Bentz continued. “But we have some good young kids coming up. We’ll probably feel sorry for ourselves today, but tomorrow we’ll be OK. We have a great nucleus coming back and we have a quality JV team.”
Susquenita’s lead ballooned to 9-3 before the Little Dutchmen got a little something going in the top of the fifth. Emma Lerchen walked and Crystal Miller singled, ahead of Hannah Fischer’s RBI-double and Veronica Wampler’s run-scoring grounder.
But the Hawks removed any sort of suspense in their next at-bat, scoring three runs – on Amber Turpin’s two-run triple and Cora Ziegler’s RBI-double – to expand their lead to 12-5.
“I’m disappointed we finished the season this way,” said Bentz. “I’m very disappointed with the effort. You’ve got to come to play. It was the third season for us.
“I tried to pump the girls up as much as I could,” Bentz added. “Maybe it comes down to us (the coaches). Maybe we didn’t have them (the players) prepared as well as we should have. We got the fate we deserved. It looked like we were in a fog.”
Thanks to a double play, C. Lerchen faced the minimum number of Susquenita hitters in the third inning. But in every other Susquenita at-bat, the Hawks sent at least six batters to the plate.
C. Lerchen surrendered 15 hits, walked two and struck out one.
“They have a nice team,” said Bentz of the Hawks. “But we didn’t have to look up to them. We just had a bad game.
“I base the season on districts,” continued Bentz. “People think I don’t care about the league playoffs. But I hate to lose. The worst thing we can do is get demoralized. I play for districts, but I want to win every game.”
In addition to Hirn’s two-run dinger in the first, Annville-Cleona also got two hits and an RBI from C. Lerchen and two hits from Fischer. The Little Dutchmen totaled six hits.
“Even though Susquenita had a nice record, I thought we were definitely in the driver’s seat today,” said Bentz. “Chrisi doesn’t throw hard, but with her change-up I thought we’d be OK. It didn’t work out that way.”