MYERSTOWN – The Elco softball team has established a very specific set of goals for itself this season. They are goals that fly directly in the face of the Raiders’ history, and ones which are in stark contrast to how they performed yesterday.
On Monday afternoon at Elco Middle School, the Raiders certainly didn’t play like the playoff team that they aspire to be, falling to Manheim Central 10-1, in cool and blustery conditions. What was alarming about Elco’s loss wasn’t necessarily that it happened, but how it occurred.
The Raiders’ uneven effort included three errors and ten strikeouts. Down 4-1, Elco was still in it until the Barons plated six gift-wrapped runs in the top of the sixth inning.
The contest served as the Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three opener for both clubs. The result left the Raiders 1-1 overall, and Manheim Central 2-0.
“We might need a little more time,” said Elco manager Dennis Morgan. “But we don’t have the time. We have to win one or two games this week to stay in it. They (his players) need it for their confidence. But the talent is there.
“This week is going to prove what these girls can do,” Morgan added. “If we can pull two games out, we’ll be OK.”
From the Raiders’ perspective, it was the top of the sixth which made the entire outcome forgettable. Already trailing by three runs, Elco surrendered six more on one hit, three errors, three walks and a wild pitch.
“My expectations coming into the season were that our pitching and defense were going to be fine,” said Morgan. “We’ve worked a lot on offense. Our bats are starting to come around. The girls are a year older. I think we’ll be in line to contend. We’ve just got to get over this game and step up.
“They (his players) have to come together and show that they can do it, and that’s offensively and defensively,” Morgan continued. “If they can show they can win against a good team, they can take the next step.”
Manheim Central got to Elco starter Claire Behney in the top of the second, plating three runs on three hits. The key blow – a ringing two-out triple to right-center field – was struck by winning pitcher Sara McKee.
“She threw a nice game,” said Morgan of McKee’s effort in the circle. “She threw a nice selection of pitches. Her rise-ball was going up, and we were chasing it. But she was hit-able.
“Claire (Shaak), I was impressed with her,” continued Morgan. “I didn’t know if I’d get that many innings out of her. I was hoping to get four. I’m going with a two-pitcher rotation, and Cheyenne (Hassler) threw against Lebanon.”
Manheim Central made it 4-0, before Elco struck for its lone run in the bottom of the fifth.
With two outs, Raider Bethany Hess singled, then made it to third on a couple of Central miscues. Hess was brought home by pinch-hitter Brandy Whitman and her RBI-single.
“Their shortstop killed us,” said Morgan of Baron Aerika High. “She killed every rally we started. We’re a better team than what was out there. That sixth inning, we gave them six runs. We just have to make routine plays. We hit the ball. We’re just as good as that team (Manheim Central).”
With runners at first and second base and nobody out, Raider clean-up hitter Cheyenne Crist ripped a low liner to short that High made a clean, shoe-top catch on. Because the runners initially thought the ball might go through, they were on the move and were subsequently easy outs.
McGee struck out the side in the third and seventh frames.
“If she doesn’t make that play, we have bases-loaded or have two runner on and a run in,” said Morgan of the triple play. “And we have some good hitters coming up. It burst our bubble.
“We missed districts last year (when the Raiders went 9-11),” Morgan added. “(This year) we want to make the league playoffs, and we want to win a couple of games in districts too. They (his players) said all along that they want to win.”