MYERSTOWN – It wasn’t a textbook triumph – in fact, there were times when it looked like they didn’t want it at all. But at this point of the campaign the Raiders will take what they can get.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Elco softball team grudgingly accepted a gift-wrapped 6-5 victory from generous Columbia. After squandering a 4-0 lead, the Raiders scored the decisive run on a wild pitch, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
It was Sage Hartman who raced home with the winning run for Elco. Hartman had been hit with a pitch, sacrificed to second by Taylor Cairns and moved to third on a single from Maddy Shaak.
The win was the second in as many days for Elco, but just its third of the season. The Raiders are now 3-7 overall and 2-6 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, while the Crimson Tide fell to 4-7 on the year and 2-6 in Section Four.
“I’m pleased with the way things turned out,” said Elco head coach Dennis Morgan. “I was never so happy about a wild pitch. McKenna (Achenbach) pitched a great game for five innings. But we left too many girls on base. We just couldn’t get the key hit.
“I’ll take any kind of win I can get,” Morgan continued. “But I want them (his players) to get the confidence they need to be a winning team. We let the lead slip away, but they were confident they could score again. They kept their emotions up. They didn’t get down on themselves.”
Columbia knotted the score at five in the top of the seventh, without the benefit of a hit. The Crimson Tide got the job done with a walk, two wild pitches and an Elco error.
The Raiders had gone ahead 5-4 a half-inning earlier when Olivia Hess doubled and scored on a Columbia throwing error. All six runs that Elco scored on the afternoon were of the unearned variety.
“We hit the ball to get set up,” said Morgan. “But we might’ve had eight girls left on base. And sometimes when we hit the ball, it was right at someone.
“We are playing better, because they’re (his player) playing with more confidence,” added Morgan. “They had to get wins to get confidence. But they’ve got to start believing in themselves.”
Pitching with a 4-0 cushion, Elco spot starter Achenbach carried a no-hitter into the top of the sixth inning. But Achenbach was touched with a hit as part of the Crimson Tide getting their first three batters on base, before giving way to reliever Cheyenne Hassler.
Hassler surrendered two run-scoring hits and an RBI grounder that tied it, but then settled in.
“She had a good fastball, and her ball does move a lot,” said Morgan of Achenbach. “But her change-up and drop wasn’t working, so she had to rely on her fastball.
“I got five full innings out of her,” Morgan added. “Maybe we should’ve taken her out at the beginning of the inning. Cheyenne was in a tough spot, and she didn’t feel that great.”
Athletic Maddy Shaak parlayed a pair of Columbia errors into a 1-0 Elco lead in the bottom of the first. The Raiders made it 2-0 in the third when two-hole hitter Olivia Hess stole a couple of bases and then scored on another Crimson Tide fielding blunder.
“We didn’t give them (the Crimson Tide) the chances until the sixth or seventh innings,” said Morgan. “And we took advantage of our opportunities. We took the extra base.
“The key in the seventh inning was getting a runner on base and getting her (Hartman) in scoring position, and putting the pressure on them (the Crimson Tide),” continued Morgan. “We forced pressure on them. And we didn’t have the top of lineup there.”
Claire Shaak and Achenbach opened the Raider half of the fifth inning with singles, and each came around to score on Columbia errors.
In all, the Crimson Tide was guilty of seven errors. Elco out hit Columbia 11-3.
“I want to play, with them (his players) getting more and more confidence,” said Morgan. “I think we can still be respectable in our division.
“Yes, I’m disappointed because I know we’re better than we’ve shown,” Morgan continued. “But I think it’s coming. Sometimes I believe I set my expectations too high, but I don’t believe I did.”