BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – The Cedar Crest softball team couldn’t wait to get its season opener out of the way. That approach should help the Falcons put the outcome behind them.
On Friday afternoon, the Falcons began a season of expectations with a somewhat disappointing 6-2 non-league home loss to Governor Mifflin. It was a one-all affair through five frames, before the Mustangs rallied for three unearned runs in the top of the sixth, then tacked on two more in the seventh.
And in many ways, it was also the start of a new era for the Cedar Crest softball program, as yesterday marked the debut of rookie head coach Eric Edwards, who took over the reigns from long-time skipper Jerry Stover in the off-season.
“It feels good to get the first game in,” said Edwards, a coach on the JV level over the past two springs and a physical education teacher at CCMS. “It’s good to get outside. We had three weeks of practice and had one outdoor practice. We’re getting there. We’re working hard. We were just a little unlucky tonight. But I’m excited about the season. We have a good group of girls and we have some experience. We’ll put tonight behind us.
“I know Governor Mifflin has a good team,” Edwards continued. “They came out and played tough. We kicked the ball around a little bit. I thought (starter Kayli) Martinez threw well tonight. She kind of got up in the zone a little bit late.”
It was two Falcon fielding blunders which set the stage for Governor Mifflin’s decisive sixth-inning rally.
And it was Mustang Alyssa Hernandez who made Cedar Crest pay, with a tie-breaking RBI-double. Teammate Ariana Chuprinsky followed with a sacrifice fly to left, and winning pitcher Steph Kramer made it 4-1 with a two-out, run-producing single.
The Mustangs got to Martinez further in the top of the seventh, plating two more runs on the strength of a couple of doubles and an RBI-single. Martinez completed what she began, didn’t strike out a batter and walked two.
“Their third and fourth times through the lineup, they were getting on her (Martinez),” said Edwards of the Mustangs. “She was getting the ball up, but give the hitters credit.
“That (the two errors in the sixth) did open the gates,” Edwards continued. “It’s one of the things we talked to the girls about. ‘You’ve got to field it before you throw it.'”
Cedar Crest had assumed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on the fleet feet of senior lead-off hitter Katie Gable. Gable reached on a single, stole second and then scored on Brandi Deaven’s two-out single to left.
But the Falcons stranded two runners in that at-bat, and six more over the next four innings.
“That’s the difference,” said Edwards. “If we get a couple of runs early in the game, we’re up 5-1, and that takes the wind out of their (the Mustangs’) sails. It’s not like they came in here and dominated us. We’re not going to make excuses about being stuck in doors, because it’s something everyone has had to face.
“Katie is a special talent,” added Edwards. “She has quick hands and power in her hands. She’s got great speed, so she can steal bases, and she covers so much ground defensively.”
It was a walk, an error and a passed ball that led to the Mustang run in the top of the third that tied the score at one. In all, Cedar Crest was guilty of four errors.
“We have great leadership with our seniors,” said Edwards. “We’ve really come together as a team. That goes a long way in a season. We have a good mix and the seniors have embraced the sophomores. We have some talented kids on this team.”
“She (Kramer, who struck out six and walked one) threw really well,” Edwards continued. “I was impressed. We made good contact, but we were just hitting it at them in key situations. But she threw a nice game.”
Cedar Crest notched its other run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Katie Ford slugged a one-out double, before coming around to score on a pair of passed balls.
Six of Governor Mifflin’s nine hits off Martinez came after the fifth inning. The Falcons managed just a pair of safeties after a three-hit bottom of the first.
“Our first goal is to come together as a team, and I think we’re doing it,” said Edwards. “The girls have high expectations for themselves. They want to compete in the (Lancaster-Lebanon) league, and get to districts. We want to get in (the playoffs) and see what happens. The talent’s here. We’ll get it together.
“I’m looking forward to the season,” concluded Edwards. “It’s disappointing to lose the first game of the season. But outside of one inning, we played a real solid game.”