PALMYRA – Over the past year or so, the Palmyra softball team has taken some huge strides forward. But for the Cougars to advance to the next plateau they’re going to have to win games like they lost yesterday.
Yet in the developmental process, that might be asking too much, too soon.
On Thursday afternoon, young Palmyra flashed some good signs during an 8-6 loss to Mechanicsburg. But at times, especially in a nightmarish Wildcat top of the fifth, the Cougars youth came shining through.
For it was in the top of the fifth that Mechanicsburg batted around and scored six times to take an 8-4 lead. Though Palmyra continued to battle, it never fully recovered.
In fact, the game ended with the Cougars’ potential tying run on second base. Palmyra had produced a second-and-third-with-one-out situation with singles from Morgan Bucks and Becca Sell, and a Wildcat error.
The outcome made Palmyra 7-5 on the year and 4-4 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. Mechancisburg moved to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the division.
“Obviously, absolutely it was a winnable game,” said Palmyra head coach Kathy Wicker. “It was a great game to play, two great teams. I don’t like using this as an excuse any more, but the youngness of this team costs us sometimes.
With the Cougars protecting a 4-2 lead, the Wildcats used two Cougar errors and four hits to score six runs after two outs had been recorded in the fifth. The shoddy defense upped Palmyra starter Cat Wicker’s pitch count, and it was the only during the contest that Mechanicsburg really got to the Cougar sophomore.
“That’s when our errors happened,” said Wicker of the Wildcats’ fifth. “We had three errors, and they were at the beginning of the inning, and then the walks came, and then the hits came. We tried to impress on them (her players) that those runs don’t score without the errors.
“Cat did well,” Wicker continued. “Again, she is mentally young. We’re trying to make her mentally strong. She was getting frustrated with the strike zone. I get it, but there’s nothing you can do.”
The Cougars cut their deficit in half – to 8-6 – by notching two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Sell started the rally with a lead-off triple, then scored on Hannah Phillippy’s RBI-grounder. Later, Kayla Bonawitz bashed another Cougar triple and came home on Kaylee Werkheiser’s single.
“Hitting-wise, we out hit them 13-9,” said Wicker. “The strikeouts were even, both pitchers had six. Basically, I was letting them (her players) know that it’s up to them where they want to be. We’re not stepping up. Our division is fairly evenly matched. We just have to mentally get into it, and they have to battle throughout the whole game.
“Absolutely, there were good things, with both teams,” Wicker added. “They’re (her players) definitely hitting well. They’re good hitters. The young part of the team is knowing when to put the ball in play, things like moving runners. They have to learn the mental part of the game. They have the physical part of it.”
Down a run, the Cougars took a 4-2 lead with a three-run third. Palmyra’s Jenna Koser, Mystery Piper and Bucks smacked back-to-back-to-back, two-out run-producing hits.
“We hit the ball, that was the positive,” said Wicker. “Those two base-running errors were huge. When they (her players) hit, they hit. They just have to be consistent.”
After spotting Mechanicsburg a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, the Cougars got one of them back in the bottom half. Bonawitz followed Phillippy’s lead-off double with an RBI-triple.
Phillippy, Bonawitz, Koser, Piper, Bucks and Sell all collected a pair of safeties.
“I’d say that’s awesome for the girls,” said Wicker of her club’s season to date. “I know they can do it. It’s confidence. It’s trying to get them pumped up. To say I wouldn’t have believed at the beginning of the season we wouldn’t be where we’re at, I would’ve. In the division, there’s no dominant team. Any team could come out on top.
“I just hope they (her players) can come together consistently, and battle through for seven innings,” Wicker continued. “I just want them to push themselves and believe in themselves. Hopefully we can make the postseason. It’s not about being .500 any more.