NEW OXFORD — Kennard-Dale softball coach Greg Coulton knew that history wasn’t on his team’s side going into Thursday’s District 3-AAA quarterfinal battle with Greencastle-Antrim.
The Blue Devils have owned Coulton’s team over the past few meetings, winning by the 10-run mercy-rule in the last two contests.
But on any given day, especially in these playoffs, it’s become apparent that any team can beat another. Thursday at New Oxford High School, the Rams nearly proved that theory again.
Trailing by a run in the top of the sixth, K-D scored the tying run on a throwing error, a miscue which also sent the potential go-ahead run to third base. Greencastle pitcher Elizabeth Ward, however, halted any further damage with an inning-ending strikeout.
Ward retired the side in the seventh before her sister, Penn State-bound Mary Ward, ripped a one-out single up the middle that scored pinch-runner Brooke Zeger from second to send Greencastle to a thrilling 2-1 victory.
The Blue Devils (17-6) advanced to Tuesday’s district semifinals against Donegal, an 11-1 winner over Susquehanna Township.
The Rams’ season ended with a 14-7 mark, that included a York-Adams Division III title.
“That’s softball,” Coulton said. “It’s the district playoffs (and they’re) a good team.”
K-D starter Julia D’Arrigo surrendered a leadoff single to Mackenzie Gayman to start the seventh. Zeger was then summoned as a pinch-runner and advanced to second on a steal when No. 9 hitter Haleigh Regal struck out.
That swipe of the base opened up first for Ward, a slick-hitting speedster who recently signed her letter of intent to play for the Nittany Lions next year. Coulton, however, never thought about pitching around one of the Blue Devils’ best hitters.
“No,” he said. “Not really.”
Seconds later, Ward smacked a liner past D’Arrigo and into center field for the game-winner.
While that decision may get second-guessed, Coulton focused on things his team didn’t do as a the main culprit in the loss.
“Not to take anything away from them, but that’s nothing (pitching-wise) that we haven’t seen all year,” he said. “We should have been feasting off her and we were just swinging at too many high pitches, pitches out of the strike zone, whereas Tuesday night (in a 14-4 drubbing of Shippensburg) we did not do that.”
The Rams didn’t help themselves by going just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. K-D had runners on second and third with one out in the third inning, but came up empty when Coulton sent Julia Peters from third on an infield grounder. Peters, who didn’t immediately break for home on contact, was out at the plate by several feet.
“That was a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t play there,” Coulton said. “But it was worth taking the chance, because I knew this was going to be one of those games. Get ‘em on, move ‘em around, and take a chance. You got to.”
G-A grabbed the early lead in the second inning. Ashlynn Schaffer singled and scored when Jennifer Patton blasted a double off the fence in left-center.
The Blue Devils, however, squandered a golden opportunity in the bottom of the sixth to regain the lead. A single and double to start the frame put runners on second and third with no outs. D’Arrigo, however, displayed the skills of a magician by getting out of it unscathed with a popout, a strikeout and a groundout. That sent the game into the seventh inning still knotted at 1-1.
“We told her that she can’t be Desi Joines,” Coulton said of the program’s last standout pitcher. “You just be Julia D’Arrigo and she’s had a heck of a year also. If she can keep her walks down, she can be very, very effective.”
D’Arrigo allowed eight hits over six-plus inning. She struck out six and didn’t walk a batter. Sara Driggers and Sarah Baldwin each had two hits to pace the Rams.
G-A starter Elizabeth Ward yielded seven hits and struck out five over seven innings to earn the victory.
PEQUEA VALLEY 2, DELONE CATHOLIC 1: At Memorial Field, Delone Catholic’s season came to an end with a District 3-AA quarterfinal loss.
Freshman Cassie Rickrode pitched well in defeat, hurling a complete-game six-hitter. She struck out five and walked two. Her sixth-inning RBI single also accounted for Delone’s only run.
Unfortunately, Pequea Valley’s Amanda Houck pitched a little better, allowing just four hits. She struck out five and walked three.
Pequea Valley scored both its runs in the third inning.
Delone, which came in seeded No. 2, finished the season at 18-2. Seventh-seeded Pequea Valley improved to 14-7.
– Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.