In spite of some crazy games, the season is over for the Elizabethtown Area High School softball team. However, the Lady Bears quite literally went down swinging during the postseason against some of the best teams in District 3 and looked poised to continue that competitive play in the years to come.
The team took on Warwick in the Lancaster-Lebanon League semifinals on Wednesday, May 15, at Millersville University. Both sides got a couple of extra days to get ready after inclement weather postponed the game twice from Monday, May 13, and Tuesday, May 14. As a result, each team was near perfect when it came to pitching and fielding. But it was the Lady Bears who wound up walking out with the victory, and it only took one run.
That came in the top of the second when senior Sadie Seaman walloped a pitch over the wall in dead center field for a home run, giving Elizabethtown a 1-0 lead that it would not relinquish. It was all the more damaging to the Warriors given that junior first baseman Peyton Heisey had dropped a Seaman pop foul on the previous pitch that would have ended the frame.
From there, both teams had numerous near misses when it came to scoring. Junior Danielle Jones led off the bottom of the second with a single for Warwick but was tagged out trying to steal second on a beautiful throw from home by junior catcher Haylee Calaman to her twin sister, junior shortstop Hayden Calaman. If Jones had made it through cleanly, she would’ve scored on a subsequent double from Heisey.
Elizabethtown twice had runners in scoring position during the next two innings. Junior Alyssa Hamilton nailed a two-out single and stole second in the top of the third but was stranded after a strikeout. Sophomore Kristin Geesey led off the fourth with a double as well, but sophomore Warwick pitcher Kate Minney forced three straight outs to escape.
Geesey later hit another double in the sixth, this time with two outs, and a sharp Haylee Calaman slam to right initially appeared to be enough to bring her home. However, freshman right fielder Allison Forsythe was in perfect position to gather the ball and throw Haylee out at first, the second such force she made on the night, helping Warwick keep things close.
However, the Warriors were simply unable to produce much offense due to some terrific pitching from Geesey, and even better defense from the rest of the Lady Bears. Seaman had the play of the game during the bottom of the fifth, running down a shallow fly ball to right from junior Evie Clugston and making a diving catch for the final out.
In the sixth, Elizabethtown forced three quick outs thanks to Hayden Calaman chasing down a foul ball all the way from short. Junior Erin Heffleger followed that up by securing a tough grounder to second and getting an out at first, and Hamilton was able to make a running catch in right-center to end the inning from there.
Senior Catie Brubaker led off the bottom of the seventh with a single for Warwick but was thrown at second during the next at-bat on a terrific throw from Geesey. Haylee Calaman then caught a pop foul for the second out, and Geesey ended things by striking out Heisey swinging, allowing Elizabethtown to advance to the league championship and avenging a close loss from earlier in the season to Warwick, the top-seeded team in Class 6A for District 3.
In addition to getting 2 of the Lady Bears’ 4 hits (both doubles), Geesey allowed just 4 hits on the mound and struck out 3 Warwick batters. The other hits came from Hamilton and Seaman, with the latter’s constituting the lone RBI and run on the night off a homer.
Minney was mostly brilliant for the Warriors at pitcher, finishing with 7 strikeouts. Jones notched 2 of their 4 hits.
For the third time this year, Elizabethtown faced off against Lampeter-Strasburg, this time in the L-L title game, which again took place at Millersville University on Thursday, May 16. The Pioneers entered the contest undefeated on the season, in addition to getting the Section Two championship and the No. 1 seed in Class 5A for District 3.
Early on though, the Lady Bears were undeterred, loading the bases thanks to three singles in their first four at-bats to start the game. However, senior L-S pitcher Brynne Baker was able to escape by forcing a pop foul and a groundout to short, blanking Elizabethtown in the scoring department.
The Pioneers took advantage when they got to the plate. Junior Julz Garber singled and stole second to begin the bottom frame, quickly coming home on a triple from junior Summer Peters. Sophomore Chloe Blantz plated the latter on an RBI single from there, reaching third on a fielding error and scoring on an attempted sacrifice bunt when the throw home went wide to put L-S up 3-0.
Freshman Jessie Zimmerman nailed a single to lead off the second for Elizabethtown. She advanced to third off two sacrifice hits, scoring off a wild pitch to cut the score to 3-1. However, the Pioneers broke the game open in the bottom of the third, all with two outs.
Junior Gabby Drumm came through with a triple to the fence, bringing in Blantz and sophomore Camryn Byler. She then scored on a bloop single from sophomore Daisy Frank. Two more bloop hits followed, the second from junior Jocelyn Branco being enough to plate Frank. Garber singled in sophomore Emily Platt afterward, and Peters doubled home Frank, though she was thrown out trying for third, preventing Garber from scoring. All in all, however, L-S scored six runs to give itself a 9-1 lead.
Geesey was able to shut the Pioneers down on offense from there, but Elizabethtown was unable to produce any more runs down the stretch. Hayden Calaman and Seaman began the fourth with a single and double, respectively, but Blantz snared a Zimmerman liner and Baker forced two strikeouts to strand them both.
Zimmerman doubled with two outs in the top of the sixth as well, but Baker once again came through with a strikeout to end the frame. She put the Lady Bears down in order during the seventh as well to close out the win for L-S.
Garber, Peters and Blantz each notched 2 hits to lead all players for the Pioneers. The latter had a game-high 2 runs as well. Peters and Drumm both finished with 2 RBIs. Baker gave up 7 hits and no earned runs on the mound, striking out 7 batters.
Zimmerman led Elizabethtown with 2 hits on the day, scoring the lone run for the team as well. Geesey allowed 11 hits and 8 earned runs at pitcher.
Lastly, the Lady Bears went on the road for a first-round district playoff game at Donegal on Tuesday, May 21. The Indians entered the day as the No. 3 seed in Class 5A with just one loss on the season … which came just 10 days earlier against Elizabethtown in the first round of the L-L playoffs. Thus, it was anyone’s ball game.
Donegal came ready to play, holding the Lady Bears to just a two-out Geesey single in the top of the first. The Indians then got on the board in the bottom half after senior Morgan Biesecker got hit by a pitch, reached second on a sacrifice bunt and scored off a double from junior Stephanie Reider. Elizabethtown managed to avoid any more runs after Hamilton ran down a shallow fly ball to center and threw Reider out at second for a force.
The Indians took advantage of some miscues in the bottom of the third to take a 4-0 lead. Freshman Emma Miller reached second on an error in left field, later coming in on a single from sophomore Aisha Gibbs. With runners on the corners, Donegal pulled off a double steal, with Biesecker crossing home plate and Gibbs taking second, subsequently getting plated on an RBI from sophomore Madeline Gohn, though the latter was tagged out trying for second to end the inning.
Meanwhile, the Lady Bears were unable to get into the scoring column thanks to some great pitching from junior Sierra Neiss and even better defense from the Indians. Heffleger was robbed of a potential extra base hit in the bottom of the second thanks to a leaping catch in right-center from Gohn, who later prevented a run in the fourth on a two-out hit to the fence from Seaman with a great throw back to the infield, holding Geesey at third. Neiss forced a groundout from there to end the frame.
Elizabethtown finally scored in the bottom of the sixth after sophomore Megan Gray advanced to third on a dropped third strike, a wild pitch and a Haylee Calaman single. Seaman plated her on a deep shot to right field, though Donegal stranded the remaining two runners afterward.
Geesey avoided trouble in the bottom of the fifth and sixth with runners in scoring position to give the Lady Bears one last shot to try and tie the game. With two outs in the top of the seventh, Hamilton kept things alive with a full-count walk, but Neiss threw a strikeout during the next at-bat to give Donegal the 4-1 victory, advancing the Indians to the next round, where they’ll face No. 11 Northern.
Biesecker finished with half of Donegal’s runs, while Reider, Gibbs and Gohn each had an RBI. Neiss was brilliant on the mound, striking out 9 batters and giving up just 4 hits and no earned runs. Seaman notched 2 of Elizabethtown’s 4 hits, as well as the lone RBI. Geesey yielded 7 hits and 2 earned runs at pitcher.
“I think we were ready to play, but that three-run inning killed us,” Elizabethtown head coach Gary Wylde said. “If you look at us all year long, it’s a couple of defensive breakdowns and leaving runners in scoring position. Their pitcher threw a whale of a game, but I think in a game like that, the team that makes the least amount of mistakes is gonna walk out the winner, and that held true.”
The loss marked the end of a wild season for the Lady Bears, who finished 14-10 overall. While they lost in the first round of districts for the fourth straight year, they also reached the league playoffs for the first time since 2016. Their last championship appearance was in 2010.
“The nice thing is we learned that we can play with anyone,” Wylde said. “The bad thing is our season’s done. But there was a big difference from when we walked off the field last year compared to this year. These girls are ready. I think we’re gonna make a run next season.”
That could easily happen. Elizabethtown is losing just two seniors to graduation: Seaman and reserve Lauren Hottenstein. The two will be missed; Seaman, who started at first base for the majority of 2018, gamely stepped up to take over at catcher after Haylee Calaman suffered a broken arm early on this year and played admirably, all while dealing with a back injury herself. She led the team with 3 home runs and was second with 24 RBIs. Meanwhile, Hottenstein only saw spot time, but Wylde cited her as “a true model of hard work,” also noting her gradual improvement as a player.
But the core of the team should be back in 2020. Geesey carried the Lady Bears at times both on the mound and at the plate. She pitched all but 19 2/3 innings, finishing with 73 strikeouts and an ERA of just under 3.25, and had a team-high 42 hits, 34 RBIs and a batting average of 0.525.
Elizabethtown was balanced across the board among the rest of the group. Hamilton led the team with 30 runs and 12 steals, also finishing second in hits (33) and batting average (0.46479) behind Geesey. Hayden Calaman was third in hits (26), RBIs (21) and runs (20). Wylde pointed to Gray (29 runs, 26 hits and 14 RBIs) and Heffleger (20 hits, 14 runs) as the two players who made the biggest leap from last year.
Throw in a solid freshman season from Zimmerman (18 hits, 10 RBIs) and a healthy Haylee Calaman, and you got a terrific nucleus for next season. It’ll be a challenge for sure; Class 5A of District 3 is one of the toughest in the state. But the talent is there. The Lady Bears just have to put it all together.
“Every game, we got to be ready to play,” Wylde said. “There’s a lot of games on our schedule where we made more mistakes than the other team, and we already know what happens when that happens. We clean that up, (and) we’re gonna be OK.”