The Elizabethtown Area High School softball team had to face off against two of the top teams in Class 5A for District 3 during both the regular season finale and the first round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs. While the Lady Bears came up short in the first, they were able to defy expectations and pull off a major upset in the second.
The team hosted Spring Grove on Thursday, May 9, in the concluding game of the regular season. The Rockets entered the game ranked No. 2 in the District 3 Class 5A power ratings, but Elizabethtown was up to the challenge, keeping pace with the opposition until the very end.
Spring Grove took advantage of an error in left field off a two-out hit from junior Hannah Gartrell in the top of the first to get on the board first, with Gartrell scoring off an RBI single from senior Bailey Rapson shortly afterward. Gartrell also led off the third with a double, reaching third on a sacrifice grounder and coming home on a single from senior Hailey Kessinger.
However, those two runs would constitute all of the offense for the Rockets on the day, their second-lowest output of the year, as sophomore Kristin Geesey came up big for the Lady Bears on the mound. She had previously squeezed out of a bases-loaded situation in the second and ultimately retired the final eight Spring Grove batters, impressive considering that the Rockets had averaged just over 8 runs per game in their previous 18 contests.
In order to stay alive, Elizabethtown had to turn things up on offense. Geesey began the bottom of the fourth with a single, scampering all the way to third due to a pair of Spring Grove throwing errors. Junior Haylee Calaman brought her in on a deep sacrifice fly to center from there, cutting the score to 2-1.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bears, they were unable to tie things up from there. They came close in the bottom of the sixth after junior Alyssa Hamilton singled and reached third off two sacrifice hits, but a fly out to center for the final out of the inning prevented a run. Spring Grove sat down all three Elizabethtown batters in the bottom of the seventh as well to escape with the victory.
Gartrell carried the Rockets offensively, scoring both of their runs and reaching base in each of her three at-bats. Junior pitcher Sara Jones threw a complete game, striking out 8 batters and holding Elizabethtown to just 4 hits and no earned runs.
Hamilton had 2 of those hits for the Lady Bears to lead all players. Geesey scored the team’s lone run in addition to yielding just 3 hits and an earned run on the mound. She finished with 5 strikeouts as well. The loss dropped Elizabethtown’s regular season record to 12-8.
The Lady Bears had bigger fish to fry on Saturday, May 12, in the first round of the L-L playoffs. They went up against Donegal, the Section Three champs, at Penn Manor, a daunting task considering that the Indians came into the game undefeated at 19-0, held the No. 3 spot in the Class 5A power ratings and were the reigning co-league champions. Yet Elizabethtown stifled Donegal from the get-go.
Hamilton kicked off the game with a sharp double down the third baseline, advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore Megan Gray and coming home on an infield single from Geesey. The process nearly repeated itself in the top of the third; Hamilton started the frame with an infield single, with Geesey tripling her in afterward and scoring off an RBI single from Calaman, giving the Lady Bears a 3-0 advantage.
Meanwhile, Geesey was electric at pitcher, holding the Indians to just 5 hits through the first five innings, two of them via bunts from freshman Emma Miller. The closest Donegal got to scoring was in the bottom of the third when Miller and senior Morgan Biesecker reached third and second, respectively, before Geesey forced a pop-out back to the mound to end the inning.
Elizabethtown tacked on a key insurance run in the bottom of the fifth after freshman Jessie Zimmerman hit a sacrifice grounder with the bases loaded to plate Geesey, who led off with a double. Donegal was able to get a runner into scoring position in both the sixth and seventh but failed in bringing them home. Thus, the Lady Bears pulled off a huge 4-0 upset to advance to the league semifinals.
Geesey played like an MVP, finishing with a single, double and triple for a game-high 3 hits, just a home run away from the cycle. She also had 2 RBIs and scored 2 of the team’s 4 runs, the others coming courtesy of Hamilton, who had 2 hits. Geesey allowed 6 hits pitching-wise, striking out 3 Donegal batters in the shutout. She was aided by a solid Elizabethtown defense, who committed just one error in the field, which came in the bottom of the seventh.
Biesecker and Miller each had 2 hits to lead Donegal. Junior Sierra Neiss, one of the top pitchers in the L-L League, gave up 9 hits and 4 earned runs to the Lady Bears on the day, also finishing with 8 strikeouts.
Elizabethtown had to wait for its next playoff game, however. Inclement weather on Monday, May 13, postponed the semifinal game against Section One champ Warwick at Millersville University to Tuesday, May 14. The field was not ready in time for that day either, causing a second postponement to Wednesday, May 15. The Lady Bears are also safely in the playoff window for District 3. They’re currently ranked 14th in Class 5A as of Tuesday, May 14, and would be in line for a rematch against Donegal on Tuesday, May 21.