Lady Indians stranded at home
Berkeley Springs dream of advancing to the state softball tournament came to an abrupt end last week. The Lady Indians lost to sectional rival Frankfort, two games to one, in the best-of-three Region II, Section I Tournament. Berkeley Springs won the first game 5-4, before losing both the second and third games of the sectional tournament by respective scores of 5-2 and 5-4.
It was a combination of factors that kept the Indians from advancing in post-season play. But, two statistics stick out like a sore thumb. First, Berkeley Springs stranded 32 base runners in the three-game series, including 12 in the third and deciding game and secondly, they committed seven errors in the 5-2 loss and four more errors in their final game of the season.
"We just couldn't get the hits at the right time," said disappointed Berkeley Springs coach Greg Brown. "I think all three of our pitchers pitched well enough to win, but our defense let them down and our bats couldn't make up for it. I need to become a better defensive coach and find some new drills or techniques for next year. We really struggled defensively this year, committing 91 errors in 32 games."
Berkeley Springs started the sectional tournament with an exciting 5-4 extra-inning victory on Thursday, May 3, in Berkeley Springs. The win gave the Indians the upper-hand in the series and should have provided the momentum necessary to make quick work of the Falcons; especially when you consider the way Berkeley Springs snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the opener.
With the score tied 2-2, Frankfort scored two runs in the top of the eighth for a 4-2 lead. Alyssa Spielman led off the bottom of the inning for the Tribe with a pop-up to first base, before Tiffany Compton, the number eight hitter in the order drew a walk. With one on and one out, Brown elected to send pinch hitter Susannah Bennett to the plate. Bennett took some healthy cuts but was unable to make contact as she went down swinging. Katie Kesecker then delivered a run-scoring double, before Sarah Risinger singled in Kesecker with the tying run. After an intentional walk to Samantha Zanhow, Frankfort was able to get Amanda Waltman to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
Frankfort got a two-out single in the top of the ninth, but no further damage was done, as Kesecker recorded her eighth strikeout of game to retire the side. Berkeley Springs then put their first two batters on base to lead of the bottom half of the inning. Both Ashley Hovermale and Kayla Hill drew walks to put runners on first and second with no outs. Spileman then hit a shot to deep centerfield. Frankfort's centerfielder, Jenn Cessna, made a terrific catch at the fence of Spielman's drive. However, as Cessna caught the ball she collided with the fence and fell to one knee. Hovermale, who had tagged at second base, took off and saw Brown waving her home. Hovermale never let up as she rounded third and slid safely under the relay throw for the winning run.
Kesecker pitched all nine innings allowing four runs on nine hits. She struck out eight and walked two.
"She pitched lights out," Brown said of Kesecker. Katie was out there starting the sectional. That's what I think of her. I knew we would get a good game out of her."
Frankfort jumped out to a 2-0 lead when cleanup hitter Natasha Holtline nailed a Kesecker pitch over the left center field fence for a two-run home run in the top of the first. Frankfort still held a 2-0 lead before Compton hit a run-scoring single to left field in the bottom of the fourth.
The Indians managed to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, as Kayla Hill lead off with a single to right and made it all the way to third when the Falcon right fielder let the ball get under her glove and then roll all the way to the fence. Spielman then delivered a run-scoring double but was thrown out at third when she tried to stretch it to a triple.
Neither team scored in the seventh, setting up the exciting extra-inning finish.
It was an exciting climax to a come-from-behind victory for the Indians, giving Brown and the Berkeley Springs coaching staff confidence that they could quickly end the sectional tournament.
"After an emotional game one, I was really confident we would come out in game two and take control," said Brown. "But that didn't happen. Between games we warned the girls that Frankfort will never give up and they will come out fired up. They did and we didn't."
Once again Frankfort took the early lead when Cessna drilled a two-run home run over the right center field fence, off of starting pitcher Waltman, in the top of the third. The Indians quickly answered however when Hovermale hit a two-run double in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at 2-2.
But that was all the offense the Indians could muster while the Falcons scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings for the final margin of victory.
Waltman was the hard luck loser. Waltman went the distance allowing five runs on ten hits, striking out two and walking one. The Indians, who managed only four hits, didn't give Waltman a lot of help in the field, committing seven errors in the nightcap.
We knew exactly what to expect from Frankfort," Brown said. "We practiced for the slower pitching and we knew they would be aggressive running the bases. I just couldn't believe our girls couldn't make the adjustments at the plate. I told the girls on Wednesday night that Frankfort, I thought, was a better defensively and running the bases. I thought we had the better pitching and that our offense would have to outscore Frankfort and help our defense."
With the series tied at 1-1, the Indians had to travel to Ridgely the following day for the third and deciding game. The Tribe used their third pitcher in as many games, Samantha Zahnow. The junior pitched well enough, but Berkeley Springs made too many errors and stranded too many base runners as the Falcons ended Berkeley Springs season 5-4.
The Indians scored a run in the opening inning when Hovermale delivered a run-scoring single, but Frankfort scored twice in the bottom half of the first for a 2-1 lead. Berkeley Springs tied the game 2-2, with a single run in the third, before the Falcons reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the inning 3-2.
Frankfort added an insurance run in the fourth for a 4-2 lead. Hovermale's triple in the fifth scored Zahnow to trim the lead to 4-3. The Indians then scored a run in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 4-4 on an RBI single from Zahnow. But, with the bases loaded and two outs, Frankfort's defense denied the Indians once more as leftfielder Chelsey Kane made an improbable running catch in the left centerfield alley off the bat of Hovermale, to rob the senior of an extra base hit and the Indians of a sectional title.
"We're snakebit," Brown said. "It's been that way all year. The big hits, the hard shots, go right to people."
Frankfort then scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning and escaped the seventh with the tying run on third for the sectional title.
Zahnow went the distance allowing five runs, one earned, on six hits, striking out four and walking three. She also led the Indian offense with four hits in four plate appearances, with a pair of RBI and two runs scored. Kesecker had three hits with a run scored. Risinger also added a pair of hits to the Berkeley Springs offense that out hit Frankfort thirteen to six.
Berkeley Springs played a pair of double headers earlier in the week, sweeping Hancock at home on Monday, April 30, 10-0 and 22-0, respectively and losing a road double header to Mussleman on Tuesday, May 1, by respective scores of 11-6 and 4-1.
Amanda Waltman, seeing her first action on the mound in several weeks, pitched the opener against Hancock and recorded a no-hitter for her first win of the year. The junior hurler went six innings allowing no runs on no hits, striking out ten and walking none.
"This was a good time to get Amanda back in the rotation after her injury," said Brown. "She was impressive to say the least. You never know about accuracy and endurance after such a long layoff from the mound, but she was fine and her numbers speak for themselves."
Berkeley Springs got six hits from six different batters, but used eleven walks and three Panther errors to claim the lopsided victory.
In the second game, Berkeley Springs scored two runs in the first, six more in the second and fourteen in the third to end the game by the 15-run mercy rule, 22-0.
Kesecker was the pitcher of record, going the distance for her eighth win of the year. She allowed no runs on one hit, striking out six and walking one.
Berkeley Springs offense was led by Kayla Hill who had three singles a run scored and five RBI. Three other Indians had two hits apiece. Zahnow had a pair of doubles with six RBI and three runs scored, Hovermale had a pair of base hits with three runs scored and two RBI, while Spielman had two hits with two runs scored and two RBI.
The following day Berkeley Springs headed to Musselman for their second double header in as many days.
Musselman road a seven-run fourth inning to an 11-6 victory in game one and then beat the Tribe 4-1 in the nightcap. Zahnow was the pitcher of record in the first game allowing eleven runs on eight hits. She struck out four and walked five.
With the game tied at 1-1, Musselman erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth for a commanding 8-1 lead. Berkeley Springs answered with a pair of runs in the fifth, but the Lady Applemen scored three in the bottom of the inning to stretch their lead to 11-3. The Indians scored three times in the seventh to make the final Musselman 11, Berkeley Springs 6.
"The game was close until the bottom of the fourth," Brown said. "But, Musselman scored seven times on six hits and two costly errors and we were done."
Amanda Waltman had a single, a double and 3 RBI in the losing cause.
Waltman pitched a strong game in the nightcap, but was victimized by some untimely errors. She went the distance allowing four runs on only four hits, striking out nine and walking none.
"We out hit them five to four," said Brown. "However, we also out "errored" them six to two. Amanda pitched a very good game, but when you play a quality opponent like Musselman and have a combined ten errors in the double header and twelve runners left on base, it is pretty obvious why we didn't leave Inwood with any wins."
Zahnow, who scored the lone run for Berkeley Springs led the offense with a single and a double.
Berkeley Springs finished the year with a record of 16-16. And though the season was not as satisfying as players and coaches would have like there is much reason for optimism in the future according to Brown. However the veteran coach pulls no punches when he says that this group of girls will have to learn to play as a team in order to succeed.
"We had five freshmen on our fourteen player roster, with Alyssa Spielman and Lauren Hill getting a lot of playing time," Brown said. "The other three freshman got some playing time but also got to practice with the varsity and were able to look at other varsity programs and know what they need to do in order to be successful All three of our pitchers are returning, so we should really be solid on the mound and that, of course, is a vital component for success. We do have to develop better team chemistry than we had this year, however. I think some of the girls were more concerned about themselves than what was best for the team. If you read this and think I'm talking about you, I probably am. Hopefully next year we get things back to the way they used to be; 100% effort with the team coming first."