Her teammates shouted words of encouragement and congratulations from the dugout, but Caitlin Eader wouldn’t hear it.
The Littlestown junior stood on first shaking her head in dismay as she thought of the lofted single that fell over the glove of the Bermudian Springs second baseman for the go-ahead runs in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s YAIAA-3 softball game.
Not even the honor of earning the division-clinching hit in an eventual 7-2 victory could change Eader’s mind about her performance.
“It shouldn’t be a pop fly all the way in the air,” Eader said. “It should have been a line drive. I’m disappointed because I’ve seen (the pitcher) before so I should have been hitting better. I should probably have been out, but I got lucky, I guess.”
It doesn’t always have to be pretty to get the job done.
Fortunately Littlestown manager Jeff Laux, who is coaching his first full season since his Bolts last clinched a YA-3 title in 2016, is not nearly as difficult to please as his players.
“These girls are harder on themselves than I ever could be. They want to be great,” he said. “In softball, you fail two out of three times and you’re still great. The one thing we harp on is our resiliency. We’ve won a lot of close games that I didn’t think should be that close, but we came back and find a way to do it.”
The Bolts (13-4) had already clinched a share of the YAIAA-3 title but wrapped up the outright title with the come-from-behind win over the Eagles. Starting pitcher Amaya Bowman threw seven strong innings, striking out six without a walk to earn the win, Megan Gorsuch drove home two in her only at bat after three free passes and Bailey Smith and Carli Thayer singled twice apiece to seal the deal.
“The girls have worked so hard all year,” Laux said. “We talked all the way back to when open gyms started, that we should be competing for a division championship and even a district medal. We have the talent and athleticism; we just have to do it. The division was goal one.”
The last time the Eagles (13-5) and Bolts met, Littlestown walked away from Bermudian Springs with a 7-5 victory in the 11th inning. Both teams had won seven of their last eight entering play, coasting on strong pitching performances that carried through the start of Tuesday’s game.
Except for a mile-high fly off the bat of Emily Shearer, Bowman didn’t allow a ball to leave the infield through a perfect first three innings. Eagles starter Tori Murren was nearly as effective, limiting the Bolts to a Gorsuch walk and singles by Carli Thayer and Jada Mummert through three.
Bowman’s perfection came apart in the fourth when Hannah Chenault legged out a swinging bunt. She rounded third before coming to a halt on a deep fly to left for a Shearer double, then scored on an Amy Sheeley sacrifice fly. Olivia Prosser belted a double to center to extend the lead to 2-0 before Bowman escaped with a strikeout.
The Eagles finished with four doubles. The Bolts didn’t produce a single extra-base hit.
“During pregame we had a wind that was blowing pretty strong straight out to center,” said Bermudian coach Eddie Kennell. “If that wind had stayed there tonight, we’d have had three or four home runs and we might be headed to extra innings again.”
The Bolts bounced right back in the bottom of the inning. Molly Watkins worked a seven-pitch walk and went to second on a single down the right-field line by Smith. Megan Gorsuch loaded the bases and sacrifice flies by Eader and Thayer evened the score at 2-2.
In the top of the fifth, Bowman stranded Berm’s Maya Kemper at second after a two-out double. Murren looked like she’d escape the inning just as easily when she retired the first two batters. But Watkins reached on an error at short, Smith singled and Gorsuch walked on seven pitches, bringing Eader to the plate once again with RBI potential.
Though the two-run blooper over the infield didn’t fit Eader’s description of beauty, her teammates had no complaints.
“With this team, we’re never satisfied,” said Bowman. “We always want to improve and be better. Even if you hit a home run, our mentality is you want to hit the next ball further.”
Down 4-2, Bermudian set itself up to strike again in the top of the sixth when Chenault clubbed a double that bounced once before dying in the left-field netting near the foul pole. Shearer’s fading fly caught by Thayer in the left-center gap took Chenault to third on the first out, but Bowman shut it down from there.
On a 2-2 pitch against the cleanup hitter, Sheeley, Bowman muscled a pitch by on a swing, low and away, for a much-needed strikeout.
“That was a dropball,” Bowman said. “I just started throwing that pitch this season. I was kind of nervous to throw it today, but it was actually my most effective pitch.”
Bowman got a popup to end the inning and the Bolts rallied for three more runs in the sixth. The key hit was Gorsuch’s blooped two-run single to right that popped off first baseman’s glove as she dove toward the foul pole.
In the seventh, Bowman sandwiched two strikeouts around a searing liner caught by second baseman Carter Clabaugh, who was in motion on contact to make the play.
“The biggest thing with our team opposed to previous years is that we want to do this as a team,” Bowman said of the victory.
The Bolts will play four games in four days this week. They travel to winless William Penn today and a remain on the road to face a competitive South Western team on Thursday, then close out the season with two-win Dover at home. Sitting at No. 3 in the power rankings, they should be a lock for the D3-3A tournament.
Bermudian Springs entered play as the No. 7 seed in the D3-4A slate, with the top 10 teams advancing. They need to surpass Kennard-Dale at No. 6 for a chance at a bye to the quarterfinals. They’ll have a chance with a head-to-head matchup at home today that will close out their regular season.
“District placement is mostly out of our control. All we can control is whether we win or lose,” Kennell said. “It just bounced a little more their way tonight. It was a good game tonight otherwise.”