WEST GOSHEN—No one was overly concerned when a shaky first inning allowed Donegal (D3-3) to put three runs on the board. This is a Henderson (18-7) team that has made come from behind victories standard operating procedure. But while the Warriors did chip away at the Indians’ lead, this was one comeback bid that fell short, and Donegal (22-3) advanced to the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinal round with a 3-2 victory on a rainy Monday afternoon at West Chester East High School.
“You never know if you’re going to get another opportunity to score,” said Donegal Coach Mike Emenheiser. “And obviously, we didn’t get another chance because Henderson played great defense the rest of the way. So it was huge to get as many across as we could. We’re fortunate to move on, and we look forward to playing Thursday.”
Morgan Biesecker sparked the Donegal rally, working a one-out base on balls. After Makyla Yoder stroked a single to left, Kaitlyn Witmer drew a walk to load up the bases.
Henderson starter Madelyn Skinner retired the next hitter on an infield fly, then Rachel Robinson came through with the biggest hit of the day, knocking in two runs on a double to the gap in left center. Witmer ran in with the third run of the inning on a wild pitch.
“That was tough,” said Henderson coach Chris Hessler. “I have to think there were some nerves about playing in states for the first time. But we made some adjustments with our defense and pitching, and held them to just a couple other base runners the rest of the game.”
In the home half of the third, Skinner broke up Donegal starter Yoder’s string of eight straight hitters retired in a big way. Hitting in the nine-hole, Skinner connected for a bomb over the left center field fence to make it 3-1 after three.
“Softball is a game of failure,” said Henderson’s Kasey Collins. “It would be easy to get down on yourselves when you fall behind. But that is one of the special things about this team. We never get down on ourselves because we all trust each other to come through with a big play or a big hit when we need it.”
The Warriors added another run the following inning. With one out, Grace Abbonizio ripped a shot to center, and waltzed into third with a stand-up triple. Cam Trotter, who came into the game with a team high nine post season RBIs, made it ten with a single down the line in left.
Unfortunately, that was the last gasp for Henderson. Abbonizio, with a two-out single in the sixth, was the only other Henderson base runner in the game.
Though the Warriors season comes to a close earlier than anybody wanted, the season cannot be considered anything less than a success. This team made Henderson history, as the first Warrior softball team to qualify for states, and did so by claiming the program’s first ever District 1, 5A championship.
“This season has meant so much to all of us,” said Collins. “We were considered underdogs all year long and just kept on winning. It’s been so awesome to see this program grow the way we have, and our confidence grow along with it. We now believe we can hang with anyone, and we’ll look forward to getting back next year and going even further.”
Henderson will simply chalk this one up to experience, and get to work on next season.
“My joy as a coach comes from watching these girls succeed,” said Hessler. “It’s overwhelming to see them succeed to this level and put Henderson softball where it should be. This has been a great experience for all of us, and for the younger players coming back, they know what can be achieved when you work hard, and we’ve got a lot to build on.”
Donegal 3 Henderson 2
Donegal ab r h bi Henderson ab r h bi
Kolenda—SS 4 0 0 0 Collins—SS 3 0 0 0
Biesecker—C 3 1 1 0 Bullock—CF 3 0 0 0
Yoder–P 4 1 1 0 Abbonizio—LF 3 1 2 0
Witmer—1B 3 1 0 0 Trotter—3B 3 0 1 1
Hornick—3B 3 0 1 0 Espenshade—C 3 0 0 0
Robinson—2B 2 0 2 2 Ciarocchi—RF 3 0 0 0
Berg—RF 2 0 0 0 Hunt—DP 3 0 0 0
Oberlander—DP 3 0 1 0 Golden—2B 2 0 0 0
Graham–CF 2 0 0 0 Skinner—P 2 1 1 1
Miller—FX/LF 0 0 0 0 Gray—FX/1B 0 0 0 0
Totals 26 3 6 2 Totals 25 2 4 2
Donegal 3 0 0 0 0 0 0—3
Henderson 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 –2
Extra Base Hits: 2B—Robinson 3B—Abbonizio HR–Skinner
IP H R BB SO
Yoder (W) 7 4 2 0 5
Skinner (L) 7 6 3 3 0