GRANTHAM >> Two of Greencastle-Antrim’s biggest strengths this softball season have been strong hitting and aggressive baserunning.
On Tuesday afternoon against Twin Valley, the Blue Devils stuck to their strengths.
The problem was they faced an unbelievable defense that turned three double plays, including one to end the District 3 Class AAA semifinal. The Raiders won 4-2.
“The double plays killed us, and we had a couple of baserunning mistakes that hurt us,” Greencastle coach Mark DeCarli said. “This pitcher (Devon Haddow) had a lot more control and a lot more pitches for strikes. We put the ball in play, though, but it wasn’t falling for us.”
The Blue Devils (15-8) aren’t done yet. They’ll head to the third-place game, which will be played against Conrad Weiser (20-4) on Thursday at a site and time to be decided. The victor will earn a spot in the PIAA Tournament. Twin Valley (21-5) will face Donegal (23-3) in the championship.
“The defense was spectacular,” Twin Valley coach Tony Marsalo said. “It was insane, actually. It’s clearly what won us the game.”
Greencastle scored early when Ally Brown singled then scored on an errant throw after Katie Gelsinger’s single. But that was the only misfortune the Devils capitalized on.
“We had that one miscue in that first inning, but they didn’t get rattled and they stuck with it,” Marsalo said. “In these big games, it’s always going to come down to defense. That’s the one thing we train for, and they executed just about everything today.”
In the second inning, Ali Sherman led off with a single for the Blue Devils, but was immediately erased by a double play. In the third, Alicen Hoover led off by reaching first on an error, but on the very next pitch, Shayla Walck popped up to Haddow, who twisted and threw it to third baseman Ashlynn Lennon. She tagged out pinch runner Morgan Clopper, who had never stopped running.
Finally Greencastle started to make some noise in the seventh inning, trailing 4-1. After one out, Brooke Zeger smashed a double to centerfield, and Erin Bontrager followed with an RBI single. But Twin Valley turn its final twin killing to end the threat and the game.
The Raiders also got a fine showing from Haddow on the mound. She gave up just six hits, including a pair of singles from Brown.
“She had really good speed, and she had a good spin on her pitches,” Zeger said. “She was a good pitcher, and she came out better than we did tonight. We tried our hardest, but we just need to step up to the plate next time to get a spot in states.”
Despite taking the loss, Brown had a decent game. She scattered five hits and threw four innings of hitless ball. She did allow two runs to come through via wild pitches in the fourth inning.
“I asked Ally if she felt good, and she said yes,” DeCarli said said. “There were a couple of balls in the dirt, and there’s nothing you can do about that. She pitched a great game, and we just didn’t score enough runs. That’s the bottom line. We didn’t get it done on offense.”
The only damaging hit Brown allowed was to Haddow, who helped her own cause in the sixth inning with a solo home run that flew just inside the leftfield foul pole.
“My first two at-bats, I was really anxious and I was trying to kill it,” Haddow said. “But that one, I just stayed calm and anything down in the zone, I went for. I didn’t even have to swing that hard.”
Greencastle will immediately get back to work, now knowing that it faces a do-or-die game Thursday.
“I told the girls, ‘Let’s get back to work tomorrow, and remember, anything can happen,'” DeCarli said. “If we win Thursday, we can still run the board in states. It’s possible; it’s been done before. You’re not going to win them all, but hopefully the girls will take this as a learning experience, and we move on from it.”