Donegal advances to district finals with win over Conrad Weiser

DENVER, PA – Simply having fun is the foremost aspect of sport. Of course, winning makes everything fun, especially when finding new and exciting ways to do so.

For the Donegal Lady Indians’ softball team, their 4-2 victory over Conrad Weiser in the District 3 AAA semifinals on Tuesday evening at Manetas Park was both indicative of having fun and emblematic of a team doing whatever it takes to win.

“We came out having fun like we always do, and kind of with that same attitude,” said winning pitcher Makyla Yoder after the game. “I think when we’re loose we play better. We were loose tonight and we came out and won a ballgame.”

Tuesday’s victory sends the top-seeded Lady Indians (24-3) to their second consecutive District 3 title game – after finishing as runner-up a year ago in a loss to Shippensburg – this time taking on No. 2 Twin Valley (21-5) this Thursday at site and time TBA.

“This is the toughest thing to do, to go back,” said Donegal head coach Wayne Emenheiser. “We were there the year before, it’s tough to go there again. Hats off to them because they got there, they did it. We get to see Twin Valley again. It should be a good game.”

Twin Valley, who lost to Donegal 7-4 on March 31, defeated Greencastle-Antrim in the other semifinal, 4-2, and are the Berks County champions, having beaten Conrad Weiser in the Berks-title bout by an eerily familiar 4-2 margin.

“We don’t want to be runner-up again,” Yoder said regarding Thursday’s contest. “(We’ll) enjoy this, but put it to the past and move to the next one.”

Which is a similar approach the sophomore hurler made versus Lady Scout batters in innings two through seven, following a rough first inning in which Conrad Weiser (20-4) scored their only runs of the game.

A leadoff single by Aarika Ferko started things off for the Berks County runners-up, Ferko scoring on two of three consecutive one-out singles by Emma W. Price, Amanda Schaeffer, and Brianna Pichler, the latter bringing in courtesy runner Jessica Turco for the 2-0 lead.

“I think I came out flat, but my teammates backed me up, and then when we got that momentum shift I was pumped,” Yoder said.

That shift in momentum came off the bat of Yoder’s partner-in-fun Rachel Robinson when the sophomore shortstop stroked a two-out homerun off Conrad Weiser’s Val Miller to the left-center alley of Manetas’ Hutchinson Field.

“She’s something else,” said Indians’ head coach Wayne Emenheiser. “That was nice, get (the deficit) down to one, all we had to do was try to manufacture one to try to get back in it.”

Miller, incidentally, was coming off consecutive shutouts in the District tournament prior to Tuesday, the senior pitcher striking-out four batters over the first two innings on high swinging strikes before the Lady Indians adjusted to the zone.

Then in the fifth, the Lady Indians took the lead with some swift base-running. Nine-hole batter Emily Graham took first on a one-out single, skirting to third on Savanna Kolenda’s seeing eye-single to right.

Senior captain Rachel Mumma followed with a hard line-drive that was snared by Miller in the circle, but Miller, in her haste for the possible double play, overthrew the bag on an attempted pick-off of Graham at third.

Graham easily scampered home with the tying run, a makeshift sacrifice fly for the Indians.

“She’s so fast, and she’s smart on the bases,” Yoder said of Graham, referencing her scoring the winning run in the Indians’ extra-inning victory over Bishop McDevitt in the quarterfinals, a game in which the Indians also utilized a squeeze bunt to tie the game.

“We know what each others’ jobs are, and hey, Em does it,” Robinson said, calling Graham “the fastest probably on our team.”

Miller pitched around Robinson to bring Yoder to the plate, but the fun continued as Yoder blooped a ball just inside the line over first base for a two-run single, Kolenda and Robinson both finding the plate on the softest of hits.

“Just went in there and got to the back of the plate, said a little prayer,” Yoder said. “I was like I just need to get it in the gap. It was a little blooper, but it got the job done.”

In the circle, meanwhile, Yoder struck-out ten and allowed just three Lady Scout baserunners after the first inning, sidestepping a leadoff triple from Pichler in the fourth.

“I think once she gets in a rhythm she seems to pitch different, and as soon as we took the lead she was mowing them down,” said Emenheiser.

And now the Lady Indians as a whole have struck a new groove as they gear up for the District final, a game they’d like to have some fun playing.

“I think what Makyla said, to reiterate it, we come out fun and energetic,” Robinson said. “We knew coming in that that’s a goal, we have to have fun. If we don’t, it’s not that we’re done, but it helps.”

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