Solanco kept the winning streak going with key hits and clutch pitching last week after clinching at least a tie for the Section II title.
On Monday, May 8, the Mules traveled to Conestoga Valley to face the upset-minded Buckskins.
Solanco took an early 1-0 lead when Abby Heidelbaugh led off with a first inning double. The Mule centerfielder advanced to second by tagging on a Randi Rambo fly ball to right and scored on a Liz Mowrer RBI single.
In the third Kate Sheaffer reached base on an error and Heidelbaugh followed with her second double advancing Sheaffer to third. Rambo drove home Sheaffer with a single for Solanco’s second run.
With CV up by one, 3-2, Ally McDowell led off the fourth inning with a ringing double. Lindsey Lane stepped to the plate and singled to plate McDowell with the tying run.
The Mules took the lead in the fifth when Rambo doubled off the fence. The Mule shortstop advanced to third on a Mowrer ground out. Rambo scored on a Kayla May sac fly to give the Mules a lead they never relinquished.
Solanco added insurance runs in the sixth. Lane led off with a single. Albrea Doss, the courtesy runner, scored when Heidelbaugh connected with a two-out double, her third on the afternoon. Kara McClune then did her part by knocking in Heidelbaugh with an RBI single. Mules win the game 6-4, and claim another Section II title.
Hanna Phillips worked inside the circle. The sophomore scattered eight hits, walked three and struck out seven. “We were continually searching for the strike zone the first four innings,” said head coach Brett Miller. “Hanna and Lindsey, our pitcher/catcher tandem, did a great job under challenging circumstances.”
"We were playing for the Section championship,” wrote Miller. “We found ourselves in a battle for a few innings.” Miller said the key inning was the fifth. “Our fifth inning was quietly productive with Randi’s leadoff double, Liz’s ground out and Kayla’s sacrifice fly,” he said. “We preach to the girls they must hit with a purpose and productive at-bats don’t always mean getting a hit. This fifth inning was nice to see in a big game.”
Ephrata proved to be little challenge for the stampeding Mules as Solanco held an 11-0 lead after three innings on Wednesday, May 10. They added a run in the fourth and fifth. That ended the game by the 10-run mercy rule, the final 13-0 Mules.
Solanco banged out 15 hits led by Rambo’s three triples (5 RBI’s) and right fielder, Ally McDowell’s home run.
Phillips faced the minimum batters, 15, striking out eight and allowing no hits. “Hanna pitched with focus and purpose,” said Miller. “She allowed no hits, faced the minimum, 15 batters, and her defense made some good defensive plays making for a very much needed low pitch count.”
Miller added that Solanco got what they needed, a shortened game and low pitch count for Phillips. “Randi blasted three triples,” said Miller. “I don’t know how often that happens, but that’s a good night of hitting.”
He also had praise for the team’s right fielder. “Ally (McDowell) simply hit a no doubt about it bomb of a home run over the left fielder’s head,” said the coach. “She has been showing more and more power as the season progressed.”
The Mules faced Pequea Valley, the Section IV champs, on Wednesday, May 10. Solanco managed only one hit, but it was huge. Entering the sixth inning Solanco had no hits and had K’d nine times. Heidelbaugh reached base on an error with two outs. Sophomore left fielder, Kara McClune stepped to the plate. During the at-bat Heidelbaugh stole second. McClune then sent a line drive rope through the left/center field gap for a two-run home run. It was the only hit the Mules recorded and both runs were unearned.
“When facing one of the best pitchers in the league you have to not get discouraged, stay focused and generate an opportunity to win,” said Miller. “The game had a playoff feel to it and a simple error in the sixth put Abby on and gave us an opportunity.”
The coach was pleased with his younger players. “Different players have been stepping up at different times throughout the season,” said Miller. “Tonight it was our sophomores.”
In addition to McClune, the sophomore left fielder, Miller was referring to Phillips. The sophomore pitcher ended striking out 12 without issuing a walk. “With excellent velocity and command of her pitches, she pitched a big game for us.”
Solanco now enters both L-L League championship play and a chance for the District III title. The Mules are ranked third behind Lampeter-Strasburg and Donegal in Class 5A, District III rankings.