L-L LEAGUE SOFTBALL: Barons still have hunger - LancasterOnline: Sports

L-L LEAGUE SOFTBALL: Barons still have hunger

With much of the cast returning, Manheim Central is highly motivated this spring

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Posted: Friday, April 6, 2012 7:58 pm | Updated: 3:25 pm, Tue Sep 24, 2013.

The public address system at Manheim's Elden Rettew Field provided a background for the pre-game warmup of an L-L League girls soccer match.

As well as, on an adjacent field, the off day training regimen of Manheim Central's girls softball team.

As Kelly Clarkson's ode to empowerment filled the air, Baron senior catcher Katie VanBlargan sang along: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger … ."

It's obvious, as they go through their workout, that last June's loss in the PIAA Class AAA state championship killed nary a Baron.

Did it make them stronger?

"I am still not over it, in all honesty," said VanBlargan. "I know we could've won. It stinks that we could not get there."

It certainly left them hungrier.

"It makes me hungry for more," shared senior right fielder Ali Morton.

"We definitively want to get back there," declared VanBlargan. "We're going to (do) our best to get back and win it."

First things first.

There's the 16-game L-L Section Three schedule, the league playoffs, the District Three playoffs. Plenty of opportunity to get shuttled off to a dead end siding.

Or hurtle, pell-mell, down the playoff broadway like last year.

"It was a great run," acknowledged Baron coach Steve Ginder, "and it was last year."

And what a year.

On the way to the state title game Manheim Central won nine of 10, five in its last at-bat, two in extra innings. Nothing phased them.

"It seemed like everything flowed together," senior Aerika High recalled.

"They had a lot of confidence," said Ginder.

Perhaps, when it came down to the end, too much.

"We won so many games," said VanBlargan, "we were like, 'We got this in the bag.' it kind of took the best of us at the end."

"I believe that was probably the lesson they learned," said Ginder. "They just have to be able to put it all together again."

They will be attempting to do it without two key cogs to their success: pitching ace Alexa Campbell and defensive stalwart, shortstop Samantha Ginder.

Ginder is now starting for Franklin & Marshall. The No. 1 pitcher for Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Campbell suffered a season-ending injury last week when she broke her foot.

"An amazing pitcher and an amazing shortstop, it's hard to lose them," said VanBlargan.

"Big spikes to fill," said Morton. "but it wasn't just them that got us to states. It was the whole team."

"They were great leaders," VanBlargan allowed, "but … we have pretty much the same infield and outfield (back), so we're just as strong."

VanBlargan, High and Morton are three of eight starters returning for the Barons, who the L-L won Section Three title, lost to Donegal in the league championship game, then defeated Donegal for the District Three AAA crown.

They join senior Katelyn Grazan and juniors Rachel Clippinger, Sara McKee, Miranda Becker and Abby Hahn as holdovers from that magical team.

Emphasis on team.

"We all worked together, we picked everybody up," said High.

While the faces are the same, where you find them might be somewhat different.

Perhaps the most noticeable change is High sliding over from third base to replace Sam Ginder at shortstop.

"She's played very solid so far," said Steve Ginder. "She's been up to the task."

"I knew I had the arm for shortstop," High said. "But, I had to keep working harder."

With no incumbent in the circle, McKee will share pitching duties with senior Erika Campbell, younger sister of Alexa.

Becker's travel bag is stamped with a number of destination stickers. She started her scholastic career catching and moved to left field last year.

This year she plays third, unless McKee pitches. Then she plays second.

When Becker's at second, Hahn plays third. Clippinger, Grazan, Morton and VanBlargan stayed put at first, center, right and behind the plate.

Still, with all the familiarity, it has taken the Barons some time to hit the ground running.

They lost to Penn Manor, Conestoga Valley and Warwick in the non-league portion of the schedule, committing 14 errors in the process.

They did beat Elizabethtown in a non-leaguer and opened the league season with a pair of victories, leveling Elco and outlasting Donegal in an entertaining, if inelegant, error-plagued 6-5 victory.

"In the beginning of the season, it's kind of rough," cautioned VanBlargan. "You're trying to get a feel. We'll be good again, we just have to warm up to each other."

"They just have to put it together all over again," said Ginder.

One thing in their favor, this may be the most balanced L-L League in years.

The traditional powers in Sections One and Two - Warwick, Solanco, E-town - have come back to the pack, somewhat, challenged by Conestoga Valley, among others.

And section mates Donegal and L-S, as well as Annville and Pequea from Section Four, are worthy of respect, but are not frighteningly good.

"I think there's a lot of parity," said Ginder. "We've found that out so far."

Now, if they can find their way back to State College.

dbyrne@lnpnews.com

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