2023 L-L League Softball Championship

Bella Smithson (22), Roxana Smithson (20), and Madisen Minney (23) of Warwick celebrate with the trophy after defeating Hempfield in the L-L League softball championship at Millersville University’s Seaber Softball Stadium in Millersville on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

Coming into the Wednesday night’s Lancaster-Lebanon League softball championship game, Warwick had scored just two runs in its previous 15 innings against Hempfield.

It soon became obvious that scoring runs would not be an issue on this night.

The Warriors put a very crooked number on the board in extra innings, scoring five times in the eighth to defeat the Black Knights 11-6 at Millersville University’s Seaber Stadium.

The championship is the first for the Warriors (17-5) since 2010, the program’s fourth in seven tries. It was the first loss in four appearances for the Black Knights.

In a game with four lead changes and two ties, at 1-1 and 6-6, the Warriors mounted a classic one-out attack in the eighth inning.

Isabelle Heagy singled and took second as Katie Heisey stroked an infield single deep in the shortstop hole. Bella Smithson hit an RBI double off the fence in right center field, scoring Heagy. That brought Madison Minney to the plate.

“When I came up I was like, ‘Just hit the ball. That’s all we need.’ Even a walk would’ve been great,” she said. Better still, she laced a two-run single into right field and the rally was in high gear.

Roxana Smithson singled in a run and CeCe Sanchez brought in another on a ground out before the Black Knights (16-7) finally closed the door.

With one hand — metaphorically — on the championship trophy, freshman Kate Shaak set the Black Knights down in order in the bottom of the eighth on three popups, and the celebration was on.

“I was thinking this is the year we’re going to pull through and actually win,” said Minney, who played behind her sister, Katelyn, when the Warriors fell to Lampeter-Strasburg in the league semis.

The Warriors won their first 11 games this year before hitting a three-game losing streak. Included in the win skein was a 10-1 victory over Hempfield. There was a 2-1 loss to the Knights in the three-game stumble, and they fell again, 4-1 a week later.

“I figured if we could get more than five (runs) we’d be alright,” said head coach Kerry Long. “But they answered and kept answering.”

Hempfield took a 1-0 lead on Chloe Diener’s sac fly in the first but Warwick responded on Sanchez’s RBI bunt in the second inning.

Warwick went up 4-1 in the third on a walk, two costly throwing errors and Roxana Smithson’s RBI triple. Hempfield cut into that on an error and Diener’s second sac fly of the game, then took the lead in the fourth as Carley Ernst poked a bases-loaded, two-out, two-run single over first base and into right field.

Warwick went back ahead in the fifth as Minney tripled off the fence in dead center, scoring on an overthrow into third. Sam Shaak reached on an error, eventually scoring on Marlee Martin’s single.

Diener was hit by a pitch leading off the Black Knight fifth taking third on an error on Kali Peifer’s sacrifice bunt and scoring on Mikayla Hughes’ sac fly.

Then the scoring dried up. Warwick stranded two in the top of the seventh, Hempfield one in the bottom of the inning.

Key to the inning was Bella Smithson’s heads up play on a sacrifice attempt by Peifer.

Diener walked to lead off the inning and, as Peifer stepped in, Smithson was reviewing possibilities. “I was looking at her feet and I figured she was going to bunt,” said the Warriors’ junior catcher. “I knew I had to get the out at second, and she laid (the bunt) perfectly out in front.”

“Everybody thinks she’s going to first,” said Long, “but she’s got the cannon to get there (at second). She’s going to get you every time.”

She got Diener easily and Kate Shaak induced Hughes to foul out to first. Sydney Weaver struck out looking and the table was set.

“It was just a matter of attrition,” Long said. “We made errors. They made errors. Then we all calmed down and got timely hits.”

Six of them in the inning, 14 for the game.

“This was Round Four,” Long said. “We’re two-and-two and, if districts stay the way they are, they have to beat (the) No. 1 (seed) and we have to beat No. 4 to meet again.”

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