The loss to Twin Valley in the District Three semifinals was Lampeter-Strasburg's first taste of defeat since the two teams had met in last year's district championship game. The taste lingered through the first round of the state tournament and stayed with the Pioneers — the defending Class 5A champions — as they prepared to collide with the Raiders, once again, in Thursday's PIAA quarterfinals at Millersville University's Seaber Stadium.
Under the unrelenting afternoon sun, Lampeter-Strasburg exacted its revenge, scoring four runs in the first inning to help replace the bitter taste with the sweeter notes of a 9-3 victory. The win propelled the Pioneers into Monday's semifinal round, opposite West Chester East, at a site and time to be determined.
"We talked about it all week," said Gene Charles, Lampeter-Strasburg's coach. "We wanted this. Monday night, after we beat Archbishop Ryan (in the first round), we knew we had our sights set on Twin Valley."
Summer Peters powered the Pioneers (27-1) at the plate, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs on a single, a double and a fourth-inning solo home run that extended Lampeter-Strasburg's lead to 6-0.
"Summer's just amazing," Charles said. "What that kid does with a bat is just ... If she's not one of the best hitters I've ever seen, I don't know who is."
Peters opened the scoring against starting pitcher Grace Marsalo with her first-inning single that plated Julz Garber, who had moved into scoring position with a bunt single and a stolen base from the leadoff position.
PIAA Softball: Lampeter-Strasburg's Julz Garber opens BOT 1 with a bunt single. She then steals second and scores on a Summer Peters single. Pioneers up 1-0 on Twin Valley. pic.twitter.com/lYuUGSLQwm— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) June 6, 2019
"They put the ball in play," said Chad Walters, a co-head coach for the Raiders (26-3). "The middle of their lineup is tough. They have speed at the top, but they hit the ball hard. They put pressure on you, and they got right after us and put us on our heels with the first batter."
Later in the first inning, L-S catcher Cam Byler drove in a pair of runs with a double. She later scored when Gabby Drumm laced a single into right field.
"Getting ahead early," Charles said, "is the key. It's been our MO, get on the board in the first inning and put the other team behind. We've been fortunate enough to do that."
Lampeter-Strasburg's Cam Byler ropes a 2RBI double down the left-field line. It plates Summer Peters and Chloe Blantz. Pioneers lead Twin Valley 3-0 BOT1. pic.twitter.com/jzwSPJNp9f— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) June 6, 2019
The Raiders responded in the top half of the second inning, loading the bases with three straight singles before Lampeter-Strasburg starting pitcher Brynne Baker retired three straight Twin Valley batters, catching a lineout from Maddie Garber to end the threat.
"She finds a way," Charles said of Baker, who struck out three batters and walked one through a complete game from the circle. "She digs deep."
Twin Valley broke up Baker's shutout bid in the fifth inning, when Natalie Foster scored on the heels of her leadoff triple, and tacked on two runs in the sixth. The Pioneers responded in the bottom of the sixth with RBI singles from Taryn Hostetter and Keiva Middleton. Chloe Blantz also scored on an error.
"Against this team," Charles said, "you can't have enough runs."