Kayla Rhome had a long time to think about the final three outs she needed to get in order to seal the win.
It was nearly an hour, in fact, that the Susquenita hurler had in between the final out in the sixth inning until she returned to the circle in the seventh. In the end, the wait was well worth it for the Blackhawks, as Rhome kept her composure and retired Lower Dauphin in order, preserving a 6-4 Susquenita win in their Mid-Penn semifinal Wednesday afternoon at Big Spring High School.
With the win, the Blackhawks will take on Cumberland Valley in the Mid-Penn Conference championship game this afternoon at 5 p.m. at the same location.
Rhome admitted she was a little worried how she would come out in the seventh after thunder and lightning put a 48 minute delay on the game. But when she returned to the circle, she was right back at it.
“I was a little concerned coming back out after the delay, but it worked out,” Rhome said. “We knew they could hit and we knew had a fought game ahead of us, but we believed.”
The Falcons (15-6) put that hitting on display early on in the first inning, when they used three hits and two walks to take the first lead of the afternoon. Elaine Gross singled up the middle for an RBI before Megan Saich put one through the left side for another run. It could have been more, but Cassie Auxt fielded the ball cleanly in left field and fired home to nab Gross trying to score.
LD still managed to get one more on a mental miscue in the field allowed Saich to steal home on a throw to second.
“I think we had a few jitters,” Susquenita coach Jesse Snyder said. “We were a little nervous to be here. Most of these girls were here last year, but I think the hype of it all was a little much for the girls. Once we settled down, we were great.”
It took a little while, but Snyder was certainly right about that. In the third, the Blackhawks (17-2) put together their big inning, sending 11 batters to the plate for five runs.
Vanessa Hoffman led off with a single though the left side, the first of four consecutive hits for Susquenita. Amber Turpin had a double to the gap in left that scored Susquenita’s first run. A single and two walks set up a two-out, bases loaded situation for No. 9 hitter Jordan Rudy. The second baseman delivered in the clutch, singling up the middle for two more runs — which turned out to be very important.
“We had trouble with their first four or five batters in their lineup,” LD coach Steve Alcorn said. “When you continually let those kind of ballplayers get on base, only bad things can happen.”
Susquenita’s one-through-five hitters combined for 12 of its 14 hits.
The Falcons managed to get one back in the bottom half of the inning, but that would be all they would get for the rest of the afternoon. Rhome settled in after her team got her the lead back. From the fourth inning on, she didn’t allow a run, giving up just one hit in the process.
After the long weather delay, LD sent up its 3-4-5 hitters trailing by just two runs. But Rhome proved to be too much, as she retired them in order to close out the win.
For the Blackhawks, the win comes full circle after they lost to the Falcons in last year’s Mid-Penn final — a fact that Snyder made sure was not lost with his team. Now, they’ll look to upend another AAAA squad in Cumberland Valley in hopes of finishing a job they fell just short of a season ago.
Snyder knows it’ll be a tall order, but has full faith his team is up for the challenge.
“We wanted to make a name,” Snyder said. “We knew we’re a small AA school. Being a small school competing against AAAA schools, we would be an underdog. That fired the girls up, knowing they were that underdog.
“We wanted to make a statement and make the championship game. Now, we’ll see what we can do here.”