HEMPFIELD — It was just one hit, the first one that Cumberland Valley had recorded in four-plus innings of softball.
For the young Eagles, though, it was lot bigger than a lone base hit. It was a confidence-boosting reminder that a playoff victory was indeed within their reach.
No. 10 Cumberland Valley, sparked by Olivia Hamme’s fifth-inning leadoff double and Kenzi Kapp’s run-scoring squeeze bunt, broke through late to claim a 3-1 victory over No. 7 Hempfield in a District 3 Class 6A first-round softball game at Hempfield High School.
The Eagles (9-10), who scored in each of the final three innings in support of Lauren Kruger’s three-hitter, advance to Thursday’s quarterfinal round. They will face a familiar foe: Mid-Penn Commonwealth colleague Central Dauphin (18-2), the No. 2 seed.
“It’s the first district playoff game for a lot of the girls,” CV head coach Gregg Williams said. “Just getting that run made us feel comfortable. Now we’re tied (1-1), now we can do our thing. We just loosened up when we got that run. It was big.”
The teams had played a crisp game to that point, with Hempfield capitalizing on one of the only mistakes through the first four innings.
The Black Knights (13-7) had grabbed a 1-0 lead when Katie Bemesderfer led off the second with an infield single and eventually scored on a throwing error.
The Eagles, meanwhile, were seeking a breakthrough against Hempfield pitcher Gabi Turner, who allowed no hits — and only one ball out of the infield — through four innings.
Hamme delivered the icebreaker immediately in the fifth, scorching a double to the base of the leftfield wall. After a sacrifice by Rachel Thompson and Kapp’s well-placed bunt, the Eagles had a tie game and new energy.
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“[The run] just kind of set the mood,” Hamme said. “We worked together really well after that, we hyped each other up, and we supported each other.”
Kruger reflected the Eagles’ sharpened focus.
After some early wildness that saw her hit three batters in the first four innings, she locked in and found the zone. She turned in a 1-2-3 inning after the Eagles had tied it in the fifth, and did likewise in the sixth after Kayla Vonstein’s single gave CV a 2-1 lead in the top half of the frame.
“I was in my zone,” Kruger said. “I was comfortable, I trusted my defense. They played with me and supported me, and I just pitched my game.”
The Eagles picked up a critical insurance run in the seventh, when Hamme again led off the frame with a base hit. She came home when Ali Wagner roped a double to the leftfield corner, pushing the lead to 3-1.
That gave Kruger a little more wiggle room when she faced a two-on, two-out situation in the bottom of the inning, and the righty induced a weak pop-up to seal the CV victory.
“We didn’t get down, we just kept battling,” Williams said. “We’ve been in a lot of tough games this year. We’ve been down 4-0, 5-0 and just kept fighting. I think that came out today.”
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