NEW OXFORD — Her team was down three runs to Dallastown in the top of the sixth inning and trying to put together a two-out rally in the York-Adams League Softball Tournament title game.
Susquehannock lead-off batter Mallory Lebo stepped to the plate with a runner on first.
It's not often that players opt to bunt with two outs, but Lebo, arguably the Warriors' fastest player, figured she could use her speed to reach base. So she squared her bat on a pitch from Wildcats starting pitcher Kayla Merriman and laid down a bunt out in front of home plate. Veteran Dallastown catcher Sam Hartman, though, anticipated what was coming.
"I was expecting a slap, not necessarily a bunt," Hartman said. "She's a fast runner."
Hartman quickly scooped up the ball and fired to first base just before Lebo got there for the third out. Hartman's Dallastown teammates and fans erupted as she walked back to the dugout, where seventh-year coach Jeff Deardorff stood intensely while pointing at his catcher.
"Great job, Sam," Deardorff said.
The play seemed to cut off any momentum Susquehannock had. Merriman finished out the game the next inning by sitting down the side in order on an infield pop-up and a pair of groundouts, sealing a 6-3 win Wednesday evening for the Wildcats. Dallastown (17-2) earned the program's first-ever league tournament title.
"I don't think anybody thought we would make it this far," Hartman said. "We have a lot of younger girls. Half the team had never played varsity before (this season). To come out and play like they have is impressive."
Hartman, a four-year starter and recruit of NCAA Division I West Point, and Merriman, a first baseman a year ago who started just a few games on the mound late last season, are just two of four returning seniors to Dallastown this season.
The duo had previously been a part of Dallastown teams that had reached the District 3-AAAA Tournament the past three seasons, including a trip to the title game in 2012. And they have helped the Wildcats, who lost seven seniors from last year's club, capture the program's first division title in 10 years this season.
The pair again proved to be pivotal in Wednesday's title game, played at New Oxford High School.
The Division II-champion Warriors (15-6) jumped out in front, 3-0, in the top of the third inning on three walks, an error and a pair of hits. Merriman, a recruit of NCAA Division II Texas A&M International University, recovered from there by holding Susquehannock scoreless the rest of the way. Going the distance in the victory, Merriman held the Warriors to six hits while striking out four and walking three, throwing 60 of her 92 pitches for strikes and tossing first-pitch strikes to 21 of 31 batters.
The Wildcats tied it up in the fourth inning by putting together a two-out rally and tallying three runs on an Ashley Werner triple, a Danielle Ludwig RBI single and a Madisyn Johnson two-run double.
Hartman's veteran smarts also paid dividends in the fifth inning when Susquehannock catcher Julia DeLuca dropped a pitch from Warriors starter Sara Lynch. Hartman immediately scooted over from second base to third on the passed ball, then scored the go-ahead run when Werner put a ball in play and reached on an error, giving Dallastown its first lead of the day, 4-3.
The Wildcats added two more runs in the sixth inning on a Ludwig double, a Johnson RBI triple and a Haylee Anders RBI groundout.
Lynch pitched a complete game for Susquehannock, giving up the six runs on 11 hits with one strikeout and one walk.
— Reach John Walk at email@example.com.