Lewisburg rallies from 2 down to beat Spartans

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Lewisburg’s Delaney Wagner is out at second as she is tagged out by Hughesville’s Megan Ryder during a game Wednesday at Hughesville

HUGHESVILLE –Lewisburg left fielder Lily McBride entered Wednesday’s game against Hughesville possessing the team’s lowest batting average. She then delivered a 4 for 4 performance.

It is not like McBride came into the game as an easy out. The sophomore hit .333 last season and produced 21 hits. So welcome to the dilemma that is pitching against Lewisburg.

Hughesville was the latest team to feel the Dragons’ wrath as Lewisburg pounded out 12 hits and turned a two-run, third-inning deficit into a 7-3 win. The Dragons (4-1) are experiencing a dramatic resurgence and look like a serious playoff threat just four years after concluding a 57-game losing streak. And they are smashing their way upward, scoring 34 runs and delivering 47 hits through five games.

“That was so much fun. I loved that. Nobody got down on anyone and it was nice to see us stick together, McBride said. “It (the ball) slows down in my head when I’m hitting well. I can really place it when I have confidence and that’s definitely what the team did for me.”

“We’re having a lot of hot batters right now and hopefully it stays that way,” Lewisburg coach Ken Wagner said. “The nice thing is we don’t have to wait for a certain section of the lineup to generate runs. We can start anywhere and generate. That’s big.”

It certainly was against Hughesville. The first five hitters in Lewisburg’s order all feature averages of .385 or higher but it was the Nos. 6-9 hitters who really did damage yesterday. McBride, the No. 7 hitter, scored three times and her RBI single capped a three-run seventh-inning rally that made it 7-3. No. 9 hitter, freshman Kara Koch was 2 for 4 with three RBIs and twice delivered go-ahead hits that produced three runs. No. 6 hitter Brynn Wagner also had two hits, including an RBI triple and scored twice.

There really is no time an opposing pitcher can relax. Lewisburg never feels like it is out of a game and that depth and belief helped it fight back after Hughesville led 2-0 in the third inning. Wagner and McBride singled in the third and both scored on Koch’s two-run single as Lewisburg took a 3-2 lead. Rachel Baxter’s RBI single tied it 3-3 in the fifth, but McBride led off the sixth with a single and scored on Koch’s single as the Dragons went ahead to stay, 4-3.

They then added three runs in the seventh as winning pitcher Sydney Hoffman (2 for 3, RBI) hit a lead-off single and Wagner and McBride both delivered run-producing hits.

“It feels great. The team really gets along,” McBride said. “We love each other so it’s fun to see that if we’re down, we get up. We’re like a family.”

Hughesville (2-2) is building a similar bond and also features a dangerous lineup from top to bottom. The Spartans produced nine hits and hit several more balls hard. Some of those simply went right at defenders and other times, Lewisburg fielders made super plays.

Baxter had three hits and a game-tying RBI single in the fifth inning. Shayna Ragan added two hits and Olivia Miller hit a two-run, second-inning single that put Hughesville up, 2-0. The Spartans have made nice progress the last two seasons, improving their win total by four last season and coming within a game of reaching the postseason. Although three freshmen are starting, there is playoff potential again and freshman Sarah Wertz often delivered some of her best pitches to escape jams.

“We’ve come a long way but we still have areas for improvement. Defensively we have to take care of the untimely errors and we have to learn to finish games,” Hughesville coach Dave Dimoff said. “We’ve been in every game. That’s all you can ask is that your team plays hard and is in every game.”

Hughesville scored six seventh-inning runs in its opener to beat defending District 4 Class AAAA champion Shikellamy, 10-8. It scored three to force extra innings against Bloomsburg and tried rallying in the seventh again yesterday when Caitlyn Hauck and Emily Watts both singled. Hoffman, though, induced a flyout that clinched the win.

“The team has a lot of heart. They showed it against Shikellamy and they showed it tonight,” Dimoff said. “They play hard. They do not give up and they play extremely hard from the first to the seventh.”

Had it not been for some stellar Lewisburg defense things might have gone differently yesterday. The Dragons played an error-less game and Koch was outstanding at shortstop. Wagner turned a big sixth-inning double play and right fielder Brynna Rutz twice made superb catches.

Rutz delivered the game’s biggest play in the fifth inning. After Baxter tied it with her two-out RBI single, Chylee Stroup drilled a sinking liner into shallow right field. Rutz charged hard, dove face-first and made a highlight-reel catch a split second before the ball hit the ground and brought home Baxter with the go-ahead run.

“The biggest difference this year has been our defense has been a lot more solid,” Wagner said. “Brynna had a couple of running catches and that diving catch was outstanding. Who knows what happens if she doesn’t make that catch?”

Lewisburg 001 201 3–7 12 0

Hughesville 020 010 0–3 9 3

Sydney Hoffman and Katie Koch. Sarah Wertz and Emily Watts. W: Hoffman, (4-1). L: Wertz, (1-1).

Top Lewisburg hitters: Lilly McBride 4-4, RBI, 3 runs; Kara Koch 2-4, 3 RBIs; Katie Koch 1-3, 2B; Hoffman 2-3, RBI, run; Brynn Wagner 2-4, 3B, RBI, 2 runs; Juliana Girton 1-3, BB. Top Hughesville hitters: Rachel Baxter 3-4, RBI, run; Shayna Ragan 2-4, run; Wertz 1-1, 2 BBs; Olivia Miller 1-3, 2 RBIs.

Records: Lewisburg (4-1), Hughesville (2-2).