Lancaster-Lebanon League softball 2022 will, in some ways, be quite different from past years.
For starters, there’s no Godzilla-like assembly ready to trample anything that crosses its path. This promises balanced runs in all four sections, especially in section two, where graduation losses bring the defending section, league, district three and PIAA Class 5A champion Lampeter-Strasburg back into the pack.
The Pioneers are still formidable, make no mistake about it, and remain the team to beat in the section, as well as in the league. They are just one of four teams, along with Elizabethtown, Ephrata and Solanco, who will be in the mix section.
The first section will not be less competitive, but the competition will be more for second place in the playoffs. Warwick is a favorite over the quartet of Cedar Crest, Hempfield, Manheim Township and Penn Manor.
It should be noted that the league schedule forces Sections One and Two to face each other in crossovers. This intersectional chaos will affect individual races more.
Competition is the name of the game in section four and defending champion Pequea Valley fends off challenges from Annville-Cleona, a Catholic Lancaster rebuilder and Columbia reborn.
With minimal graduation losses, Donegal and North Lebanon renew the rivalry which saw the Vikings sweep the Indians’ 2021 season series but finish second, by one game, after a season-ending loss to Manheim Central .
As the defending section and champion Warriors of District Three 6A must replace the graded battery of pitcher Katelyn Minney and catcher Mackenzie Stewart, seven starters return, including All-State outfielder Emily Beale, Allison Forsythe, Roxana Smithson and Isabella Smithson, Samantha Shaak, Jenna Ober and Abby Murray.
By comparison, the graduation emptied Penn Manor with six starters crossing the stage last June, diploma in hand. UMBC rookie and four-year-old starter Emily Riggs tops the list of returnees, alongside Audrey Paterson, Bria Booth, Kira Green and Maddie Mitchell. Filling in around them will be three sophomores and one freshman, all making their college debut.
With a young team, Hempfield has had a down year in 2021. One year older, one year wiser, the Black Knights are ready to battle for the top spot led by pitchers/outfielders Courtney Guthrie and Carley Ernst as well as ‘Elizabeth Williams, Avery Landis, Olivia Blanket and Mikayla Hughes.
In 2021, the Blue Blood Cedar Crest unique section laid the groundwork for a return to relevance. Led by wide receiver Riley Rohrer, who led the team with an average of .481 and 14 RBIs, the Falcons return Anna Gable, Reese Arnold, Hayley Hackman, Sydney Black and Brooke Zimmerman.
Manheim Township is returning a veteran team led by University of Pennsylvania rookie Delaney Smith, Clarion rookie Annika Smith and University of South Florida rookie Taylor Kittleman. Carissa Lusk, Emily Mitchell, Hillary Murse, Megan Marks and Olivia Yoder also return for the Streaks.
McCaskey lists five freshmen and four sophomores among the starting 12, which translates to a year of growth and building foundations.
Pitcher Keiva Middleton and outfielders Julia Gerard, Brooke Zuber and Ally Raub are the only returning players for LS, with Zuber and Raub moving to new positions — Zuber behind plate and Raub at shortstop. With the idea that talent graduates, tradition does not want, seek the Pioneers to stay in the heart of the race section.
Runner-up to LS in the league section and tournament, Elizabethtown is deep into returning talent. The infielder of Sophia Finch, Ava Fair, Jess Zimmerman, Madison Bell and Julie Zook joins outfielders Nizaly Ortiz-Kreiner, Sydney Stewart and Carli Zerphey and receiver Astyn Calaman. Entering the circle, replacing Kristen Geesey, are veterans Brook Bryan and Breona Edgell, who share pitching duties.
After making his first appearance in a District 3 tournament since 2006, picking up his first wins since 1997, what is Ephrata doing for an encore? “Our goal is to come back…and improve on our fourth place finish,” said head coach Katie Yohe.
The Mountaineers are equipped to do so, returning Ali Williams, Lanie Reinhold, Maddie Russell and Ellie Meier. Meier, who has established herself as a factor in the circle, Russell and Williams all broke into freshmen last year.
With just one senior – wide receiver Jade Eshleman, who now plays for Lancaster Bible College – Solanco was very young last year. Not So Young Now Golden Mules Return Rebecca Foulk, Marlee Haupt, Taryn Britigan, Kendal Janssen, Alyssa Schlagnhaufer, Anna Sexton, Emily Sims and Holly Grube
The numbers suggest Conestoga Valley as a dark horse. The Buckskins return Rebecca Hartranft, Rhiannon Henry, Kassie Horning, Laken Smith, Alexa Freeburn, Kylie Metzler, Kaitlyn Humphreville and Delaney Castagna.
A year after a major rebuild, Lebanon enter the season with hopes for growth, fueled by a roster of 35 players, including 13 freshmen. Seniors Laila Elbouhy, Natasha Rivera, Lianiz Bonilla, Jeannetxi Maldonado, Anataysha Leon, Jeyshadi Figueroa and junior Eve Fenstermaker provide seasoned leadership.
Winning 16 times in 20 starts, while claiming their 16th Section title, Donegal encountered an opponent he could not compete with when COVID-19 concerns knocked the Indians out of the LL League tournament and ended their season.
Returning juniors Cara Biesecker and Kara Heidlauf join sophomores Bella Mackison, Emma Garber, Esther Myers, Grace Graham and Natalie Colwell as the central core of the tribe.
With four freshmen and three sophomores in the starting 10, North Lebanon were a very young team in 2021 – a very young team challenged by the coach’s sudden mid-season death -Chief Ed Spittle. That they have united and prospered bodes well for 2022.
Center fielder Autumn Bohr is the Vikings’ only senior. She is supported by juniors Hope Ritchie, Searat Singh, Kayden McMurtry and Nicole Leaman; and sophomores Abby Palkovic, Brooke Beamesderfer, Bailey McFeaters and Kiera Anspach.
Returning seniors Gabby Wettig, Mikayla Martin, Emma Damon and Miranda Ober join juniors Brianna Mylin, Ava Kenneff, Brynn Lehman and Mickey Lauver as Manheim Central challenge for top spot in the section.
Garden Spot was a huge success at graduation, requiring a flexible approach to utilize the talents of seniors Emma Royle and Lindsay Lapp and sophomore Sydni King, the Spartans’ only returning starters. “We have some very versatile players who can play in a few different positions, depending on our opponent,” coach Kim King said.
New coach Sarah Shreiner hails the return of seniors Bethany Herr and Kelsey Brenneman, and juniors Lexi Rhoads, Erin Henry, Allie Brenneman, Kaidyn Heinaman, Abbey Waas and Haley Schoener as Cocalico looks to apply lessons learned and small successes won over a long season.
Graduating from seven seniors – and five starters – Elco mixes eight freshmen into a roster punctuated by returning senior Hayley Krill and juniors Caitlyn Kleinfelter, Brooke Auker and Zoe Menzel.
Octorara has also been exhausted from graduation and fires seniors Ashley Tidd, Kylie Wallace Haley Nuse and sophomore Victoria Wood. Look for four freshmen to enter the starting formation.
After winning their tenth section title and fifteenth overall, the Pequea Valley Braves are heavy favorites with seniors Emily Ammon, Hailey Yothers, Cameron Bailey and juniors Shania Smoker, Olivea Clark and Sarah Arment back in the fold. .
Annville-Cleona is young, returning only Ella Andrews, Ashlyn Shaak, Meda Pulaski and Alex Hackman.
Opposite that, Columbia is returning nine experienced players, including seniors Victoria Martinez, Emily Waugh, Kylie Aston and Morgan Bigler, along with juniors Emily Gambler and Danaya Tucker and sophomores Hannah Brady, Rylee Wealand and Madison Bootie.
Gambler and Bigler bring the can-do attitude and strong work ethic from Crimson Tide’s successful women’s basketball season. Double for Gambler in the work ethic department, as she also competes for the Tide track team.
The graduations of catcher Morgan Wolpert, pitcher Kaiti Smith and shortstop Delia Molina sparked big changes for the Lancaster Catholic infield. Senior Hannah Eckerd goes from first to circle with senior Olivia Reichert going from designated player to first. Junior Carliz Reyes goes from the outfield to behind home plate and junior third baseman Mariana DeJesus slides to the court. Second baseman Maddy Detz stays put, as do junior center fielder Caidence Brock and sophomore right fielder Lyla Maurer. Off the bench, juniors Maria Smith and Paige Husted enter the starting lineup at left field and third base, respectively.
Seniors Madeliene Gerz, Madison Wissler, Rebecca Lane and Gabby Lopez lead a Lancaster Mennonite team looking to make their mark in the section and beyond. Juniors Ellie Lefever, Ava Brubaker, Julia Fisher and Maggie Will will support their efforts.
There has been a turnover in a third of the league’s coaching positions, and eight new coaches are making their debut this season.
Section Three has the biggest turnover with Sarah Schreiner taking over at Cocalico, Allen Phillips at Elco and Haley Neff – a 2012 league pitcher for Solanco – at Octorara. In addition, Robert Baseshore withdrew the provisional tag in North Lebanon. He had stepped in when his stepfather, Ed Spittle, died suddenly mid-season last year.
Elsewhere in the league, former Manheim Township star Riley Gearhart returns home to lead the Blue Streaks.
Tim Bowen, who notched 111 wins in eight years as a coach at Bishop McDevitt, is the new coach at Annville-Cleona, while Columbia assistant coach Tasha Bootie takes charge of the program as the Crimson Tide seek a replacement for former coach Mike Brady.
But the biggest change is in Lampeter-Strasburg, where Gene Charles quit after winning two state championships in three appearances. Taking the reins is legendary private pitching coach Earl Rutledge Jr.
Happy to see you again!
Seven returning players from the 2021 All-League team: Penn Manor second baseman Emily Riggs, Manheim Township outfielder Taylor Kittleman, Warwick outfielder Emily Beale, Donegal catcher Bella Mackison and first baseman Emma Garber and Garden Spot infielder Sydni King.
Additionally, Riggs, Mackison and King were named to their respective All-State teams in 2021; Riggs earned his second career Class 6A recognition, Mackinson and King their first in 5A. LS pitcher Keiva Middleton in 5A, North Lebanon outfielder Autumn Bohr in 4A (up from second team) and Lancaster Mennonite outfielder Madeline Gerz in class 2A also return after being named to their first All-State teams. .