EXTON — The chants were screamed, the bats were loud, and the tears of joy and sadness were all in full effect on Wednesday night in the 10-11 year old softball state championship game.
The Bob Horlacher Little League All-Stars faced the Exton Little League All-Stars at Meadowbrook Manor Park in a highly anticipated game as Horlacher looked to repeat as state champs.
After an explosive first inning by both squads, the repeat was earned as Horlacher steadied the ship and won 8-2.
“It’s definitely hard to repeat,” Horlacher manager Doug Jones said. “We knew what it took. It was a lot of work and just glad it went our way.”
The game certainly went Jones’ way after his team scored eight unanswered runs. However, the home team on the scoreboard dug themselves in a hole to begin the game being down 2-0.
Exton’s Mackenzie Thompson started the inning with a single over the first baseman’s head. The following batter, Brooke Espenshade, knocked a long fly ball to center field, resulting in a triple and the lead at 1-0. Espenshade scored on the next play as Horlacher’s second baseman, Mackayla Quick, was unable to handle Cameron Trotter’s ground ball, allowing Exton to take the early lead at 2-0.
“All year long, we’ve struggled in the first inning defensively. Right off the bat today we got into the first inning issues with a couple of dropped balls and didn’t get out of the inning quick, so I was nervous,” Jones said.
The worrying didn’t last long for the skipper as his players responded as powerful as ever.
“The girls took the plate in the first inning and there was no doubt that they were here,” Jones said.
Leadoff batter Faith Jones began the barrage with a single to right field. Erin Dunn followed and safely made it to first after an error by the first baseman. Jones was able to run to third base on the play.
Horlacher first baseman Sara Kuderka bunted straight to the pitcher, but the throw was low, allowing Kuderka to reach base and Jones to score. Cleanup hitter Hope Jones walked to load the bases for Delaney Romanchick.
Romanchick grounded out, scoring Dunn, before star of the night Megan Straley doubled to right field, bringing in Kuderka and Jones for a 4-2 lead. The final run of the inning came after Straley moved to third on a groundout by Mackayla Quick and then ran home on a passed ball.
“In the beginning, I felt really confident that we could do it. In the end, we felt really good about ourselves,” Straley said.
With seven total runs scored in the first inning and Horlacher leading 5-2, the rest of the game was lopsided.
“We made mistakes and they capitalized on them, and that’s why they won,” Exton manager Greg Espenshade said.
In the bottom of the third, Horlacher expanded the lead to four.
Pitcher Hope Jones led off with a single up the middle. Romanchick then moved her to second after a groundout. Straley was at it again with another RBI groundout after Jones took third on a passed ball.
The bottom of the fifth brought more joy for the Section 5 champions as Horlacher’s Dunn started the inning off with a walk. Kuderka bunted her over and Hope Jones followed with her second walk of the night. The two bolted to second and third base after Exton’s first baseman dropped a pop up on an infield fly rule.
Straley hit her second double of the evening bringing home Dunn. With runners on second and third, Hope Jones scored the eighth run on a passed ball.
The state championship game ended with Horlacher taking the crown again, 8-2. For the defending champions, the manager is glad it’s over.
“It’s a relief. I’m glad it’s over because I’m always more nervous than the girls,” Jones said.