Years from now, when old-timers gather for breakfast at their favorite diner, the conversation may eventually drift to a debate about the greatest local girls softball teams.
From a purely dynastic consideration, it’s going to be hard to look past Lampeter-Strasburg circa 2016-21. Over the course of that period, Pioneer teams have fashioned a 125-17 overall record, won five Lancaster-Lebanon League section titles, two league titles and a District Three title.
More impressively, they reached the PIAA Eastern finals five times, advancing to four state championship games. Once there, they’ve won states twice — most recently Friday afternoon, with a 10-7 victory over Armstrong.
As impressive has been the Pioneers’ ability to stay in front of the graduation reaper. Players arrive, thrive and move on to college, ably replaced by the next group of budding stars.
Replacing six graduating senior starters will be the task of the 2022 Pioneers, rebuilding around starting pitcher Keiva Middleton, who will be a senior. The outfield of rising juniors Brooke Zuber and Ally Raub may transition to the infield while rising sophomore Julia Gerard settles in behind the plate.
Should L-S find itself in the 2022 state tournament, it’s almost certain Armstrong will be stalking them through the bracket.
Playing in their first state tournament the Riverhawks fielded a lineup with two juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen, along with a pair of freshmen who appeared in substitute roles.
“Our future’s definitely bright,” said head coach Doug Flanders, who also cautioned, “You never know when we’re going to get another opportunity.”
Speaking of the future, the crystal ball says if you liked the 2021 season, you’ll love 2022.
While graduation will hit L-S and Penn Manor hard, many of the top programs across the league will reap the reward of fielding teams this year that were young. In some cases ridiculously young.
In Section One Warwick will try to defend its title, returning Emily Beale, Allison Forsythe, Abby Murray and Jenna Ober, who takes over in the circle, Roxana Smithson, Bella Smithson and Sam Shaak. Hempfield looks to return to the postseason with Liz Williams, Courtney Guthrie, Olivia Cover, Lacey Bender, Mikayla Hughes, Carley Ernst and Avery Landis.
Delaney Smith, Annika Smith, Hilary Murse, Emily Mitchell, Taylor Kittleman, Megan Marks, Olivia Yoder and Carissa Lusk take up the challenge for Manheim Township. Penn Manor will rebuild around Emily Riggs, Audrey Patterson, Bria Booth and Kylie Goss.
Regardless of how well they rebuild, L-S will have its hands full in Section Two. Two-time league runner-up Elizabethtown brings back Jess Zimmerman, Sydney Stewart, Brooke Bryan, Sophia Finch, Maddie Bell, Carli Zerphey, Astyn Calaman, Julie Zook and Ava Fair. Rounding into a complete contender as the season ended, Solanco returns Kendal Janssen, Becca Foulk, Marlee Haupt, Taryn Britigan, Anna Sexton, Mia Grinestaff, Emily Sims, Holly Grube and Alyssa Schlagnhaufer. The wild card in any discussion will be Ephrata. After achieving the district semifinals in their first postseason appearance in 15 seasons, the Mounts return Mady Willis, Alesha Hoffman, Anna Beckham, Addy Snyder, Lanie Reinhold, Maddie Russell, Ellie Meier and Ali Williams.
With five freshmen in the starting lineup, Donegal’s colors weren’t the only thing that was green. Paige Miller, Emma Miller, Kara Heidlauf, Aaliyah Cannon, Cara Biesecker, Bella Mackinson, Emma Garber, Natalie Colwell, Esther Myers and Grace Graham will return in 2022 to challenge a Northern Lebanon squad that graduated just one senior. Also in the hunt in Section Three could be Manheim Central, with Miranda Ober, Gabby Wettig, Emma Damon, Mickey Lauver, Brianna Mylin, Brynn Lehman, Ava Kenneff and Maya Schreffler.
Fresh off winning their inaugural District Three title, Pequea Valley will need to fill in in center field and in the circle, but will return Emily Ammon, Hailey Yothers, Camryn Bailey, Sarah Arment, Olivia Clark, Maddie Clark, Shania Smoker, Chevelle Fisher and Carissa Mulder. Also looking to fill a void in the circle, Lancaster Catholic will bring back Hannah Eckerd, Olivia Reichert, Caidence Brock, Marina DeJesus, Carliz Reyes, Maddy Detz and Lyla Maurer.
Only 260 days until the first official practice.
• Dave Byrne is an LNP | LancasterOnline correspondent who covers L-L softball. Email him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @dbyrneman.