---- — By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
DANVILLE -- By conventional wisdom, the third hitter in a lineup is the strongest overall hitter a team has.
McKayla Schrock proved that right for Milton, helping her team defeat Lewisburg, 9-4, in the District 13 Major Division Softball tournament on Thursday. Schrock swung a hot stick for Milton, finishing a double short of the cycle while having a hand in each large inning Milton was able to put together.
"McKayla Schrock has a great attitude," Milton manager Tim East said. "She's definitely one of our leaders. I'll take McKayla (on my team) any day."
Using a locked-in Schrock in the heart of a solid lineup, Milton was able to get to Lewisburg ace hurler Sydney Hoffman early and often, not allowing her to settle into a rhythm in the circle. While the score suggests a somewhat-comfortable win, the game was anything but a breeze for Milton. Lewisburg held a 4-3 lead heading into the fifth inning before Milton jumped on top for good.
"When we needed it, (the players) came through," East said. "They did well tonight."
East was quick to praise Hoffman in the circle.
"(Hoffman's) a really good pitcher," East said.
After a lead-off single for Emily Snyder in the top of the fifth, it became apparent just how much this tournament means to the players on a groundball by Schrock into the hole between first and second. Lewisburg second baseman Kendall Murphy gathered the ball and dove for Snyder heading to second base but narrowly missed the tag and potential double play, leaving both runners safe.
An RBI single by Amanda Arnold into short-right field tied the game at 4 before Jillian East decided to give herself a lead on the mound with a two-RBI single to put Milton ahead, 6-4. Hoffman escaped the inning without allowing another run, retiring three of the next four hitters but the damage had been done.
Pitching once again with a lead, East started to settle down in the circle, spelling problems for the top of Lewisburg's order. A strikeout and two groundouts later, the momentum had shifted in Milton's favor.
Following an early groundout and walk drawn by Snyder, Schrock got under a ball, sending it into the gap in right-center field for a RBI triple. Amanda Arnold followed suit with a ball hit in almost the exact same spot and Arnold scored on the ball on an error after the ball rolled to the wall.
With a 9-4 lead, East seemed determined to finish off the win, shaking off an outfield error to start the inning, and retired the next three hitters in order to end the game.
In the early innings, it appeared that both teams were not going to be satisfied with a six-inning game as both squads brought runs home in the first inning. Schrock crushed a ball down the right-field line resulting in an inside-the-park home run in the top of the inning, while Hoffman tied the game for Lewisburg with an RBI single and scoring after an error on the same play.
Milton regained the lead in the top of the third on a single from Rachelle Campbell and would hold the lead until the bottom of the fourth.
Coming to bat for the first time in the game, Erica Arnold demonstrated that she needs little time to warm up, pounding the second pitch from East into the left-center field gap for a two-run triple.
Lewisburg manager Craig Hoffman said he was pleased with the overall effort his girls showed.
"I'm proud of them," Hoffman said. "...(The game) could have went either way tonight."
However, the key breaks fell in favor of Milton, resulting in a win in a game that was much closer than the box score would suggest.