When Jess Henderson took the circle on Tuesday for State College, she did so with a brace on her right leg.
Henderson is recovering from major knee surgery and the performance she had for the Lady Little Lions showed she is back to her old ways.
The senior righty pitched a complete-game one-hitter in a 1-0 victory for State College (9-8) over Cumberland Valley (15-3).
“She was phenominal today,” Lady Little Lions coach Mike Harper said. “That was her best performance. She has progressively gotten better with each game. I have a lot of confidence when she is throwing.”
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Henderson had seven strikeouts with no walks. Henderson also helped her cause at the plate as she was the lone State College batter to have multiple hits.
“It was just a good day,” the senior said of her performance. “I felt it all day that our team was going to have a good day. It got the momentum going early and we were able to maintain that in the field.”
The Lady Little Lions jumped on Cumberland Valley early, scoring the game’s only run in the first inning.
Kayla Hawbaker started things off with a single that veered off Lady Eagles pitcher Jen Hanshaw and past the shortstop. Hawbaker stole second base during Abby Allen’s at bat, which ended with a line out to short. Alyssa Shedlock followed with a single to left field that scored Hawbaker.
State College collected eight hits but would leave runners stranded all game long. The team left two runners on base in the first, second and third innings, one in the fourth and three in the sixth.
“It has a lot to do with Cumberland Valley’s pitcher,” Harper said. “She is really good. We had some opportunities to score more runs but she does what a good pitcher does. She has a really good defense behind her, she throws strikes and throws hard. It wasn’t for a lack of tryin. She is just a quality pitcher and that is a great program.”
After that first inning Hanshaw settled in, spreading five hits over the final six frames. She finished with six strikeouts and allowed four free base runners, but Cumberland Valley just wasn’t able to get anything going offensively. The Eagles only had two base runners and they came in the sixth and seventh innings. They would only get as far as second base as the Lady Eagles struggled against Henderson’s pitching.
“Jess pitched great,” Lady Eagles coach Gregg Williams said. “We struggled with her offspeed stuff and she was mixing speeds well. They made all the plays behind her and they deserved to win.”
State College’s defense was solid, converting on nine ground ball outs. The Lady Little Lions did have one miscue — a throwing error in the seventh inning. However, they kept their composure and looks to be right where they want to be with playoffs starting next week.
“I’m so proud of them,” Harper said of his team. “At one point, we were 2-7 and they never lost faith in getting better. We’ve rolled off some pretty good wins here lately against some good, quality programs.
“We should be playing our best ball in May and so far we are playing our best ball. We are a different club than what we were at the beginning of the season.”