Ephrata Dragons ousted from New Era Tourney
The goal of the Ephrata Dragons was to take at least one game from the Warwick Phillies in their best-of-three first-round series in the New Era Midget-Midget Tournament.
Last Friday night, they were threatening to do just that with a rally in their final at-bats.
Trailing 11-2 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, Ephrata put five runs on the board looking to even the series at one game apiece. The comeback fell a little bit short, however, as defending champ Warwick weathered the storm and held for an 11-7 clinching victory at the Ephrata Township park. The victory advances the Phillies (17-1 league, 38-6 overall) to the tournament’s final four, which gets underway next Monday, July 7.
“Warwick’s a very strong team, they have a very good squad of strong hitters and they have bunches of pitching,” Ephrata coach Sean Molchany. “We knew coming in we were the underdog, but we just wanted to fight and hopefully get one of three. That was our goal.”
Considering the Dragons were fielding a team with no 12U Section One experience, Molchany was pleased with their final record of 10-7-2.
“I figured we’d be a .500 team at best. We were much better than what I thought,” Molchany said. “The league was generally strong and we won some big games. We didn’t really lose to the teams we should have lost to &tstr; we beat them and we had a couple upsets.”
Their goal to upset Warwick last Friday got started on a tough note with the Phillies taking a 7-0 lead in their first three at-bats.
“We came out flat. We really weren’t in the game the first three innings,” Molchany said. “And then the kids settled down, battled back and started hitting the ball in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and made it, I would say, a game at 11-7.”
John Seibert’s RBI single and Brody Price’s (3-for-4) two-run base hit put three on the board in the first inning, and then Logan Hann’s nicely-placed bunt scored Cam Hess (2-for-2) from second, who doubled, and Zach Shertzer’s (2-for-2, 2 runs) two-run blast to right field, driving in Trey Glass (2-for-3, 3 runs) who doubled, pushed the Phils’ lead to 6-0 after two.
Warwick starting pitcher Collin Beech walked five in the first two innings, with four K’s, but escaped trouble. In the third, though, the Dragons broke through for two runs. Blake White (1-for-2, 2 walks) singled to left-center and scored on Anthony Andrews’ RBI ground out. With two outs, Jackson Conover (2-for-3) singled to center and scored on a throwing error, cutting the Phillies’ lead to 7-2.
Kaden Hunt, whose squeeze bunt plated the Phils’ seventh run, got the final out in the third in relief and retired seven of the eight batters he faced.
Dragons’ reliever Gavin Grove also pitched well in relief. He gave up a two-run homer to Beech in the fourth and an RBI single by Hess in the fifth, but scattered five hits over 3@-E innings, with two K’s.
“Our first pitcher (Isaiah Hornberger) threw well,” Molchany said. “He had no defensive help in the first two innings. Gavin came in, the defense stepped it up, and he got ahead of the batters.”
Trailing 11-2 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Dragons refused to go quietly. Conover singled and scored on Hornberger’s homer to left-center. Drew Myers followed with a double to right, and then with two outs, Bradan Ritter walked and Logan Usner belted a three-run homer, chasing Hunt. Colin Brubaker relieved and walked White, but then ended it with a strikeout.
“They have some young players and any time you’re down 11-2 and a team like that is going to come back and battle and throw five, seven more runs on the board to make it a respectable game, that’s great,” Phillies coach Todd Shertzer said. “That comes from good coaching and kids really wanting to play.”
In game one of the series last Wednesday, June 25, Seibert was a one-man wrecking crew, striking out 11 Dragon batters in 4!-E innings and clubbing a two-run homer, as the Phillies grabbed the inside track with an 11-1 five-inning win in Lititz.
Seibert allowed just one run &tstr; none earned &tstr; and one hit, a fourth-inning one-out single by Garman off the glove of Phillies’ diving third baseman Hunt. Although he issued three walks, the hard-throwing right-hander struck out the side in the first three frames, mixing in a curve and occasional change-up with a dominant heater.
Ephrata starting pitcher Nick Garman didn’t give up a hit in the first two innings, but still found himself trailing 2-0 when leadoff walks proved costly. Glass (2 walks, 2 runs) scored on Seibert’s sac fly, while Ethan Minnich (2 walks, 2 runs) crossed the plate on a sac fly by Brubaker to right field.
Ephrata spoiled the shutout in the top of the fifth, as Grove walked and then courtesy runner White scored on a Phillies throwing error. But Warwick invoked the 10-run mercy rule with a five-run rally in the bottom half.