Ace deals in opener

By on March 27, 2019
Ephrata pitcher Hunter Johns mows down Twin Valley Saturday in the season opener at War Memorial Field. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Ephrata pitcher Hunter Johns mows down Twin Valley Saturday in the season opener at War Memorial Field. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Johns pitches Mounts to win over Twin Valley

With an old friend and EHS alum sitting in the other dugout, Ephrata baseball Coach Adrian Shelley ran his “new-look” lineup out Saturday for the first time in the season opener vs. Twin Valley at War Memorial Field.

While dealing with tons of graduation loss all around the field following the Mounts’ second District Three championship in three years, Shelley did have one big ace up his sleeve in senior lefty Hunter Johns as the Mounts squared off against the Raiders, who are coached by 1980 EHS grad John Summers.

And Johns looked like he was in mid-season form. The lefty, who will pitch at East Stroudsburg next season, dazzled in five-plus innings, allowing a run on just two hits with 4 Ks and no walks.

Still, with just two full-time starters in catcher Ricky Bromirski and outfielder Blake White back in the line-up for 2019, the Mounts’ offense had an up and down day with just five hits.

Fortunately for the home team, three of those came in the bottom of the fifth when Ephrata sent 12 men to the plate in a seven-run frame which helped overcome a 1-0 hole and led to an eventual 7-1 Mount victory.

Johns tied it with a bases-loaded walk in the fifth before White’s RBI single put Ephrata ahead to stay.

All in all, it was a solid win for the season opener, although it did seem a bit weird for the long-time Ephrata coach.

“First of all, it was a little strange going up against John and seeing him on the other side of the field,” Shelley said. “Him and I go a long way back as friends, teammates from the Twilight ball era, and he was our head JV coach at Ephrata when I was a freshman in 1987. So, I anticipated Twin Valley to be well-coached and he and his staff didn’t disappoint. For a wind-swept Opening Day, I thought both teams played hard and clean.”

“Obviously, the way we handled our first bout of in-game adversity, responding in the fifth with our first rally, was impressive,” he continued. “We had a number of players getting their first varsity starts so I was interested to see how they would perform under the spotlight. And, they stepped up in some key spots. Overall, it was a solid start to the 2019 campaign.”

Johns breezed through the first four innings, maximizing his efficiency by facing the minimum 12 batters with three Ks. Twin Valley finally got to Johns in the fifth of a 0-0 game when Matt Passerini led off the inning with a single to left to break up the perfect game.

Passerini eventually came around to score the game’s first run on Trevor Laraia’s RBI single, but Johns limited the damage to one run which set the tone for the Mounts’ seven-run outburst in the bottom of the inning.

“Hunter demonstrated to the rest of our pitching staff how you effectively mix pitches, get ahead in counts, and pound the zone,” Shelley said of Johns’ outing. “He had a perfect game through four before they made a little noise, and then he showed our team how to minimize the damage by leaving us with a manageable one-run deficit. Billy (Been) then came in for his first meaningful varsity action and mopped things up. So, I’m hoping the rest of the staff was paying attention.

Johns gave way to Been with two outs in the sixth, and the fellow senior righty navigated through a little damage before closing out the win.

As for Ephrata’s seven-run fifth, the Mounts took advantage of some wildness from Owen Mable, who was the third pitcher of the day for the Raiders. Ryan Jantzen got things started with a lead-off walk before Justin Brubaker coaxed a bases on balls two batters later. Bromirski then was hit by a pitch to load the bases before johns walked to force in the tying run.

White then knocked in the go-ahead run with a single, before two more walks and RBI hits by Zach Musser and Luke Andes (2 RBI) led to the seven-unanswered runs and the eventual victory.

“When you consider that there were only three players in (Saturday’s) Opening Day line-up that had 10 or more varsity bats, I was extremely pleased,” Shelley said of the offense. “We had nine at bats that saw six or more pitches, three at bats in which batters saw three or more pitches after two strikes, had two, two-out RBI, and were 16-for-30 in quality at-bats. And, we leveraged our advantage in walks, hit-by-pitches, and stolen bases with that huge crooked number in the decisive fifth. So, when you put our lack of experience into perspective with the way we stayed patient, grinded out at bats, and picked up the loose change, this game justifies our offensive approach moving forward.”

Up next, Ephrata opens Section Two play Wednesday on the road at Conestoga Valley (4:15 p.m.). The Mounts face a tough road test Friday at L-S (4:15 p.m.) before returning home for a non-league tilt Saturday vs. Cumberland Valley (3 p.m.).

The Mounts will also host Lebanon in Section Two action next Monday night at 7 p.m.




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