Back to the District Finals

By on May 30, 2018
Ephrata’s Dylan Embiscuso (right) slides into home safely to score a run in Ephrata’s 12-2 victory over Lower Dauphin Tuesday in the District Semifinals at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Ephrata’s Dylan Embiscuso (right) slides into home safely to score a run in Ephrata’s 12-2 victory over Lower Dauphin Tuesday in the District Semifinals at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Young, Mounts dominate Lower Dauphin, face Cedar Cliff in Wednesday’s championship game

FREDERICKSBURG, Pa. — Ephrata is headed back to the District Three Baseball Finals.

Just two years removed from winning their first in program history, the Mounts will make a return trip to the District Three title game after thumping second-seeded Lower Dauphin 12-2 in a contest played at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg Tuesday.

Senior pitcher Nate Young tossed a masterful six innings Tuesday, striking out nine Falcons while allowing just three hits. LD finally got to Young with a pair of runs in the sixth, but by that time the Mounts had it well in hand thanks to an offense that had all five LD pitchers in trouble in all but one inning.

The District Three 5A title game will be back at Wenger Field Wednesday (4:30 p.m.) where the Mounts (23-3) will face defending champion Cedar Cliff (16-5), the eighth seed, which beat Red Land 11-1 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.

The finals were moved up to Wednesday from Thursday due to the impending wet weather expected to hit the region later in the week.

“It’s awesome to be going back,” Young said following Tuesday’s victory. “It’s great to be back and actually have a contribution because I was (a reserve) on the 2016 team. That was an awesome ride so to be able to go back is great.”

Wednesday’s opponent will be a tough out. Cedar Cliff has scored 21 runs over its last two games, including 10 in a six-run victory (10-4) over top-seeded Muhlenberg last week.

But, according to Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley, his team will approach the title game as it has the last 17 games, which have all ended in wins.

“We’re looking forward to an opportunity,” Shelley said of Wednesday’s final. “I think the way we approached tonight’s game proved to everybody that it’s just going to be a one-game approach. I guess the question I have for our team is, and I’ve asked them before, ‘is this game bigger than McCaskey in the middle of the year?’ It shouldn’t be because that particular day we needed to win. The next game when we played Governor Mifflin the day after that 10-inning McCaskey game, we needed to win that game, so does the championship change the value of it? And if it does, then you are allowing these moments to become actually bigger than they are. It’s just another seven-inning game, and that’s the way we plan to frame it.”

Tuesday, they couldn’t have framed it any better as the offense staked Young out to a quick early lead with a run in the top of the first, and then they rode the big lefty the rest of the way.

Ricky Bromirski and Young led off the game with back-to-back walks off Falcon starter Will Manley. Bromirski then advanced to third on a fly ball to center by Adam Schwartz, and scored one batter later on Zac McGillan’s RBI flyout to left.

“I think it was important being the road team (to get an early lead) in a game like this,” Shelley said. “You have two teams coming in with long winning streaks and big records, and you have the first crack to set the tone. And when you can do that and then counter with a zero in the bottom half, it announced our arrival. It announced our presence.”

With Young facing one above the minimum through two innings, Ephrata threatened in the second before tacking on a big second run in the third. Schwartz doubled down the left field line with one out, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then came home on Adam Maser’s bunt between the pitcher and third base.

“It was huge getting the lead early,” Young said. “It gave me confidence. (Lower Dauphin) was made out to be a really good team and everyone was saying how good they were going to be. After the first couple innings we kind of decided we can hang with these guys, so that was a major confidence booster.”

Young mowed down LD (20-3) with a pair of strikeouts in the third, and then survived the Falcons’ first hit (off the bat of Tom Bramley) when he stranded two runners in the fourth.

Ephrata pitcher Nate Young delivers in Tuesday’s 12-2 victory over Lower Dauphin in the District Semifinals at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Ephrata pitcher Nate Young delivers in Tuesday’s 12-2 victory over Lower Dauphin in the District Semifinals at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg. Photo by Missi Mortimer

That came after the third-seeded Mounts broke the game open in the top half of that inning, sending 10 batters to the plate, scoring five runs and chasing both Manley (3 Ks, 8 BBs) and reliever Hunter Eisenhour in the process.

Ephrata loaded the bases with one out on a hit and two walks before Young was walked by Eisenhour to force in the third run of the game. Schwartz then was hit by a pitch to force in another run before McGillan walked to plate the fifth Mountaineer run.

Maser then greeted the second reliever in the inning, Jerek Bacon, when he ripped a first-pitch fastball through the drawn-in infield on the left side to knock in two more runs with an RBI single to make it 7-0.

“(Maser) handles the bat well,” Shelley said. “What I told him in that situation was, they are bringing the infield up so there’s angles out there. Don’t wait around. Try to jump on one and he squared it up and pushed it through.”

Bacon got a pair of strikeouts to finally get out of the inning, but the damage was done.

Shelley credited his team’s plate discipline as the Mounts drew 11 walks Tuesday, sprinkled in with seven key hits.

“We take a lot of pitches,” he said. “And we take a lot of pitches in order to have every single player understand the strike zone. One of the key elements to the offense is being able to understand how wide it is today, because it changes every day, but how wide is it today? What’s the top of it and what’s the bottom of it? Today, the deeper we were in counts we started to understand it’s a lower zone. Then that’s the one we were trying to hunt.”

“Our offense continues to get better,” he continued. “The blessing in extending the season is we get to practice more, and our practices have been very focused on trying to turn our weaknesses into strengths. That’s not to say our offense has been a weakness, but it’s not what you think of that has gotten us here. If we can add that to the mix, that’s going to make us an even stronger and more solid and well-rounded team.”

After Young struck out the side in the fifth, Blake White knocked in two more runs with a double off the third base bag, which plated Schwartz and McGillan with the eighth and ninth runs.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Falcons finally got to Young as Clay Spencer and Josh Saufley opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Spencer eventually came around to score on an RBI ground out by Bacon, and Saufley crossed the plate one batter later on a wild pitch.

But Young worked out of further damage, striking out Derek Wylde on his 102nd and final pitch of the night.

“Getting my fastball over the plate first pitch for a strike is what my coach stresses,” he said. “And it’s not always a fastball but today I think I got more first-pitch strikes than I didn’t. I think that was a big key for me.”

Then leading 9-2, Ephrata did answer LD with three more runs in the top of the seventh. Bromirski knocked in one run with a single to left before McGillan’s fly to right plated two more runs after an errant throw from the outfield allowed the second runner to score.

Hunter Johns came on for Ephrata in the seventh and did allow an infield hit to Nick Bennett before striking out the side to put the finishing touches on this one.

Andrew Thomas went 2-for-4 on the day and scored a pair of runs. Maser knocked in three while both McGillan and White added a pair of RBI each.

In addition to having a chance to play for the District title, the Mounts have already qualified for the upcoming State 5A playoffs, which begin Monday. Should Ephrata win Wednesday, it would draw the District 7 runner-up Monday. A loss to Cedar Cliff Wednesday would mean facing the District 11 champion in Monday’s first round.

Ephrata advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals by virtue of a wild, 4-3 walk-off victory last Tuesday at home vs. Lampeter-Strasburg in the Quarterfinal Round.

The Mounts led 2-0 for most of the way until L-S rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to take a 3-2 lead.

However, with their backs against the wall, the Mounts came up with a rally of their own. Schwartz, who started the game on the hill for Ephrata and struck out six while scattering four hits over four-plus frames, was hit by a pitch from L-S reliever Josh Howells to lead off the bottom of the seventh. McGillan followed with a walk, bringing Maser to the plate with runners at first and second and nobody out.

Maser, looking to advance the runners, dropped down a perfect bunt along the third base line, Howells fielded it, had no play on the runners so turned and fired to first. However, the throw eluded first baseman Hunter Cunningham and went down the rightfield line, allowing Schwartz to score the tying run.

The second runner also came around to score the winning run when it was ruled L-S rightfielder stepped out of play when he retrieved the errant throw from Howells.

“They’re a really good team,” Shelley said of the Pioneers, who lost for the third time in four tries against the Mounts. “I wouldn’t want to be on the other side — that’s a devastating way to lose. They played hard, they did a great job coming back. You don’t want a game to end like that.”

Ephrata took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first against Pirozzi, the L-S starter. Bromirski led off with a single and Young followed with a double. After Pirozzi struck out Schwartz, McGillan singled to left to plate Bromirski.

The Mounts then added a run in the fourth on an RBI single by Bromirski to make it 2-0.

It stayed that way until the seventh when L-S put together four-straight singles to start the inning (five total) off before reliever Hunter Johns got the final two outs with two men aboard to keep the deficit at one run and set the stage for the wild conclusion.

“It was a momentum shift, no doubt about it, but I felt like we had to strand those two runners in scoring position to keep it 3-2,” Shelley said. “I felt a hit there may be the knockout blow. Keeping it at one knowing that we had 3-4-5 up, I felt that we could scratch one across.”

L-S out-hit Ephrata 11-5 for the game. Bromirski and McGillan each had two hits for the Mounts to lead the way.

Pirozzi, Dylan Beiler, Cunningham and Connor Blantz all had two hits each for the Pioneers, who closed out the season at 17-7.

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