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Bats silent again as Trojans oust Mounts
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
A lack of offensive punch was a big reason for Ephrata’s early exit in the L-L League playoffs last week. The Mounts managed just six hits and struck out 11 times in that game which resulted in a 7-2 Manheim Central victory.
And Monday at home in the District Three opener vs. Chambersburg, the Mounts’ offensive woes continued at the worst possible time.
With the season on the line, Ephrata could muster just two hits (four for the game) through the first six innings against Trojan ace Andrew Shreiner.
Then, after the Trojans scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take a commanding 5-0 lead, the Mounts did not go down without a fight, plating two runs off Shreiner in the bottom of the seventh.
But in the end, it wasn’t nearly enough as Chambersburg, winners now of six-straight games, eliminated Ephrata with a 5-2 first-round victory.
Shreiner, who recorded eight strike outs in the contest, will lead the 10th-seeded Trojans into Thursday’s second round where they’ll face Exeter (seeded 15th), which stunned second-seeded Red Land, 5-3. That game will be played Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Hershey.
As for the seventh-seeded Mounts, who are now 1-7 in their last eight District games, they conclude their season at 15-7.
"I think we’ll look back on this (post-season) and we’ll scratch our heads as to why we struggled so much offensively," Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley said following the season-ending loss. "We put a lot of time in over the last week trying to settle things down and taking swing after swing after swing…But at the end of the day, I credit our guys for working all season long and here in the post season to try to remedy that."
"(Shreiner) on the flipside, did a real nice job all game long mixing pitches," he continued. "He had three pitches going- a change up, a curveball and a fast ball. I think too much time is spent after losses examining what we didn’t do right, and a lot of times we fail to look on the other side of the diamond and give credit where credit is due. That said, in a best of three, best of five series, who knows? But you don’t get that opportunity, and you know that going into it so you have to make the most of it."
Shreiner certainly did that, after his counterpart Scott Liebl suffered through some first-inning control problems which helped give the Chambersburg pitcher a quick 2-0 lead.
Liebl, who would go on to toss six-plus strong innings, striking out five and scattering five hits, retired the first two batters before Shreiner and Angelo Hronis reached on back-to-back walks. Colby Dice then was hit by an 0-1 Liebl offering to load the bases and bring third baseman Nick Graham to the plate. Graham delivered a clutch single to center to bring home both runs and give Chambersburg the quick 2-0 lead.
That appeared to be all Shreiner would need.
The Trojan ace retired the side in order in four of the first five innings. The only trouble he got in during that stretch was in the bottom of the second when Andre Good drew a one-out walk and Josh Gehman followed with a single to center. But with runners at first and second, Shreiner struck out Ephrata DH Jared Martin before Bobby Nye’s sharp grounder to short was gobbled up by Drew Betz, who threw to third to nail Good for the inning-ending force out.
"We could not get a lead-off runner on when we needed to, couldn’t get that two-out hit when we needed it…," Shelley said. "The one opportunity early in the game (in the first) when (Chambersburg) needed a two-out hit with runners on, they got it. That’s the difference."
After the first, Liebl cruised until the fifth when Chambersburg loaded the bases with out out. However, the Ephrata senior pitched out of that threat, striking out both Dice and Graham to end the inning and keep the Mounts within striking distance.
Ephrata did get one runner aboard in the bottom of the sixth when pinch hitter Luke Morgan was hit by a pitch with one out. However, Graham made a nice turn at third on a sharply hit ball by Nye which second baseman Logan Stonesifer converted into a doubleplay.
Chambersburg then gained the three huge insurance runs in the top of the seventh which eventually keyed the win. The Mounts contributed to that cause with a pair of costly errors to fuel the rally. Shreiner collected his second hit of the game with a one-out single. Hronis then hit a bouncer to short that normally sure-handed Paul Larusso couldn’t handle, which placed runners at first and second. Dice then followed with an RBI single to left to plate courtesy runner Jonathan Browner to give the Trojans a 3-0 lead. One batter later, Graham hit a bouncer back to Liebl, who looked to third but Brandon Miller was not covering, so he threw to first but the ball eluded Nye and everybody was safe. Chambersburg’s Carlin Christian followed with a double to left which scored both runners and made it a 5-0 contest.
As fate would have it, the Mounts did rally in the seventh.
Colin Albright led off with a walk, and Brady Sipe hit a humpback liner to right. Trojan rightfield Tyghe Bowers, who appeared to get a late jump, recovered and laid out for a spectacular diving catch for the first out. But Ephrata still responded as Gehman, who had half of the Mounts’ four hits on the night, doubled to right-center to knock in Ephrata’s first run. Then, after Shreiner got a punchout for the second out, Nye doubled off the fence in left field to plate Gehman. However, Shreiner shook that off and whiffed Nate Cummings for his eighth strikeout of the night to end the game and Ephrata’s season.
"You know what, I think this game has a way of rubbing salt in the wounds. And it did it tonight," Shelley said. "That first inning we had two outs and nobody on and give up the two runs that we were trying to chase the entire game. Then in the sixth inning, two plays that aren’t made come back to haunt us…We gave them more than the needed number of outs, and it bit us. And of course, to kind of twist the knife in the back a little more, we get the two runs that we needed in the seventh inning."
"Tonight wasn’t about a lack of effort. It’s never been that," Shelley continued. "It’s more about the fragile line that I think a lot of teams walk at this point in the season. (Chambersburg) made several very good defensive plays tonight. When we needed a good defensive play tonight we couldn’t come up with it. I thought when Scott pitched out of that jam (in the fifth), I thought we could gain some momentum but it didn’t happen for us."
All in all, Shelley’s take from this season was quite positive, considering the Mounts won their fourth Section Two title in the last five years and sixth under the 16-year head coach. They did so after graduating five of their eight regulars from last year’s 16-6 squad.
"You always have to be extremely proud when a group sets out in the pre-season to battle through that 20-game span," Shelley said. "In the course of those 20 games, we can’t win a league championship and we can’t win a district championship. The only thing in front of us that we are capable of wrapping our arms around is the section title. Then after that, you don’t get 20 games to play with.
"We left last season as the four seed (in the District) coming into this season, and then lost a large portion of our team. So for this team to come back and be seventh in the District coming into the tournament, win another section title and have a 15-7 record, it’s certainly something we all should be proud of. We are not satisfied with the way it ended, but we are able to walk away with something here, understanding that all of the work that was put into it did amount to something. I’m very proud of the players and the coaches."
More MOUNTS, page B-5