Blame it on the rain …
The District 10 American Legion Tournament has turned into a bit of a quagmire, both figuratively and literally.
With rain and wet fields washing out action on Monday and Tuesday in Ephrata, and a champion needing to be crowned by Wednesday evening, it took some re-working of the schedule and the permission by the State to extend the tournament for an extra day to accommodate potentially three games that still may need to be played.
By 4 p.m. Tuesday, however, it was all cleared up and the schedule is now set:
For the third-straight day, Ephrata and Lancaster will try to play when they meet Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Penn Manor. The loser of that game will be eliminated, while the winner will turn right around and face Winner’s Bracket finalist Penn Manor at approximately 6:15 p.m. Wednesday evening.
If Penn Manor wins that game, the Comets clinch the District 10 title. Should the Ephrata-Lancaster survivor defeat Penn Manor, then a final game would be played Thursday at 4 p.m. If it’s Ephrata, the Post 429ers will host since they are the top seed in the tournament. If it’s Lancaster, that game will be hosted by Penn Manor.
The District 10 champion will advance to the eight-team Region Four Tournament, which will be held at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg, beginning Saturday.
The Lancaster County winner will face Shippensburg, the Franklin County champion in the first round at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The tourney will run from Saturday through Wednesday, July 23.
For the first time during their string of championship runs, if Ephrata is going to add a fourth-straight District 10 title it will need to do it through the loser’s bracket thanks to Sunday’s 2-1 loss at home to Penn Manor.
Comet lefty Jeff Taylor was dealing in this one, striking out 11 and walking none in his complete-game masterpiece held at the Ephrata Middle School.
Taylor blanked Ephrata through six frames before the Post 429ers did put a rally together in the bottom of the seventh. Chase Weik’s two-out RBI single plated Jarred Martin with Post 429’s first run. However, Taylor was able to get Michael Caraballo to chase on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt to strike out the side and clinch the win.
“He did a good job,” Ephrata Coach Derek Sipe said of Taylor. “He threw strikes and kept us off balance.”
Sipe also added that he thought some of the lack of offensive production was self-inflicted.
“(Taylor) did a good job pounding the zone but I thought we waited around in counts and we helped them out by taking strikes and swinging at balls,” he said. “That’s not a good recipe (for success), especially when the entire lineup is doing it.”
Ephrata’s lack of offense also ruined a solid outing by pitcher Morgan Stauffer, who went the distance and allowed just the two runs. He struck out one and walked one while scattering six hits in the loss.
“Morgan did a heck of a job,” Sipe said. “You ask a pitcher to go out there and throw the entire game and he gives up two runs…if a couple of things would have fell his way, and he gave up just one or even no runs it would be a different story. But he was around the zone all day and gave us an opportunity to win, and most days that type of outing is going to get a ‘W.’ Unfortunately he wasn’t backed up by the offense today but he did all he could do. He battled and pitched a heck of a game.”
Ephrata (16-5) actually threatened to break out on top first in the bottom of the second. Nate Baxter led off with a single and Brady Sipe followed with a hit one-out later to place runners at first and second. After Martin whiffed for the second out, Anthony Embiscuso ripped a liner that was snagged by Nate McFarland at short to end the threat.
The Comets then broke out on top 1-0 with a single run in the top of the third. With the bases loaded and two outs, Collin Groff’s sharply hit grounder between third and short deflected off the glove of Ethan Sipe at third, allowing the run to score.
While Ephrata never really threatened again until the seventh, the Comets added what turned out to be the winning run in the top of the fifth when Groff lined a two-out single to left to plate McFarland, who led off the inning getting hit by a pitch.
“The couple runs that they were able to score they really didn’t do anything magical,” Coach Sipe said. “They just put the ball in play and gave themselves an opportunity to find holes or for us to make mistakes, and we didn’t do that.”
For the game, Ephrata managed just six hits (all singles) offensively with Weik, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth, going 2-for-2 to lead the way. Martin had the lone extra-base hit for Ephrata with his seventh-inning double.
While this is the first time in Sipe’s four-years as head coach that Ephrata will need to go through the loser’s bracket in the District 10 playoffs, they have completed that mission before in Regionals. Back in 2012, Ephrata dropped its first game at Regionals and then ran off five wins in a row to win the tournament and advance to States.
Sipe is confident his team can do it again.
“We know we are not done,” he said. “We are far from done. We just have to take it one game at a time from here on out…we can beat any team. I reminded them of how many three-game winning streaks we’ve had through the year. It’s not going to be an issue to do that but we have to play the kind of baseball that we are capable of playing.”
Ephrata, the top seed, earned a 5-3 victory over Lancaster Saturday in the first round of the double-elimination portion of the tournament.
Pitcher Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish went six strong innings, allowing just five hits with four Ks and a pair of walks to get the win. Nate Baxter pitched an uneventful seventh to earn the save for Ephrata, which was outhit by Lancaster, 5-4.
Ephrata scored three runs in the top of the first to stake Fogarty-Harnish out to a comfortable early lead. Both Baxter and Brady Sipe delivered RBI hits in the inning while Josh Gehman drove home the other run on an RBI groundout.
After Lancaster responded with two runs in the second, Ephrata got those two runs back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. Brady Sipe scored on an error before Ethan Sipe delivered a sac fly to plate Martin, who had reached earlier on a walk.
Lancaster did cut it to 5-3 with a run in the top of the sixth before Baxter came on to close it out.