Legion of broom: Chryslers sweep through league playoffs, advance to regionals

By on July 12, 2017
Ephrata’s Brock Kauffman scores a first inning run during Tuesday’s District 10 League final vs. Columbia.

Ephrata’s Brock Kauffman scores a first inning run during Tuesday’s District 10 League final vs. Columbia.

When Ephrata saw it’s 3-0 lead evaporate in the top of the fifth Tuesday at War Memorial Field in the District 10 finals vs. Columbia, there was no panic.

Instead, there was a response.

That’s what championship teams do, and Ephrata, vying for its sixth league title in seven years, certainly knows how to do just that.

The Chryslers sent 12 men to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, collecting six runs on six hits to steal back the momentum and cruise the rest of the way to clinch an eventual 9-4 victory.

With the win, the Chryslers (21-3) not only claimed their sixth crown since 2011 but punched their ticket to the Region Four Tournament for the seventh-straight season.

Evan Frees (4) reacts in front of Coach Derek Sipe after ripping an RBI triple in the Chryslers’ six-run fifth inning which gave them the lead for good.

Evan Frees (4) reacts in front of Coach Derek Sipe after ripping an RBI triple in the Chryslers’ six-run fifth inning which gave them the lead for good.

Ephrata, which last hoisted a Region Four championship trophy in 2012, will begin tournament play Saturday (12:30 p.m.) at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg, where it will face the Franklin County champion. That title, incidentally, will be decided tonight (weather permitting) after Shippensburg (11-8) and Waynesboro (13-6) were washed out Tuesday.

Regardless of Ephrata’s success at regionals, the Post 429ers are guaranteed a berth into the State Tournament because they are the host team. But they still want to feel as if they earned it. And Tuesday’s District 10 title was a good start.

“It feels great,” Ephrata Coach Derek Sipe said following the win. “This year is a little different because we don’t have our backs against the wall having to win it to move on. It takes a lot of pressure off, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. We have bigger goals and this is just one of the steps along the way for us.”

A step that seemed in jeopardy after Columbia rallied in the fifth.

Ephrata starter Adam Schwartz allowed just one hit through the first four innings and carried a comfortable 3-0 lead into the fifth. But it would evaporate quickly after James Pesalano’s one-out single started the Columbia rally.

Justin Kelly was then hit by a pitch to place runners at first and second before Andrew Sheckard’s single drove in Pesalano for the first Columbia run. Nick Stoner then delivered a ball to the gap in left-center field to score both runners and knot the game at 3-3, chasing Schwartz in the process.

Sipe summoned Hunter Johns from the bullpen, and he was able to put out the fire, retiring Brayden Clair on a fly to right before striking out Jared Kashner to end the inning.

“We weren’t too down,” Ephrata’s Dillon Good said when asked about the mood in the dugout after Columbia tied it. “It (stinks) giving up the lead but having Hunter come in and get those two outs…that was big for us. That got the momentum back in our favor.”

There certainly wasn’t any panic, especially from one of the team’s veterans who has been through the wars before.

“No. not at all,” Ephrata catcher Justin Carvell said. “We trusted the line-up completely.”

Designated hitter Ricky Bromirski started the bottom of the fifth off with a single against Columbia starter Jeremy Sabathne. Then after Brock Kauffman, who led Ephrata with three hits, reached base on an infield single, Good laid down a perfect bunt to load the bases.

Nick Lucky then delivered a double to centerfield to score both Bromirski and Kauffman with the go-ahead runs, but the Chryslers were only getting started.

Carvell followed with an RBI hit, Johns delivered a sacrifice fly, a run scored on a wild pitch and Evan Frees knocked in the final run of the inning with an RBI triple to right-center.

“We had been struggling to make solid contact the entire tournament,” Sipe said. “I think that inning we finally managed to do some damage and that’s important. When a team gains momentum like that and their dugout started getting into it, that was a big moment for us. We hoped to get one or two and gain back some momentum, and putting up six like we did obviously separates you and gives you a good chance to win. That was obviously the difference in the game.”

Johns stayed in and got through the sixth unscathed before giving way to Adam Maser to close it out. Maser did allow a run on an RBI ground ball by Chad Caley, but the lefty reliever struck out the next batter, Gabe Grove, to end it.

“Tonight was a lot better for me than last year actually because this is my last year to play,” said Carvell, who won his second-straight title, not to mention a District championship in high school last year, as starting catcher. “I know the guys gave it their all, especially when it was tied and we came back and scored six runs…it just felt a lot better than last year to get this title.”

Good, another player who has numerous titles under his belt, added that there are hopefully bigger fish to fry down the road.

“It’s always fun to win,” he said. “Obviously, we kind of have our sights set a little bit higher, but you can never complain about winning. It’s always fun no matter how many times you do it.”

He and his past and present teammates have now done it six times since winning their first under Sipe in 2011.

“You never want to be the team that loses that legacy,” Good said. “You just want to continue it, and build on it if you can. That’s really what we are looking to do this year. We have a great chance with regionals coming up, and then obviously hosting the state tournament we are really looking forward to have that chance to build on that.”

What’s been the key to their dominance in the District 10 League?

“I think it’s the guys just buying into it,” Sipe said. “They show up and play hard, and they are awfully talented as well. And we’ve been blessed to have that same formula year after year after year. It continues to build and it seems like it’s getting better year after year after year. A lot of it’s because of the former players. They’ve laid this ground work and the guys know the expectations when they show up. It’s a winning atmosphere, and that becomes contagious. They enjoy winning and enjoy being a part of something special.”

Ephrata collected nine hits on the night with Kauffman’s 3-for-3 performance leading the team in that department. Lucky knocked in three runs on a pair of hits, while Tyler Keppley added two singles.

James Pesalano led the way for Columbia with three hits on the night.

Columbia advanced to Tuesday after earning a 5-4 victory over Lancaster Monday night in the loser’s bracket final.

They were sent to the loser’s bracket by Ephrata Sunday when the Chryslers won in their final at bat for the second-straight day.

With the score deadlocked at 3-3, Ephrata’s Bromirski scored from third base on Carvell’s bases-loaded grounder to third with one out in the seventh as the Chryslers walked-off with a 4-3 victory.

Ephrata fell behind 2-0 in the top of the second as Gabe Grove and Caden Livingston both knocked in runs for Columbia.

The Chryslers quickly responded in the bottom of the inning, sending nine men to the plate and scoring three runs to grab the lead.

Schwartz and Frees had back-to-back singles with one out before Zac McGillan walked to load the bases. Patrick Gallagher then delivered an RBI single to rightfield to cut the Columbia lead in half. Ephrata would add its next two runs on a pair of bases-loaded walks by Bryan Downey and Good to gain the advantage.

McGillan, who relieved starter Hunter Johns in the third, held Columbia off the board in the third and fourth, but the visitors would tie it in the fifth.

Sheckard started off the Columbia fifth with a lead-off single to right. He was erased on Stoner’s fielder’s choice grounder, but Stoner would eventually come around to score on an RBI double to tie the game at 3-3.

It would stay that way until Ephrata won it in the seventh.

McGillan pitched the final five frames to earn the victory. He struck out one and did not walk a batter while scattering six hits.

Ephrata collected just four hits off Pesolano (3 Ks, 4 BBs), who went the distance for Columbia.

Ephrata, the regular-season champion, opened the playoffs Saturday night at War Memorial against Lancaster.

This one would take extra innings to decide it as the teams were knotted at 1-1 after seven full innings.

The Chryslers eventually would prevail in the bottom of the ninth when Good laced a ground-rule double with the bases loaded to clinch the 2-1 Ephrata victory.


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