Complete performance Mounts mash Bucks to win fifth section title in six years
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
, Staff Writer
Ephrata Baseball Coach Adrian Shelley was looking forward to a day off Tuesday. Come to think of it, his players probably were too.
After all, the Mounts were locked in a 20 game grind that spanned a month and a half and culminated Monday night with a convincing 14-2 section clinching victory over Conestoga Valley at War Memorial Field.
Ephrata, which came into the day with a one-game lead over hard-charging Solanco, avoided a possible one-game Tuesday playoff with the Mules by putting together one of its best performances of the season against the Buckskins.
On the mound, Seth Griffith captured his fifth victory of the season, limiting CV to just two hits with six Ks and 0 walks over four innings before handing it over to the bullpen.
Offensively, Ephrata pounded out 10 hits and scored multiple runs in every frame en route to the five-inning victory.
The section title marks the second straight for Ephrata, fifth in the last six years and sixth overall under Shelley.
"I’m happy for the players," Shelley said. "I’m happy for the seniors. We have a bunch of really good kids in all four classes but particularly that senior group. We have some guys who were multi-sport athletes who have worked hard and have been deserving of something, and I’m glad they were able to taste a championship. It’s well-deserved."
Paul Larusso, a senior shortstop who has started all four years of his Mountaineer career, has been part of three section and one league championship team during his varsity career.
He said the common theme between those title teams and the present one is a willingness to work.
"The teams that we’ve had always had an amazing group of guys," he said, following the victory. "Everybody has always been willing to work hard, and there is nothing different with this team. We worked hard and it looks like we have another section title."
Fellow senior Brandon Miller, a top pitcher and hitter on the team, said it was great to accomplish the first goal, but more lies ahead.
"(Winning the section) is pretty awesome, and as a senior it feels great to win a section title again," he said. "But this is just the first step. We got a long way to go so we just keep moving on."
Miller, who led the Mounts Monday with two hits and three RBI, was looking ahead to the post-season, which begins with the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs which get under way Saturday at War Memorial. The Mounts will face Section Three runner-up Manheim Central in the first round, beginning at 4 p.m. Other quarterfinal games set for the War Saturday include: Lancaster Catholic vs. Warwick at 10 a.m.; Donegal vs. Solanco at 1 p.m.; and Annville-Cleona vs. Hempfield at 7 p.m.
That field is considered to be even across the board by many prognosticators, and Shelley agrees.
"The post-season, you got to play your best baseball at that time of year," he said. "There is almost zero margin for error. And when the field is this competitive and you don’t bring your ‘A game,’ it’s going to be an early exit."
Back to Monday where Griffith set the tone in the first, allowing two runners to reach base before getting a two-out strike out to retire the Buckskins.
As it turned out, it would be the only trouble Griffith would be in the rest of the night as he only allowed a two-out hit by Gavin High in the third, and hit a batter in the fourth. He easily worked out of those jams to keep CV off the board through four.
"My main focus tonight was to go out there, throw strikes and let the defense make the plays," Griffith said of his outing.
Offensively, Ephrata didn’t waste any time. The Mounts chased CV starter Tyler Williams (four walks and a hit batsman) after just a third of an inning, scoring three runs without a hit in the first.
Ephrata then got the sticks going in the second, sending eight men to the plate and tacking on four more runs to make it 7-0.
Josh Gehman delivered an RBI single, scoring Larusso, who also reached on a one-out single. Miller added an RBI hit before Brady Sipe brought the final two runs in the frame home on a bloop hit to right field.
Friday night at E-town, Ephrata’s bats went silent in what turned out to be a 3-1 loss to the Bears which kept the Mounts from clinching. Monday night, Ephrata kept producing big hit after big hit to open it up.
"Our approach tonight was a lot better than our last game against E-town," Larusso said. "We were very even keel, and we had a lot of fun today. I didn’t see that in the last game, but it really worked out tonight."
Shelley added, "We discussed on Friday that when the bats were struggling a bit, we seemed to react to it in a way where we were playing not to lose instead of to win. Tonight I told them, ‘if you trust your teammates and you trust your coaches, and if you can appreciate the body of work that has been done up to this point, then there is no reason to fear failure. So with that in mind, let’s go attack the day.’ And they did that."
The Mounts turned it into a rout in the third, sending 11 more men to the plate while tacking on four more runs. Matt Herbener and Miller both delivered key two-run singles to provide the runs.
After Ephrata scored two more in the fourth to make it 14-0, CV scored its only two runs in the top of the fifth.
Adrian Suarez got the Buckskins on the board when he led off the fifth with a home run to left field off Ephrata reliever Brandon smith.
Kelvin Reyes later drilled an RBI single in the inning before a second Ephrata reliever Brody Hoshour coaxed a pop up which put an end to the game due to the 10-run rule.
"We just had to play our game tonight," Miller said of the big win. "We knew we knew how we could play. We hit the ball in the beginning of the season and we just knew we had to do that. We didn’t really want to play (Tuesday). We knew we had to be on our game with pitching, defense and offense, and that’s what we did."
Larusso added, "We always have our pitching on but when we are hitting I feel like nobody can stop us. It was really nice to see it come back."
The Mounts certainly would like to see it continue into Saturday’s game where they’ll likely face Manheim Central ace Andrew Buchter, who is 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA on the year.
Shelley said after Tuesday’s day off, they’ll get back to work Wednesday and get ready for the Barons.
"We’ll go back to the drawing board and have a few days of practice leading up to Saturday," he said. "Leading up to Saturday we are going to polish some things up, but right now they just got to go out and play. Tonight, they got a little taste of a championship with the dogpile at the end. Now they know what it feels like, and if that’s extra incentive, good. If it’s just continuing this season as long as possible, that’s what I hope they have in their minds.
"As many times as we’ve been here, one thing can cost you your shot in advancing to the next round. You have to be ready to make the most of the opportunity."
In Friday’s 3-1 loss at E-town, Ephrata had just four hits and committed three big errors to key the loss.
Last Wednesday, Ephrata did capture a 16-1 victory over Cocalico at the War in five innings.
The Mounts pounded out 10 hits off three Eagle pitchers as they scored multiple runs in every inning en route to the victory.
The Eagles closed out their season Monday afternoon at home in an 8-3 loss to Solanco. The score was tied 3-3 before the Mules broke it open in the top of the seventh, scoring five runs in the frame to key the win.
The Eagles also dropped an 8-7 decision at home to Conestoga Valley last Thursday.
Cocalico led 3-0 after two innings before the Buckskins came all the way back to capture the come-from-behind victory.
Cocalico, which out-hit CV, 10-7, closed out the season at 1-15 in league play (2-16 overall).
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