Crowning Achievement: Mounts claim L-L title with 9-6 win over L-S

By on May 23, 2018
Adam Schwartz and the rest of the Mounts hoist the trophy after winning the title with a 9-6 victory over the Pioneers. Photos by Travis Boyd

Adam Schwartz and the rest of the Mounts hoist the trophy after winning the title with a 9-6 victory over the Pioneers. Photos by Travis Boyd

When Ephrata fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first last Thursday at War Memorial in the L-L League finals vs. Lampeter-Strasburg, there certainly wasn’t any reason to panic.

After all, the Mounts have trailed before, and always seemed to find a way to fight back. That continued drive is one of the main reasons this squad ran off 13-straight victories, won the Section Two title, and got to this position in the first place.

So, despite the stage being a little brighter, the approach was the same.

And in the end, it fueled them to another L-L League crown.

After twice pulling even with the Pioneers in the early innings, the Mounts took the lead for good with three runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth. Reliever Hunter Johns came on for starter Adam Schwartz and got out of danger in both the fifth and sixth, before locking down the 9-6 victory and the championship with a scoreless seventh.

When Johns got Luke Weigel on a deep fly ball to center for the third out, it was time for the Mounts to dog pile in celebration of their fourth League crown under head coach Adrian Shelley and the first since 2015.

“This means a ton,” Ephrata junior catcher Ricky Bromirski said. “We worked so hard these past few seasons, and we’ve been building up for this. And it feels great to finally get it done.”

“It’s super exciting…that was a great team effort,” said Adam Schwartz one of two players who were part of the last league championship.

Shelley, whose teams also won crowns in 2003 and 2010, said the character of this team is what stands out to him.

“Character, and the way they handle the process,” he said. “If they do that well, and if they are positive difference-makers, the end results will take care of themselves. Sometimes they don’t in baseball, but before the game I told them, regardless of what happens tonight, I’m proud of the men they are. Whatever happens tonight we’ll let that play out. One of the reasons we’ve gotten here is these are exceptional young men and student-athletes.”

That character was tested early when the Pioneers (16-6) struck for the two quick runs in the first off Schwartz, who struggled with his command in the early going.

Patrick Holmes and Dylan Beiler both walked to lead off the inning before coming home on RBI singles by Chris Pirozzi and Aaron Snyder.

“The first inning especially I was not feeling on top of my game. But after the first inning I started to settle in,” Schwartz said.

His offense quickly got it back when Bromirski led off the bottom of the first with a single off L-S starter Todd Shelley. Then after Nate Young walked, Zac McGillan’s clutch single to right plated Bromirski. Adam Maser then brought Young home one batter later on an RBI ground out to second.

“I just told them after the top of the first, ‘we haven’t even hit yet so there is no reason for anybody to panic,’” Shelley said. “Let’s stick with our approach, we’ll adapt if we have to, but we were going to make them pitch. And they pitched us into an inning to make the game competitive and on an even playing field.”

L-S did re-take the lead at 3-2 when Connor Blantz led off the second with a triple to rightfield. He would come home two batters later on an RBI grounder by Joe Meck.

But that was all the offense the Pioneers would muster over the next three frames as Schwartz dialed in, retiring nine men in a row.

That allowed the Mounts’ offense to get going. Ephrata tied it at 3-3 in the bottom of the third when Bromirski walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch, was bunted to second by Young before scoring on a ground out to short by Schwartz.

Ephrata then took the lead for good in the fourth off reliever Josh Howells. Maser opened the inning with a line single to right before Blake White walked and Tim Beever singled to left to load the bases with nobody out.

Andrew Thomas then followed with an RBI single to right for the go-ahead run. White would later score on another wild pitch to make it 5-3, before pinch runner Justin Brubaker came home with the sixth Ephrata run on Bromirski’s fly to right to make it 6-3.

With Ephrata seemingly in command, the Pioneers answered with two runs in the fifth to make it a one-run game again and chase Schwartz. Johns then entered the game and the lefty reliever got a big second out when Beiler rolled out to third, and then he whiffed three-hole hitter Weigel to end the threat.

That led to another big three-run inning for the Mounts in the bottom of the fifth to make it 9-5. Ephrata scored all three runs with two outs as Beever (2-for-3) came through with a big RBI single before an error on a Thomas ground ball plated two more runs.

“The game kind of fit our style,” Shelley said. “It kind of played into the way we like to play, with just constantly trying to keep them guessing — are we going to bunt, what are we going to do? We got some key hits though tonight. “It was two-out runs. We had some key two-out runs and some guys put some balls in play with two strikes and two outs.”

After Johns allowed a run in the sixth to make it 9-6, Shelley had a decision to make. Would he leave Johns in for the seventh, or turn to either Young, McGillan or someone else to get the final three outs?

Shelley got his answer in the bottom of the sixth, despite not getting any more runs.

“We had a Plan B and a Plan C going into the seventh inning,” he said. “We had at least two guys warming up. Hunter actually asked me before the inning started, if he’s starting the inning and I told him it depends on the bottom of the sixth result. I walked away from him and he tracked me down and said, ‘Even if we don’t score I’d like the ball.’ I knew at that point we were just going to roll with him.”

It was a wise choice as Johns delivered the shutdown inning and the title.

“I’m proud of these guys,” Shelley said. “It’s always great to do this here when we host it. I think it’s great for the community and the school district. This will be special to this team.”

“I think what sets this team apart is this group has received the instruction, they’ve trusted the instruction but most importantly they grew up together this season trusting themselves,” he continued. “There were some wrinkles throughout the season that we had to iron out but in the midst of that, we kept sticking to this pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning approach, and it’s served us well. I think the other thing is we play a real strong schedule, so we are used to these type of games. And when you get into this fragile format of single elimination, they can handle it. We are comfortable in that situation…we aren’t comfortable thinking about the result. We always try to respect our opponent but we know how we are going to attack the game. And it’s living in the moment.”

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