Diamond Kings: Ephrata knocks off Cedar Cliff to claim District Three crown

By on June 6, 2018

FREDERICKSBURG — Throughout its 17-game winning streak that began April 20, and continued through its amazing single-elimination post-season run, Ephrata’s approach in each game was pretty simple.

“If you think about it, you are 0-0, and you can’t go 0-1,” Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley explained. “You need to go 1-0, and that’s pretty much how we did it…that’s how we bucked the odds.”

As simple as it may seem, the odds of pulling off a feat such as that, which included a Section Two title, and an L-L League crown along the way, are pretty astronomical. Yet, last Wednesday at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg, Ephrata needed to just go “1-0” one more time, this time against Cedar Cliff, to add even yet another title, a District Three championship, to its name.

And behind the clutch hitting of designated hitter Tim Beever, who knocked in three runs on a 3-for-3 night, and yet another dominant mound performance, this time by senior Adam Schwartz, the Mounts did indeed claim the title, knocking off the defending District champion Colts in a 4-2 final.

Sure, Ephrata did have to sweat out the top of the seventh when the Colts’ Trey Law ripped a liner to right off reliever Hunter Johns with the potential tying runs at second and third. But rightfield Adam Maser had him played perfectly, snaring the ball for the final out to set off another dogpile celebration for the Mounts.

“To run through the league tournament, which is a very difficult bracket, and then to get into this tournament and represent the L-L League and Section Two the way we did, it’s a credit to these guys,” Shelley said following the win. “We were told last summer at (Clipper Magazine Stadium) when they were doing the midget tournament that Section Two was going to be a dog fight, and they rattled off a bunch of teams. And the last line of that was, ‘and you guys (meaning Ephrata) will be OK.’ We were grateful that we were invited to the dog fight. We like the dog piles more though.”

Ephrata’s 18th-straight victory produced their second District crown in three years after winning it in 2016 when Schwartz was a sophomore.

“(When comparing the two), this one means a little more,” Schwartz said. “My sophomore year was amazing and so much fun but this one just means a little bit more.”

Beever, who won his first Wednesday, echoed those thoughts.

“You feel on top of the world,” he said. “It’s a good feeling.”

With the win, the Mounts (24-3) earned just the eighth District title of any kind in Ephrata history, joining boys lacrosse (2011-12), wrestling (1990-91), field hockey (1989-90 & 1980-81), softball (1989-90), girls basketball (1985-86) and of course their 2016 championship.

“It is very difficult to win this tournament,” Shelley said. “We’ve been in it many times and have lost most of them. I’ll say this, there is a lot to be said about the breakthrough. In 2016 that team put us on the District championship map. And it’s like the space program, once people went to the moon that opened up all kind of doors. It made it tangible. It defined our core values…the last line is ‘dream big,’ and it defined what that is. Making it to States that year made it a reality that a baseball team from our school district could do that.”

“And now we turn around and they are legion state champions, and now District champions,” he continued. “That’s the power of the ‘seeing is believing.’ On another note, this group has probably synergized more than any group that we’ve had. There is very little telling them what they have to correct at this point of the season. They are just all together doing what they are suppose to do.”

Wednesday, Schwartz did what he was suppose to do, which was keeping the Colts’ potent offense in check for most of the night. The only blemish he had came in the top of the second when Cliff’s Donovan Ball led off with a single and eventually came around to score on an RBI groundout by Chris Dare to give the Colts a 1-0 lead.

But that lead was short-lived, as Ephrata tied it in the second off Law, the CC starter.

Zac McGillan (2-for-2 with a double) singled up the middle to start the inning. He would eventually be erased by a fielder’s choice groundout by Maser, who would get himself into scoring position one batter later when he stole second. That set the stage for Beever, who delivered a clutch two-out hit to right to even it at 1-1.

Ephrata took the lead for good in the fourth, scoring a pair of runs to go up 3-1. Schwartz got it started with a lead-off double to the fence in left field. Courtesy runner Jacob Zimmerman then was sac bunted to third by McGillan where he came home on a wild pitch to give the Mounts the lead. Maser eventually walked and scored as well when Beeber ripped a pitch into the gap in left-center to plate Maser with the third Ephrata run.

While Schwartz (5 Ks, 1 BB) was cruising along— he allowed just two hits through six— the Mounts did tack on a big insurance run in the sixth when McGillan doubled with one out and eventually scored on a Beever single to right.

“It was just the confidence from that first hit through the game,” Beever said of his offensive night. “The first at bat, second at bat, I was feeling fine. By the third at bat, I could have just stood in the batter’s box all day.”

Shelley lauded Beever and the entire offense, which produced seven hits on the night against three Colt pitchers.

“(Beever) had a big night. I’m proud of him,” the Coach said. “Their approaches for the entire season have been excellent. We’ve continued to polish our approaches at the plate, and each guy has continued to improve. I think the offense took a backseat in the post-season to the pitching, for some obvious reasons, but without the offense in some key situations, this tournament probably ends in a different way for us.”

Leading 4-1 and three outs away, Schwartz looked to close things out in the seventh. It didn’t exactly work out as he planned though as Ball drew a lead-off walk, Chris Goff reached on an error and Dare singled to load the bases with nobody out.

With three lefty hitters scheduled in a row, Shelley summoned Johns, also a left-hander, to nail it down. That decision paid off as Johns whiffed Caden Malone on three pitches before getting Collin Dorrell to ground out for the second out.

A run did score on that play to make it 4-2, and the remaining runners moved into scoring position. However, when Maser calmly hauled in Law’s two-out liner, the championship was delivered.

“The seventh inning is never easy. Ever,” Shelley said when asked about his nerves in the last frame. “And especially in games like this. (Cedar Cliff) came back and give them credit for battling back there to put the pressure back on us. But we were ready with Hunter, and when the three lefties were stacked up like that, it was pretty much a no brainer.”

Schwartz admitted he wanted to get the complete game but was happy for Johns.

“Yeah I did,” he said. “I was a little unfortunate with a few batters there but Hunter came in and really picked me up.”

And it all added up to their 18th-straight win.

“You get to the point where you feel everything just clicks,” Beever said of the streak. “You don’t feel like you can do anything wrong.”

Shelley added, “It’s really on the side of remarkable. It’s certainly going against some of the probability and the math involved at this point. We stopped thinking about that and tried to insulate us with our approach to each game. That’s the only thing I think has protected us from the idea that you shouldn’t win 18 games in-a-row, you shouldn’t win back-to-back brackets in single-elimination formats…the odds aren’t in your favor.

“Like I said we’ve been in (Districts) a lot—this is the 12th consecutive year— and we’ve only won two of them. We’ve only gotten to the semifinals a few times so to keep rolling, you stop thinking about that. Like I said the other day, this was the next game.”

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