District 10 crown returns to Ephrata

By on July 13, 2016

Post 429ers earn sixth straight trip to Region 4 Tournament

 

History repeated itself for Austin Lowrey on Tuesday night.

Ephrata players and coaches celebrate with the District 10 American Legion championship trophy after defeating rival Penn Manor 8-5 in Tuesday’s championship game at War Memorial Field. It’s the Post 429ers’ fifth league crown in the past six seasons. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Ephrata players and coaches celebrate with the District 10 American Legion championship trophy after defeating rival Penn Manor 8-5 in Tuesday’s championship game at War Memorial Field. It’s the Post 429ers’ fifth league crown in the past six seasons. (Photo by Stan Hall)

The 2015 Ephrata High School graduate was back on the same mound where he defeated Penn Manor as a senior in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs nearly 14 months ago.

This time, he got the ball with an opportunity to clinch the District 10 American Legion crown for the Ephrata Post 429ers.

His opponent was none other than … yep, you guess it, Penn Manor.

And once again, Lowrey didn’t disappoint.

The durable right-hander threw 104 pitches while earning a complete-game decision, as top-seeded Ephrata claimed the District title for the fifth time in six years, defeating the No. 2-seeded Comets 8-5 at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.

“I was just trying to replicate that (previous outing against Penn Manor),” admitted Lowrey, who struck out four, walked two and scattered eight hits over seven innings. “It was in my head.”

While replicating the success it had en route to winning four straight crowns from 2011-14, Ephrata knocked off the defending District 10 champ in the double-elimination tournament. As an added bonus, the Post 429ers punched their ticket to the eight-team Region 4 Tournament, to be held July 16-20 at Greene Twp. Park in Fayetteville (Franklin County). Appearing at Regionals for the sixth straight year, they will open tournament play Saturday, squaring off against the York County champ, beginning at noon.

The winner of the Region 4 Tournament will advance to the PA State Tournament July 26-30 hosted by Boyertown.

“It’s tremendous,” Ephrata sixth-year skipper Derek Sipe said. “Me and one of my assistants, Ryan Crowther, have been here from the beginning and for us each year, it becomes more and more special. What I think I like to see each year is the kids that it’s their first time experiencing it and they get to be a part of that. And the big thing that it does is it keeps us together for another week. We get more baseball.”

The tried-and-true formula of pitching and defense which has been a part of Ephrata’s run was evident once again. But the Post 429’ers also capitalized on nine walks and three hit batsmen from PM pitchers Garrett Fry, Jeremy Burkholder, Matt Tulli, and Justin Robinson, getting timely hits up and down a lineup which didn’t have starters Nate Fassnacht and Dillon Good.

Justin Carvell and Adam Schwartz had two hits apiece to lead the Post 429ers’ nine-hit attack.

“We seemed to get the right swings in the right moments,” Sipe said. “I thought we had a lot of productive at-bats, and with that, at the end of the day, you’re probably going to have a some runs up on the scoreboard.”

Once-beaten Penn Manor, hoping to force a winner-take-all match-up for the crown on Wednesday, struck early, going in front 1-0 in the top of the first on Grant Gale’s RBI ground out.

Ephrata pitcher Austin Lowrey went the distance in Monday’s District 10 championship game, scattering eight hits over seven innings for the decision. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Ephrata pitcher Austin Lowrey went the distance in Monday’s District 10 championship game, scattering eight hits over seven innings for the decision. (Photo by Stan Hall)

The advantage didn’t last long, however, as the Post 429ers answered in their half, as Schwartz delivered an RBI single to left to plate leadoff batter Brian Wentz, who walked.

Ephrata then went in front to stay in the second, sending 10 batters to plate in a five-run rally. Evan Frees started it when he was hit by a pitch, Zac McGillan chopped an infield single, and Zach Roberts followed with an RBI single to center.

After Ashton Sensenig dropped a perfectly-placed bunt single, Wentz reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases and Nick Lucky was plunked by a pitch, forcing in a run. Next, Carvell laced 3-1 pitch from Fry for a two-run single to center, Schwartz walked, and Chase Weik greeted PM reliever Burkholder by muscling an RBI single to shallow left-center, putting Ephrata up 6-1.

Meanwhile, with Lowrey doing a masterful job spotting his fastball, he needed just eight pitches to get through the second. But the Comets clawed back into the game in the third after loading the bases with no outs. Gale then lined into a double play, and Lowrey had light at the end of the tunnel. But Eric Snyder walked, re-loading the bases, then Nolan Mowery slugged a three-run double and Tulli followed with an RBI single, cutting the gap to 6-5.

“When you have the lead and the cushion, that certainly helps,” Sipe said. “(Austin) battled for us, and there’s moments in games when pitchers don’t have their best stuff, and I think he experienced some of those throughout the game. But he was able to rely on his experience and find ways to make pitches in key situations.”

Indeed he did. Relying mostly on his fastball, but incorporating a curve and cutter, Lowrey retired 13 of the final 16 batters he faced. He had three of his four K’s over the final four frames.

“I started to keep it down low at the knees, I really started to get some more swings and misses,” Lowrey said. “They weren’t barreling the ball up as hard. That’s when I really started to get into a groove. I was really starting to feel it at that point.”

It didn’t hurt that his teammates tacked on a pair of insurance runs off of Comet reliever Tulli in the bottom of the fourth inning. Carvell and Schwartz each turned on a first pitch for back-to-back singles, Weik walked, Frees hit an RBI ground out to first and Schwartz scored on a wild pitch.

The score remained 8-5 as Penn Manor dug in for its final at-bats, and Lowrey retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh before Jeff Taylor doubled to right and Gale walked, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. But the Ephrata righty got Eric Snyder on a fielder’s choice grounder to short, and that was the ball game.

“It’s been a good run that we’ve been on,” Sipe said. “Hopefully we’re able to keep it going. But I think it goes back to the players &tstr; they show up, they work hard, they expect to win. They expect things from each other. I’m kinda here enjoying the ride with them a little bit.”

Ephrata, the top seed in the tournament, received a first-round bye last Thursday before opening play Saturday night with a 7-3 victory over Columbia.

The Post 429ers struck early, scoring four runs int he bottom of the second to grab the early lead. Then after Columbia cut that lead in half with a two spot in the top of the fourth, Ephrata added three more runs in the bottom of that inning to key the victory.

Winning pitcher Dillon Good tossed five strong innings for Ephrata, allowing just two hits while striking out three and walking three before giving way to the bullpen. Austin Lowery finished it off in two innings of relief, allowing two hits and one run in his appearance.

Ephrata took advantange of some wildness by Columbia starter Jared Kerschner in the second. After recording the first out, Kerschner walked four-straight batters to force in the first Ephrata run. Adam Schwartz then delivered a sac fly to plate Evan Frees with the second run before Nate Fassnacht collected a pair of RBI with a solid single to the outfield.

Columbia loaded the bases to start the top of the fourth before Good walked in the first Colubmia run. Hunter Grossman then hit a sacrifice fly to cut the Ephrata lead in half but the Post 429ers avoided further trouble when catcher Justin Carvell picked off Kerschner, who strayed off third. Good then got Jeremy Sabathne to ground out to second to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, Schwartz reached on a one-out single before Fassnacht walked. Nick Lucky followed with an RBI saingle to score Schwartz. Then both Fassnacht and Lucky would later come around to score after a pair of walks issued by Columbia reliever James Pessalano.

Columbia added its final run of the night when Grossman singled home Kerschner, who tripled off the fence in right field, in the top of the sixth.

Carvell led the way for Ephrata offensively, reaching base all four times going 2-for-2. Fassnacht alslo reached base all four times with three walks and a hit. As a team, Ephrata collected six hits.

Columbia was limited to four hits, all singles with the exception of Kerschner’s sixth-inning triple. Columbia would go on to be eliminated Sunday with a 1-0 loss to Penn Manor.

With Saturday’s win under their belt, the Post 429ers squared off against Marietta Sunday night in a battle of the two remaining undefeated teams in the tournament.

In that one, Ephrata pitcher Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish went the distance with seven strikeouts and two walks as the Post 429ers earned a spot in Tuesday’s final with a 5-1 victory.

Ephrata led 1-0 before breaking it open with a four spot in the bottom of the third.

Zach Roberts gave Ephrata the lead in the bottom of the second when his clutch two-out single up the middle plated Chase Weik, who had led off the inning with a walk.

Then in the third, Ephrata scored all four runs in the inning with two outs. Carvell and Schwartz both reached on walks off Marietta starter Kobe Bistline before Weik’s grounder to short was bootted, allowing both Carvell and Schwartz to score. Then after Evan Frees singled, designated hitter Zach mcGillan produced two more runs with a solid single to center.

That was more than enough for Fogarty-Harnish, who cruised. He gave up his only run in the top of the fifth when Elijah Myers reached on a one-out error and Dale Houser followed with a single. Myers would later come around to score from third on an RBI groundout by Derek Mohr.

Marietta collected just four hits off Fogarty-Harnish. Houser went 2-for-4 to lead the way.

The Ephrata offense managed five hits off Bistline and reliever Ryan Buckius. Weik scored a pair of runs for Ephrata in the win.

The following are complete results of the District 10 American Legion playoffs held at War Memorial Field:

Thursday, July 7

Single-elimination

Game 1: Columbia 8, Lititz 2 (Lititz eliminated)

Game 2: Marietta 2, Lancaster 0 (Lancaster eliminated)

Saturday, July 9

Double-elimination begins

Game 3: Marietta 6, Penn Manor 3

Game 4: Ephrata 7, Columbia 3

Sunday, July 10

Game 5: Penn Manor 1 Columbia 0 (Columbia eliminated)

Game 6: Ephrata 5, Marietta 1

Monday, July 11

Game 7: Penn Manor 6, Marietta 2

Tuesday, July 12

Game 8: Ephrata 8, Penn Manor 5

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