Ephrata hopes to ride momentum into post-season

By on July 6, 2011

By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor truth.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

With its pitching totally rested after a week of inactivity and its team on one heck of a run, Ephrata heads into Thursday’s opening round of the District 10 American Legion playoffs at War Memorial as one of the teams to beat.

After losing four of its first five games to start the season, Ephrata has rebounded to put together nine wins in 10 games and is looking to ride that momentum into the post-season.

"I definitely think we can draw from that," first-year Coach Derek Sipe said Tuesday night. We had that stretch in the beginning of the season where we didn’t have a lot of guys around and we struggled. Now, we kind of have everyone in a groove and we are a consistent offensive lineup. I think the guys have really come together, and there is a lot of excitement around our team. And the key thing about a lot of those games during our (winning) streak is a lot of those games were played at the War, and that’s where all of our playoff games are going to be. I think that also will fuel us because we are comfortable there."

War Memorial will indeed be the site for the majority of the double-elimination tournament, which gets underway Thursday and runs through Wednesday, July 13.

Ephrata (10-5), which was edged by New Holland (11-4) in the race for the East Division title, enters play as the fourth seed and will host fifth-seeded Strasburg/Willow St. Thursday night (7:30 p.m.) in the back end of a doubleheader at the War. Top-seeded New Holland will play the eighth seed (either Penn Manor or CV) in Thursday’s opener at 5 p.m. at Ephrata. Lampeter-Strasburg High School will also host a first-round doubleheader Thursday as third-seeded Quarryville will host sixth-seeded Bainbridge at 5:30 p.m. Second seeded Lititz will take on Penn Manor or CV in the late game at 8 p.m.

Strasburg/Willow St. is a tough draw for Ephrata. In the high school season, L-S and pitcher Matt Carta knocked Ephrata out of the L-L playoffs in a 6-0 shutout in the quarterfinals. Then, early in the legion season, SWS and Carta handed Ephrata one of its five losses in a 4-1 decision.

But Sipe believes the third time could be the charm for his team.

"I expect to get Carta. No surprises there," he said. "He’s pitched against us twice and beat us twice . I expect the guys to be excited for that. Now we get a third crack at him so I think the guys will be up for that. When we lost to them earlier in the (legion) season, that was during that stretch where we had a lot of guys gone. We didn’t have a catcher and we were missing three of our guys out of the middle of the lineup and guys were out of position a little bit. I expect a fairly low-scoring game and I think both teams will execute extremely well. I think it’s going to come down to doing some of the little things right, making the key plays, not making mistakes, and getting some key hits."

Sipe is confident his team will respond this time and take the first step to what he hopes will be a District 10 championship.

"I think everyone on the team believes we can win this thing," he said. "We definitely can with the players we have and the streak that we’re on.

"It’s probably going to come down to pitching and particularly just throwing strikes. In a tournament like this there are a lot of innings to be played in a short amount of time so it really comes down to throwing strikes and letting them hit it. We have a solid defense so the pitchers need to give us a chance to let the defense do the work. If the pitchers can do that, we should be able to hold teams to two or three runs, and with the offense and the groove we are in, I think that’s going to be enough in most games."

The schedule for the remainder of the tournament will be released Wednesday.

Ephrata closed out the regular season in dramatic fashion last Wednesday at War Memorial.

Trailing Lititz 4-3 heading to the bottom of the seventh, Ephrata tied it on a throwing error and then won it one batter later on catcher Branden Rutt’s walk-off RBI triple to the fence in right-centerfield.

Andre Hoover got the win on the hill, striking out nine batters in going the distance. More PLAYOFFS, page B-2

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