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Ephrata rallies past Township Clinch tie for North Division title
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
Good and bad teams are going to have nights when it’s going to be a struggle.
Such was the case for the Ephrata Post 429 American Legion team Tuesday night at home vs. Manheim Township. But on nights when luck doesn’t seem to be going the right way, good teams seem to find a way to overcome.
And that’s what Ephrata did.
Trailing throughout the contest before tying it in the fifth, Ephrata then broke on top to stay in the bottom of the sixth when Matt Herbener laced a clutch two-out, two-run triple inside the line in left field to give his team a 5-3 advantage. Paul Larusso followed with an RBI triple of his own to make it 6-3, before Ephrata had to sweat it out in the top of the seventh.
Township loaded the bases with two outs, and the batter sent a long fly to the gap in right center field off Ephrata pitcher Evan Young, who went the distance. Fortunately for Ephrata, Jake Terry read it all the way and ran it down to seal the hard-fought 6-3 Ephrata victory.
"When it was first hit, I kind of jumped a little bit but I know Jake covers a lot of ground out there," Ephrata Coach Derek Sipe said of the final play of the game. "As soon as it was hit, I kind of jumped, but then I turned to (assistant coach) Ryan Crowther and said, ‘Jake’s got it.’ It looked like a Major League catch, running into the gap. It would have been interesting had that gotten down. I think we would have had to take Youngy out, and it would have got a little crazy from there."
Fortunately, it didn’t come to that as the Post 429ers clinched at least a tie for the North Division crown. With the win, Ephrata improved to 9-1 in division play (12-3-1 overall), and lead second place Lititz (5-5) by four full games with four league contests remaining.
Township broke on top 2-0 in the third after an Ephrata error started a Township rally which in the end produced the two runs. Township added a run in the top of the third, scoring on a strike out wild pitch uncorked by Young.
Offensively, Ephrata had just one hit- a Paul Larusso first inning single- through the first four frames. However, the Post 429ers got on the board without a hit in the fourth as Ethan Sipe scored on Trevor Seibel’s sac fly to make it 3-1.
Ephrata then tied in the fifth, scoring two runs on a bases loaded walk followed by a hit batsman.
Then in the sixth, Nate Cummings drew a walk with two outs and moved to second on a wild pitch. Terry followed with a bunt base hit before stealing second on the next pitch to place runners at second and third with Herbener at the plate. He turned on a pitch that fell just between the Township left fielder and the line to bring both runners home with the deciding runs.
"Obviously that was a clutch hit by Herby," Sipe said. "I thought the way things were going the kid was going to catch it or it was going to hook foul. But luckily it stayed fair, and we were able to get a couple hits after to give us some cushion."
Young, who struggled early with his command, found his rhythm and pitched a strong game for Ephrata. He finished with six strikeouts and just two walks while scattering seven hits to pick up the victory.
Last Thursday at home vs. Manheim, Cummings didn’t have an easy job to do for Ephrata. In his first at-bat after coming off the bench, Cummings came to the plate with the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
His task was to find a way to get on base and set the table for the top of the batting order.
Cummings singled to right field leading off the inning and gave Ephrata the base runner it needed. Herbener later scored the winning run on a wild pitch and the Post 429ers walked off with a 5-4 victory.
"That was big for us just to get someone on base because it really opens the door for us," Sipe said. "We can do some bunting, do some running and we did both of those in the last inning. It just puts a lot of pressure on the defense and you saw what it can lead to. But getting that leadoff guy on, it just really opens the playbook for us to do pretty much whatever we want."
Manheim (3-4) overcame deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 to pull even on Josh Good’s two-out, two-run base hit to center field in the top of the seventh inning, but Ephrata spoiled its comeback bid.
"That’s not how you want to lose any ball game (on a wild pitch)," Manheim coach Tim Wilson said. "But it’s always good against those (Ephrata) guys. It’s always a good game, it really is. Hopefully we get to see them in the playoffs. That’s about all you can do."
Good, Ben Bomberger, Colin Fry and Brandon Guffey had two hits apiece off of Ephrata pitchers Seth Griffith and Brandon Miller to lead a Manheim club with only nine players. But although Manheim outhit the Post 429’ers 11-6, they batted just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and had a couple of runners thrown out on the bases.
Ephrata, though, capitalized in the bottom of the second inning off of Manheim starting pitcher Ryan Wilson. Colin Albright led off with a single, Josh Gehman walked and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Ethan Sipe then delivered a two-run single to right field and scored on an RBI ground out by his brother, Brady Sipe, making the score 3-0.
"We did a good job of getting people on and moving them around," Derek Sipe said. "We executed our bunts when we needed to and had some timely hitting with runners on base. That’s what you need to do in tight games like this. Both of these teams are solid clubs and both have good pitching. You knew it wasn’t going to be a high-scoring game, so when you have people on base, you have to really value that and take advantage of every chance you get."
Manheim managed only two hits through the first three innings off of Griffith. But in the top of the fourth, three straight hits by Andrew Bucher, Fry and Good leading off the inning put the visitors in business. Bucher scored on Trey Eberly’s one-out fielder’s choice, but then Griffith pitched out of further trouble with an inning-ending strikeout. Griffith struck out four and walked none.
While Griffith minimized the damage, Ephrata stole some momentum back with a run in the bottom of the fourth. Designated hitter Ryan Schwark (2-for-2) doubled to left-center, advanced on Brady Sipe’s sacrifice and scored on Paul Larusso’ sac fly to center, restoring the Post 429’ers three-run lead, 4-1. In two of the three innings that Manheim scored, Ephrata answered right away in the bottom of the inning.
Manheim, though, didn’t go away. They loaded the bases in the top of the sixth on Fry’s infield single, Wilson’s bad-hop base hit to left and Eberly’s bunt single. Troy Reiff followed with an RBI fielder’s choice to make it 4-2, and then Ephrata center fielder Gehman robbed Guffey of his third hit of the night to keep it a two-run lead.
Meanwhile, Wilson retired eight of the final nine batters he faced to help give his team a chance. The tough righty had four K’s, walked three and gave up five hits in six innings.
Miller, who picked up the win in relief, took the ball for Ephrata in the top of the seventh. After Bomberger reached on an error and J.J. Sanchez flared a single to right, Miller got some light at the end of the tunnel with back-to-back strikeouts.
But Good came to the rescue, smashing a hard-hit two-run single to drive in Bomberger and Sanchez, tying the game at 4-all. Good was thrown out trying to advance to second base on the throw home, but he did his job.
Ephrata had faith in Cummings in the bottom of the inning, and he rewarded that with a single to right. Larusso sacrificed him to second base, but then he was erased on Herbener’s fielder’s choice grounder. Herbener, however, stole second base, went to third on a throwing error and ended the game by scoring on a wild pitch. Bucher, who started the seventh, took the loss in relief for Manheim.
"(Manheim) battled and did a good job (in the seventh) – a couple of clutch guys getting on base and then a big hit," Sipe said. "But I think getting that guy out at second, that was a bit of a positive for us coming into the dugout and then when Nate was able to lead off and get on, I think we felt pretty confident that we were going to be able to take care of it right away."
Ephrata also was slated to play Campbelltown Friday night and South Western on Sunday in a pair of non-league contests. Those games were canceled.
However, the Post 429ers did host Twin Valley of Berks County Monday night where the visitors captured a 7-4 victory over Ephrata.
Twin Valley touched Ephrata starter Morgan Stauffer for five runs through four-plus innings in the loss.
Offensively, Bobby Nye led Ephrata going a perfect 3-for-3 on the night. Larusso and Trevor Seibel each added a pair of hits in the loss.
Staff Writer Bruce Morgan contributed to this story.
More LEGION, page B-3