Ephrata repeats as champions of the ‘Clash’

By on July 3, 2019
Ephrata’s Zac McGillan delivers a pitch against Downingtown Friday. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Ephrata’s Zac McGillan delivers a pitch against Downingtown Friday. Photo by Missi Mortimer

After dropping a pair of one-run games in league play late last week, the Ephrata Chryslers American Legion team found its groove once again this past weekend.

Hosting some of the top teams in the Mid-Atlantic for the fifth annual Clash of the Titans Tournament held at War Memorial Field, Ephrata went a perfect 4-0 over the three days to claim their second-straight Clash title.

Ephrata finished it off Sunday afternoon with a 12-7 victory over Strikes & Stripes of Hazleton in the championship game.

Behind an offense that was locked in from the start, Ephrata opened up an 8-1 lead after two frames and a 12-1 cushion through three-and-a-half innings before holding on for the victory and the title.

Starting pitcher Aiden Bracken allowed just one run on four hits through three innings before giving way to the bullpen, which used three pitchers in mop-up duty to close things out.

“I think all around it was a really good weekend for us,” Ephrata Coach Derek Sipe said following the title win. “We talked beforehand about needing to get back to what we’ve done forever that has made us really good. We need an identity, and I think in the past it’s always been pitching and defense and then we’d find ways to score. We’ve been preaching pitching and defense a lot more. and I think this weekend was really big because we got back to what we are about, and we all have bought into the same thing now.”

Ephrata opened tournament play with a 6-3 victory over 2015 State champ Downingtown Friday afternoon behind that aforementioned pitching and defense philosophy.

Zac McGillan provided solid pitching throughout and earned the victory on the hill.

Friday night the task was a bit tougher as Ephrata trailed 2017 Mid-Atlantic Region champ Hopewell (NJ) 2-0 in the sixth. But the Chryslers battled back to tie the game before winning 3-2 with a walk-off bases-loaded hit by pitch in the seventh.

In Game Three Saturday, Ephrata got five innings from starter Owen Gockley and two relief frames from Kyle Rhoads in posting a 5-4 victory over Strikes & Stripes to move into Sunday’s championship game.

As it turned out, Strikes & Stripes was the opponent again. However this time, Ephrata’s offense proved to be took much from the start.

As the visiting team, Ephrata took advantage early as the Chryslers loaded the bases with one out on Justin Byler’s walk, Gavin Horning’s single, and Ricky Bromirski’s mis-played fielder’s choice grounder. That brought McGillan to the plate, and the big third baseman delivered when he sliced a ball down the right field line and brought home all three runners with a triple. Rhoads then added a sac fly to make it 4-0 Ephrata after just one half inning.

“That was such a big hit for us,” Sipe said of McGillan’s triple. “Zac is such an important part for us. If you point out some of the huge bats in our lineup, he’s not going to stand out. But internally as a team we recognize how important he is for us and how much we are going to rely on him. So coming through in a situation like that, not only was it huge for the team but I think it was huge for him because that’s what we expect from him in those types of situations.”

After S&S got on the board with a single run in the bottom of the inning, Ephrata rallied for four more runs in the second to take a commanding 8-1 advantage as Colby Martin (single), Horning (sac fly) and Rhoads (single) all knocked in runs in the inning.

Ephrata then added four more runs in the top of the fourth, drawing three walks while collecting three hits. The biggest hit in that frame was a single to left by Dagen Young that produced a pair of runs.

S&S did extend the game in the fifth with a two spot, and later added four more runs in the bottom of the seventh before Ephrata finally put the win away.

Now, despite the two-straight league losses, the Chryslers come away with a bit of a shot in the arm as they head into the final stretch of the regular season and playoffs.

“There was just a ton of talent in this tournament,” Sipe said. “I told the guys, we are going to be playing in the regionals in a couple weeks and teams aren’t going to be as good as these teams. There might be some that are close to that but not every team…even the State Tournament. No one is going to be better than these teams we had here this weekend.”

“Every year June can be a bit of a struggle with vacations and work but everything usually starts to click for us around the end of June and beginning of July and that goes straight into playoffs. I think we are at that point.”

Ephrata returned to league play Monday night with a doubleheader vs. Conrad Weiser. The Chryslers will then hit the road Tuesday and Wednesday with contests at Myerstown and Richland. They are also scheduled to play in a tournament in Connecticut this weekend before finishing the league season with a road game at Fredericksburg Sunday night at 7 p.m.

Ephrata (9-3) currently holds a half-game lead over second place Myerstown (9-4) in the East Division of the Lebanon County League.

 

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