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Ephrata strikes early and stuns Warwick, 6-4
The blows that Ephrata delivered early on Monday weren’t knockouts, but they were effective.
They put Warwick on its heels.
In the end, the Warriors were never able to fully recover, as Ephrata capitalized on a pair of three-run rallies to go in front 6-1 after two innings and then pulled off a stunner, winning 6-4 in a Section One-Two crossover in Lititz.
Haley Warden, Jenna Yarger and Danika Weaver had two hits apiece to lead the Lady Mounts, who bounced back from losses to Cocalico (11-8) and Manheim Township (14-0) at the end of last week. The fact that they did it against a Warwick team that recently defeated reigning L-L League champ Hempfield 8-3 was a huge feather in the cap for the young Ephrata girls (3-3 L-L, 3-4 overall).
“This one is huge,” said first-year Ephrata Coach Meredith Dombach of her team, which had three freshman in the starting lineup. “This definitely was a total team effort and we had to call on lots of different people to really step up and hold them back so that we could get the win today.”
For the Warriors (4-2 L-L, 5-3 overall), they were left to scratch their heads about the defensive lapses and 10 runners left on base which proved costly. Warwick boss Mark Hough couldn’t hide his disappointment while talking to a visitor in the dugout at game’s end.
“I just told the girls to look at Ephrata out there celebrating on our field,” Hough recalled, “and I said, ‘They deserve that victory. They played it, they wanted it more.’ A lot of credit to them. Really, there wasn’t much to say. I think the girls knew what I was thinking and I just looked at them and said, ‘It’s up to my senior leadership to figure out what we can do to light a fire.’”
A two-out break kept Ephrata’s fire burning in the top of the first inning. Warwick starting pitcher Lacey Lefever seemed destined to get out of trouble when Yarger lofted a pop fly into shallow left-center field. But the ball fell for a Texas League RBI single and Brittany Ritter scored the game’s first run.
“I think we just got knocked on our heels in that first inning,” Hough said. “You see a couple of flares that go right over your defense and then you have a fly ball that should be a routine catch. I think both short and center were thinking one was going to get it over the other, but we just weren’t calling it out. It’s kinda hard to fault either … we’ve just got to do a better job of playing defense.”
The next batter, Weaver, delivered a two-run single to right field to put the Lady Mounts in front 3-0. By the end of the inning, Lefever had thrown a total of 26 pitches.
“That was huge,” Dombach said of Weaver’s hit. “(Danika) definitely came through for us in a big spot. She’s a freshman and she has really produced and come through in big moments like that in at least three games this season.”
Warwick answered in the bottom of that inning on Ashley Royer’s leadoff triple and Victoria Byler’s RBI ground out to cut Ephrata’s lead to 3-1.
But Alexis Lovell’s sac fly and Warden’s RBI single to left field extended the Mounts’ advantage and then Ritter scored on a Warwick throwing error to make it 6-1. Ephrata leadoff batter Lexi Hershberger was on base all four times with three walks and a base hit, while scoring a run.
“We try to get them to be patient and look for their pitch and not strike too early,” Dombach said.
In the bottom of the third, Warwick started a comeback, with Lefever reaching on an error and then scoring on Nikole Rottkamp’s two-out triple to right field. Rottkamp scored moments later on a wild pitch to make it 6-3, and the Warriors threatened for more when Vanessa Strohm singled to center and Jenny George walked. But Yarger, who scattered eight hits and four walks over 4@-E innings while getting the win, pitched out of trouble. She struck out just one, but got eight ground ball outs.
“Jenna did an excellent job,” Dombach said of her ace. “We need to work on consistency a little, but she really pulls through when she needs to.”
After leaving two more runners in scoring position in the fourth, Warwick inched a little bit closer as Strohm worked a one-out walk in the fifth and scored on an Ephrata fielding error on George’s ground ball, cutting the deficit to 6-4. They went on to load the bases with two outs and Allison Smith was summoned in relief. The strategy worked for the Lady Mounts, when the junior pitcher induced an inning-ending pop out to second from Warwick’s hottest hitter Royer.
“I thought if we could throw her off-balance that we had a chance,” Dombach said.
Eckman, who pitched 5!-E innings in relief of Lefever, had Ephrata off-balance, allowing just three base runners after the second inning.
“We definitely were holding on,” Dombach said. “That’s when we count on our defense to pull through for us … I had them swinging back here the whole game trying to get them focused. Their pitcher was throwing us a little off-balance, but that’s something we’re going to work on, for sure.”
Still trailing by two in their final at-bats, Warwick went down in order against Smith to end the game.
“This was probably the toughest loss this year,” Hough said. “I’m just disappointed in so many facets of the way we played today.”
In addition to Monday’s win, Ephrata pulled out a big 4-3 victory over ConestogaValley last Wednesday on the road in Witmer. Ephrata led 4-1 heading to the bottom of the seventh before holding off a late Buckskin rally to post the one-run win.
Yarger struck out 10 batters to earn the complete-game victory.
Friday afternoon at home, visiting Manheim Township held Ephrata to just two hits in a 14-0 loss to the Streaks.
That loss was on the heels of an 11-8 loss at Cocalico last Thursday. The Lady Eagles led 8-6 after three innings of play before tacking on three big runs in the bottom of the fourth to key the win.
Sara Young struck out eight to lead the Lady Eagles.
It turned out to be the lone win of the week for Cocalico, which was two-hit at Solanco last Wednesday in a 10-0 loss, was edged by Cedar Crest 5-4 on Friday, and was held off by Section One power Hempfield, 7-5 on Monday afternoon.
In the loss to Hempfield, the Lady Eagles scored three runs in the top of the seventh to tie the game at 5-5. However, the Black Knights won it in the bottom of the inning with a pair of runs to walk off with the victory.