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Ephrata wins District 10 crown Downs CV 8-3 in title game to earn berth in regionals
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Tuesday night, Ephrata hoisted the District 10 League trophy. Did so with an impressive 8-3 victory over Conestoga Valley in the championship game of the grueling double-elimination tournament played at War Memorial Field.
But if winning a championship was the most important thing to happen to Ephrata Tuesday night, then earning a chance to remain together as a team and play on next week at regionals was a very close second.
"We love to be together, we love to play ball and the longer we can do it the better," first-year Coach Derek Sipe said following Tuesday’s win. "We came into this weekend on a little bit of a roll and we knew if we don’t succeed and keep going it’s going to be cut short for us and we wouldn’t get that opportunity. So now we can spend another week together, not only to play baseball together but as a group. We have a great time with each other, which helps us on and off the field."
In winning its first District 10 title since 1995, Ephrata (14-5), which was a perfect 5-0 in the league tourney, now advances to the Region Four Tournament to be held July 16-20 at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg. Ephrata will open the tournament Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and will face the yet-to-be determined Dauphin County champion.
Ephrata will be making just its second trip to regionals since that ’95 season, but its second in the last five years. In 2007, Ephrata finished second in the District 10 playoffs but that year two teams from the league advanced to regionals. They went 1-2 in regional play that year.
"After each win, a couple of us were actually saying we got at least two more games," Ephrata second baseman Brok Martin, who carried a big stick Tuesday, said following the win. "We never really got to that point where we had a lot of pressure on us to win or go home, so we just played loose and it worked out."
It worked out Tuesday thanks in large part to Martin, who was a home run short of the cycle, finishing 3-for-4 with a double and a triple and a pair of RBI. He also turned a double play in the seventh to put the finishing touches on this one for pitcher Andre Hoover, who held a hot-hitting CV lineup to just three runs on four hits while recording 10 K’s in his complete-game victory.
"I was excited," Hoover said when he learned he would be getting the ball Tuesday. "I was excited. I love to go out there and compete. I love pitching from the heart, and I love to pitch in championship games. I want the ball every time."
Hoover set the early tone in this one, setting down CV one-two-three in the top of the first. The Ephrata offense then responded in the bottom of the inning, producing three runs to give the left hander the quick lead. Dusten Rutt got things started with a one-out single off CV starter Brian Cherrington, and Brok Martin followed with a hit before Branden Rutt walked to load the bases. Mark Lowrie’s fielder’s choice grounder knocked in the first run before Parke Martin’s clutch single to left field plated two more for the 3-0 Ephrata lead.
CV did respond, however, plating one run in the second on a clutch two-out RBI double by Colton Smoker. Then in the third, CV tied the game with two more runs. Conner Kruis ripped a one-out double to plate Ryan Shirk, who had walked and stole second. Cherrington then added an RBI hit to draw his team even.
It proved to be only temporary, however, as Brok Martin led off the bottom of the third with a triple to the gap in left-center. Branden Rutt followed one batter later with an RBI hit as Ephrata regained the lead at 4-3. That proved to be all Hoover would need the rest of the night as he would blank CV the rest of the way spotting his fastball while dishing out a steady diet of curveballs.
"It was probably 75 to 80 percent curveballs," Hoover said of his pitch selection. "It was my ‘out-pitch’ and I just kept throwing it. I had command of my curveball all night. I had good late break on it. It was effective."
Sipe added, "I don’t know if I can say enough about what ‘Hoove’ did tonight. The last time he threw was Thursday and I was excited that we didn’t have to use him throughout the weekend and have him here for the opportunity to send us on to regionals. ‘Hoove’ has been doing great the last month and a half. Tonight, I know CV has been extremely hot. They were hitting the ball and getting 10-plus runs a game. He (allowed) just three runs, maybe four hits and 10 Ks…You can’t say enough about him being around the strike zone and just stepping up and putting it on his shoulders in a big game. I can’t say enough about his performance."
Ephrata would go on to give Hoover some breathing room, plating a pair of runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to salt this one away. Brok Martin ripped a two-run double before Ephrata scored its final two runs on RBI from Evan Weaver and Paul Larusso.
The legion championship is the third major title for the majority of these players. Two years ago, they captured a New Era Midget title before winning the L-L League high school crown in 2010.
"We got a good team," Brok Martin said. "During the (high school season), we just never really got going. We got everyone back for just the right time and started really hitting the ball."
"It’s great to win (a title) again, especially after a disappointing (high school) year," he continued. "We came in with high expectations and we pretty much just left our frustrations out. It feels great."
Sipe, who saw his team earn its 13th win in the last 14 games Tuesday, said he hopes to carry that momentum into regionals.
"I think it’s an exciting thing for the town," Sipe said following Tuesday’s win. "I think it’s an exciting thing for Ephrata baseball. To get out there and kind of get our game going… With these guys, who knows where they can go right now? We got the roll going and they are excited about it so I think only we can stop ourselves at this point."
Of winning the first legion league title since 1995, Sipe added, "I didn’t know that but I guess there is something to be said about this group of guys. I know when I was here playing we had some great players and obviously weren’t able to achieve anything like this. I think it just says something about not only how we’ve been playing but just the group of guys we have together. They have that never die attitude and no matter what and no matter who we have out there it’s going to be confidence coming from us and we are going to play the defense. I don’t know if we had more than two or three errors this whole tournament. I think there is something to be said, obviously our pitchers threw strikes but our defense had to make plays. In a tournament like this a couple errors can really turn games. We didn’t allow that to happen. We made the sound plays and continued to go."
To get to Tuesday’s final, Ephrata outlasted top-seeded New Holland 14-10 Monday night in a wild slugfest that featured a 45-minute rain delay and ended at 11:30 p.m.
After New Holland fought back from a 10-3 deficit to tie the game with a seven-run fourth inning, Ephrata, the visiting team, struck for four runs in the top of the sixth to finally put away and eliminate New Holland.
Parke Martin, who went 3-for-3 on the night, delivered the game-winning hit with an RBI single which plated Lowrie with the go-ahead run. Weaver then added a two-run single before Hoover drove in the final run of the night with an RBI hit.
Dusten Rutt, who came in relief to finally squelch New Holland’s rally in the fourth, blanked NH over the final three innings to earn his third victory of the tournament.
Ephrata erased an early 2-0 deficit with a seven-run top of the second inning to chase New Holland starter Tyler Petersheim. Ephrata sent 11 men to the plate in the inning as Tim Murray, Brok Martin, Lowrie and Larusso all knocked in runs in the frame to stake out to a 7-2 lead.
After the rain delay, Ephrata added three more runs in the fourth as Parke Martin knocked in two runs while Murray also delivered with an RBI single to make it 10-3.
But it was far from over.
New Holland chased Ephrata starter Jeremy Franck (4 Ks, 5 BBs) in the fourth as they put together their seven-run inning to tie the game at 10-10.
Petersheim ripped a two-run single off Franck, and then after reliever Ryan Brubaker was summoned from the pen, the New Holland bats continued to flourish. Bill Stringer knocked in a run before Dan Stoltzfus’s single knocked in two more runs to close the gap to 10-8. Doug Nolt then added an RBI double before Brubaker issued a bases-loaded walk to nine-hole hitter David Dresher to tie the game.
Rutt finally got Ephrata out of the inning when he got pitcher Corey Trupe to pop out to second with the bases loaded.
Rutt allowed just one hit the rest of the way, striking out two and walking just one in his three-plus innings of relief.
Offensively, in addition to Parke Martin’s three hits, both Murray and Lowrie each had a pair of hits for Ephrata. Petersheim’s three hits led New Holland.
Ephrata opened the tournament last Thursday at War Memorial with an 11-5 victory over Strasburg/Willow St.
With the score tied 5-5 after five innings, Ephrata exploded for six runs in the bottom of the sixth to capture the win.
Chris Fassnacht and Branden Rutt each knocked in two runs in the fateful sixth as Ephrata sent 11 men to the plate in the inning.
Dusten Rutt, who pitched two scoreless innings in relief, earned the victory. Hoover started and went five frames for Ephrata, allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out five and walking four.
Offensively, Fassnacht, Branden Rutt and Lowrie each had two hits to lead the 10-hit Ephrata attack. Dan Neff paced SWS with a 4-for-5 performance.
Ephrata advanced in the winner’s bracket and faced Conestoga Valley Saturday afternoon at War Memorial.
CV led most of the way and took a 5-3 lead into the seventh. However, the Buckskins couldn’t hold it as Ephrata rallied for three runs in the inning to earn a dramatic 6-5 walk-off win.
Lowrie and Parke Martin got the seventh inning rally starter by earning a pair of walks off CV starter Trevor Kruis. Cherrington came into relief the CV starter, but then walked Weaver to load the bases.
Larusso then followed with an RBI single to score Lowrie and cut the deficit to 5-4 before Murray’s bases-loaded walk tied it, setting the stage for the conclusion.
Next batter Dusten Rutt ripped a long sacrifice fly to right field to easily score Weaver from third with the winning run, and Ephrata advanced to Sunday’s winner’s bracket final vs. Quarryville.
Lowrie led Ephrata’s six-hit attack with a 2-for-2 performance. Dusten Rutt earned his second-straight victory in the tournament, allowing seven hits with two strikeouts and six walks.
Sunday evening vs. Quarryville, Ephrata was opportunistic offensively, scoring runs in all but two innings en route to an eventual 10-6 victory.
Brok Martin, Branden Rutt, Lowrie and Weaver all had two hits apiece in the victory. Ephrata pounded out 10 hits and scored three runs on sacrifice flies to key the win. Ephrata starter Evan Young (6 Ks, 8 BBs) also did his part, allowing just two runs through the first five frames before giving way to the bullpen in the seventh.
With the scored tied 1-1 in the top of the third, Ephrata scored three key runs in the frame to open up a 4-1 advantage. Both Martin and Branden Rutt each delivered key RBI hits in the frame. Ephrata later broke it open with three more runs in the fifth as Parke Martin, Weaver and Larusso all knocked in runs to make it 8-2.
Ephrata then made it 10-2 in the top of the sixth as Lowrie knocked in both runs on an RBI single. Quarryville did strike for two runs in both the sixth and seventh before Ephrata reliever Brubaker was able to close the door, getting Cole Martin to pop up to second base to end the game.
Dan Wimer, Cole Martin and Matt Murray each had two hits for Quarryville in the loss. More LEGION, page B-2