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Late Baron rally stings Mounts in L-L opener
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
Ephrata could actually see the light at the end of the tunnel Monday vs. Manheim Central in the first round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Baseball Playoffs at Manheim Township.
Behind pitcher Brandon Miller, who breezed through five innings, scattering just three hits during that span, the Mounts led 2-0 with just six outs to go.
Unfortunately for Ephrata, a Mountaineer miscue opened the door for a Manheim rally in the sixth, and it was all the Barons would need to get things going.
And by the time those six outs were finally recorded by Ephrata, the Mounts were staring at a stunning 7-2 setback that knocked them out of the tournament in the first round for the second-straight year.
The Barons, meanwhile, advanced to Tuesday’s semifinal round to face Lancaster Catholic, which defeated Warwick by an identical 7-2 verdict Monday. The finals are slated for Thursday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium, beginning at 7 p.m.
"We are always disappointed when we don’t get it done in the post-season," Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley said. "But we lost to a good team. (Manheim Central) deserved it tonight. They earned it."
The Baron bats woke up, big time, after Ben Bomberger’s sharply hit ball to third took a bad hop on Ephrata’s Ethan Sipe, and Bomberger reached first safely to lead off the sixth. Manheim would go on to score three runs in the inning to take a 3-2 lead before tacking on four key insurance runs in the seventh.
Following Sipe’s error, Blake Reiff’s bloop single to center placed runners at first and second with nobody out, and brought clean-up hitter Colin Fry to the plate.
Fry drilled a Miller offering off the top of the fence in left field for a double to bring Bomberger home with the first Manheim Central run, and Andrew Bucher, with runners at second and third, followed with a double to left-center to plate both runners and put the Barons ahead to stay.
After Eberly retired the Mounts in the sixth, the Barons then put it away, sending 10 men to the plate to tack on four extra runs.
The Barons chased Miller, who allowed four runs and seven hits with three strikeouts in six-plus innings, after Dan Wiederrecht was hit by a pitch with one out in the inning. With Ephrata reliever Seth Griffith now on the mound, Wiederrecht then stole second before moving to third on a wild pitch. He then scored on Bomberger’s bloop single over the drawn-in infield.
Bucher, pinch-hitter Chad Zunich, and Eberly all later delivered RBI singles to knock in the final runs for the Barons.
"First of all, (Miller) is a heck of a pitcher so I knew it was going to be tough today," Barons’ skipper Jason Thompson said. "I honestly didn’t think we’d put up seven but once we got the zero off the board I think our guys got confident. His pitch count was up so we knew he was going to tire at some point. And I give credit to our guys. They just stayed in there and battled."
And the flood gates seemingly opened following the error to start the fateful sixth.
"They put the ball in play and we got caught in an in-between hop at third," Shelley said. "And then we got kind of caught on a ball that fell in no-man’s land. They fisted one in. Brandon didn’t miss many locations today but we missed one (on Fry’s hit). Manheim battled, and were able to up and down the lineup, at key times, put the ball in play."
Baron pitcher Trey Eberly was impressive throughout, scattering six hits while striking out 11 and walking just one batter for the complete-game victory. The one walk, which occurred with two outs in the seventh, was key because it kept runners off the bases and helped neutralized Ephrata’s bread-and-butter, which is it’s running game.
"Part of the reason I went with Trey is knowing that he doesn’t walk many guys," Thompson said. "We worked on their offensive stealing a ton in practice and were prepared for it. It’s a credit to these guys, prepping in practice, and getting ready for it. Trey is quick to the plate which helps out our catcher as well."
Shelley said he knew his team would have to hit to get to Eberly, who walked just two batters (in 26 innings) all season prior to Monday.
‘Well we knew that heading into the game that he wasn’t going to give us any freebies," Shelley said. "And we knew that every single at bat was going to be challenged. We were either going to have to figure out a way to get the ball in play and force them to make some miscues or flat out get hits. When we did get hits and runners we were trying to be as economical with them and efficient with them and try to get in scoring position as quickly as possible, just to see if somebody else could make something happen."
For the most part, that didn’t happen.
Ephrata (15-6) did break out on top 1-0 in the third when Paul Larusso laced a two-out triple to the gap in right center before Matt Herbener singled him home for the game’s first run.
The Mounts’ Miller then gave his team a 2-0 advantage with a lead-off home run to right to start the fourth, and all signs pointed to an Ephrata victory.
Unfortunately for Ephrata, the Barons didn’t oblige.
Blake Reiff, Fry, Bucher and Eberly all had two hits each for the Barons, who collected 10 hits over the final two frames and 13 for the game.
Larusso and catcher Colin Albright each had two hits to lead Ephrata’s six-hit attack.
Ephrata, the sixth-ranked team in the District power rankings heading into Tuesday, is now off until Monday, May 20 when first-round District play begins. The Mounts should get a home game, but must try to figure out their offensive woes if they plan to go very far.
"We’ve got to find a way to sure up the lineup so that we don’t have as many holes," Shelley said. "That’s making it tough for us because it forces you to take a look at every single runner and try to move them, and try to make things happen almost unconventionally. Right now, unfortunately, we can’t sit back and let the bats speak for us, and that’s hard because there are certain situations in a game that call for that. You can only steal so many bases and sacrifice bunting becomes giving away at bats…It really makes you analyze every base runner you get."
"We should at this point of the season have a little bit better of an approach, but unfortunately we don’t. We got almost a week now to go to work and try to get that fixed."
More BASEBALL, page B-2