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Legion squad prepares to defend District 10 crown
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
The Ephrata Post 429 legion team clinched its second-straight District 10 League North Division title this past week.
That is significant since each division winner earns a first-round bye in the newfangled District 10 playoffs, which get underway Thursday at War Memorial Field.
Ephrata (10-3 league, 16-5 overall) and South Division champ Penn Manor will await the winners of Thursday’s two play-in games featuring Marietta and Lancaster at 5 p.m., and Lititz and New Holland at 7:30 p.m.
The losers of those two games will be eliminated, and a double-elimination tournament will be played among the four remaining teams, beginning Saturday at the War.
Top-seeded Penn Manor will open play at 2 p.m. Saturday, and will face the winner of the Marietta-Lancaster match-up. Ephrata, the two seed, will take the diamond at 5 p.m. to face either Lititz or New Holland.
The remaining schedule of the tournament (to be played entirely at War Memorial) includes: a doubleheader Sunday at 2 & 5 p.m.; singles games Monday and Tuesday (both at 6 p.m.); and Wednesday at 6 p.m. (if necessary).
A year ago, Ephrata dominated the field en route to winning its second-straight District 10 title. The Post 429ers then advanced to win the Region Four Tournament title, their first since 1990, and made an appearance at States where they finished 1-2.
Could they begin a similar run this week as they look to three-peat as District 10 champs?
"I think we have a good chance," Ephrata Coach Derek Sipe said Tuesday. "We have the pitching, which is always crucial. And I think our lineup is starting to come together. We were hot at the beginning of the season, kind of struggled in the middle of the year, but now I think it’s starting to click a little bit. I think it’s going to be tough because there are some good teams, some better teams than what there have been the last couple of years as far as overall talent is concerned. But having that first round bye, especially with the pitching depth that we do have, just makes it tough for teams later on in the tournament. We are still able to roll out fresh, solid starters while the other teams are down to whatever they have left."
Pitching depth is what may be the key to their success. Ephrata can roll out four quality starters in Evan Young, Brandon Miller, Seth Griffith and Scott Liebl. All four were key contributors to last year’s run.
As far as position players are concerned, most of the starters from last year have moved on, with the exception of shortstop Paul Larusso and Miller, a third baseman. However, Sipe said this is a much deeper squad than a season ago.
"There are a lot of fresh faces besides Brandon and Paul," Sipe said. "The thing that is different about this team is we have so many options as far as depth goes. People can pinch hit, people can play different positions…Last year there wasn’t too much of that. We have so many options across the board, if one person is not clicking for a particular game or two, there are people who can fill in right behind them. But the pitching is just as strong, if not stronger than last year.
This season, Sipe beefed up the non league portion of the regular schedule with hopes of getting his younger, less experienced players acclimated to the type of squads his team will be facing in the post-season.
They obviously adjusted well, judging by their 16-5 record. And now, on the eve of the post-season, Sipe believes they are ready to step up and make their own mark.
"I think there are a lot of kids who are real excited because this is their chance, their opportunity to make a name for themselves and make a name for this team," he said. "The success from the past kind of fuels that a bit. It’s kind of that fuel to the fire to do a little better than the year before.
"There are some people on the team that can lean on that experience they gained last year, but a lot of the guys will be new to it. I think it’s less of the experience that is going to help us and more of the tradition that we’ve built. The fact that we’ve been there, and this has become a standard and almost like an expectation…I think that’s what fuels the kids more. They don’t want to be the ones to have that end. They want to continue the roll and get back to regionals and get back to states, and continue to move the program ahead in that direction."
The journey for Ephrata begins Saturday.
As for the regular season, the Post 429ers finished up play Tuesday night with a game at New Holland. Results from that contest were not known before deadline.
Ephrata did win a pair of non-league games this past week.
Monday night at West Lawn, Ephrata earned a 5-3 victory over the Berks County powers.
Young picked up his team-leading fifth victory of the season while Morgan Stauffer and Miller combined for three innings of scoreless relief.
Offensively, Jake Terry went a perfect 4-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored to lead the way.
Ephrata also won a 5-4, 11-inning marathon this past Friday at War Memorial. The Post 429ers won it in the bottom of the 11th when Bobby Nye scored the winning run on a first-and-third double steal.
In addition to the non-league games, Ephrata did lose a pair of league games early last week. Last Tuesday in Lititz, Travis Reapsome out-dueled Ephrata’s Miller in a 1-0 final. Ephrata also dropped a 7-6 decision at SWS last Wednesday.
This past Sunday, Ephrata received a forfeit win over Conestoga Valley, and later in the day had its non-league game at State-power Boyertown rained out.
More LEGION, page B-4