Mounts ‘aced’ again

By on May 3, 2017
Ephrata's Ashton Sensenig puts the tag on the Lampeter Strasburg runner for the last out of the inning at Ephrata High School in Ephrata, PA on May 1, 2017. KIRK NEIDERMYER | LCW Correspondent Photographer

Ephrata’s Ashton Sensenig puts the tag on the Lampeter Strasburg runner for the last out of the inning at Ephrata High School in Ephrata, PA on May 1, 2017. KIRK NEIDERMYER | LCW Correspondent Photographer

L-S blanks Ephrata Behind Pirozzi

Perhaps the only unfortunate part of winning a District title, as Ephrata did a year ago, is the fact that everyone seems to be pulling out all of the stops to beat the Mounts this year.

Although the current squad bears little resemblance to last year’s with just one starter back in the lineup, the Mounts have been put through the gauntlet of ace pitchers lately, which in turn has thrown a wrench in their post-season plans.

Over the last two weeks or so, the Mounts have faced a who’s who among L-L pitchers in Penn Manor’s Jeff Taylor, Warwick’s Zach Peters and Elizabethtown’s Nick Stoner.

Monday, Lampeter-Strasburg sent its best—hard-throwing junior Kris Pirozzi— to the mound as the Pioneers and Ephrata battled in a critical Section Two contest. All Pirozzi did was throw up goose eggs for seven full frames, allowing just two hits while striking out 10.

It remained scoreless through four innings, thanks to equally-solid pitching from Ephrata’s sophomore starter Hunter Johns, who carried a no-hitter into the fourth.

But after a rain delay, the Pioneers’ Patrick Holmes opened the fifth with an inside-the-park home run. L-S would add another in the frame to chase Johns before the Pioneers put it away with a three-spot in the seventh.

Their 5-0 victory vaulted L-S (8-5 section, 11-5 overall) two full games ahead of the Mounts (6-7, 8-8) for second place and the final L-L playoff spot, with just three league games to go.

“Perozzi did a very good job of not allowing us to have any mojo,” Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley said following his team’s third-straight loss. “He had three or four pitches going…it’s tough. He was high 80s, low 90s at times. He certainly did a good job this evening of making it very difficult on our young lineup.”

On facing a plethora of aces lately, Shelley added, “It’s difficult because hitting is very much mental. You need confidence, and in a two-and-a-half week span when you face the likes of Taylor, Peters, Stoner and Perozzi, some of the best pitchers in the entire league, you start accumulating at bats that don’t end productively.”

“It’s a pitching dominated game and it always will be. When you are facing some talented pitchers like that, there is never an opportunity for them to start stringing some quality at bats together because they are always battling against some of these better pitchers. This is partially what comes around, goes around. You put a District championship banner up out there and a lot of other banners and people are going to be gunning for you.”

Ephrata had just four base runners all night as both Adam Schwartz and Ricky Bromirski both reached twice. Schwartz drew a first-inning walk and doubled off the fence in the third. He was stranded both times. Bromirski walked with two outs in the fourth before he kept the game alive with an infield hit with two-outs in the seventh. He too, was left on base.

L-S finally got it going after a 45-minute delay heading to the top of the fifth. Holmes drilled a Johns’ offering deep to left-center. The ball caromed away from Schwartz, who was in pursuit, and Holmes was able to easily circle the bases to give the Pioneers the lead.

But they weren’t finished.

Todd Shelley followed with a double to right field and came home one out later on Nevin Book’s RBI single to left.

Schwartz relieved Johns in the sixth and worked around a hit batsmen to get out of the inning. He wasn’t as fortunate in the seventh when the Pioneer batted around and tacked on the three extra runs.

Connor Blantz delivered and RBI single while Caleb Danehower knocked in two more with an RBI hit.

Johns took the loss despite pitching well. He finished with four strikeouts and just one walk in his five innings.

“I thought Hunter pitched very well,” Shelley said. “I think our pitching continues to show a lot of promise.”

Unfortunately for Ephrata, the Mounts are running out of games to play and are in serious danger of missing the post-season for the first time since 2007. In addition to their position in the league, they are currently 17th in the District Three power ratings for Class 5A, and only the top 14 teams qualify.

So they clearly have some worked to do in their final three games home Wednesday vs. CV (7 p.m.), at Solanco Friday and at Donegal Monday.

“You just keep approaching it one game at a time,” Shelley said when asked about the final week. “We need to break a three-game losing streak. Period. It’s not, ‘we are going to try to win out.’ It can’t be that long term of an approach. It’s got to be short term. It has to be. We got to put the past behind us. The good news is I don’t think we are going to face any pitching of this caliber in the final few games. Maybe some of these guys can get a taste of some success.

“The other thing about all of this is as youthful as we are we are trying to build on positive experiences. And then you face some of these really talented pitchers and what it ends up doing is it puts pressure on all of the other areas of the game. When you are not able to score a lot of runs, then the defense is forced to make every play, the pitchers have to be finer with their location, and I think that’s what you are seeing now. And I think that’s what you saw tonight in the latter portion of the game because we were just trying to be too fine. This group has never been short of effort, so the take at this point is it’s a very valuable learning experience and they know now what that top-tier level pitcher is like because we certainly have seen them enough.”

In addition to Monday’s key game, Ephrata endured a tough end to the week, dropping a pair of games to two of the top teams in the L-L League last Wednesday and Friday.

Last Wednesday at home vs. Hempfield, the visitors scored six times over the final three innings to overcome an early Ephrata lead en route to a 6-1 win over the Mounts.

Bromirski and Nate Young had the lone Ephrata hits in the loss.

Friday afternoon, Ephrata returned to Section Two play on the road at section leading Elizabethtown.

There, the Mounts had just three hits off Stoner as E-town led 3-0 after three innings before tacking on an addition three-spot in the sixth to claim an eventual 6-1 decision.

The Mounts also were slated to face Carlisle Saturday on the road but that non-league contest was postponed. As of Monday, no make-up date was announced.

As for Cocalico, the Eagles were back in action Monday where they kept their post-season hopes alive with a 7-4 victory at home over visiting Lebanon in a key Section Three contest.

Nick Lucky had a pair of hits, including a double and a triple while Austin Harven drove in three runs with a pair of hits in the Eagle victory. Brady Sawyer also knocked in two key runs with a double.

Nathaniel Martin went six strong innings for Cocalico, scattering four hits with a strike out to earn the victory on the mound.

With the win, Cocalico improved to 7-5 in Section Three play (9-6 overall). The Eagles find themselves in fourth place, two full games behind section leaders Manheim Central and Garden Spot and are one back of third place Elco (9-4) with three games to play.

The top two teams in Section Three advance to the L-L League playoffs. As of presstime, Cocalico was ranked 20th in the District Class 5A ratings.

In addition to Monday’s game, the Eagles were blanked 4-0 by Elco Friday in a key Section Three match-up between the two teams.

The Raiders took the lead for good with two runs in the bottom of the third, and road the complete-game pitching of starter Clay Hain to the win.

Harven led the nine-hit Cocalico attack, going 3-for-4 in the loss. Drew Sawyer and Brandon Eberly both added two hits each for Cocalico in the loss.

The Eagles were also scheduled to be in action last Wednesday at Annville-Cleona but were postponed. That game rescheduled for Tuesday but results did not come in prior to deadline.

Cocalico will hit the road to face Northern Lebanon Wednesday and will be at Garden Spot Thursday before returning home to face Manheim Central Monday in the finale. All three of those games begin at 4:15 p.m.

 

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