Mounts rip Knights, advance to title game

By on May 13, 2015

 

Ephrata’s Nate Fassnacht (10) is mobbed by his teammates after ripping his three-run homer in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s 14-2 victory over Hempfield. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata’s Nate Fassnacht (10) is mobbed by his teammates after ripping his three-run homer in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s 14-2 victory over Hempfield. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Nate Fassnacht joked that he only had about “a half hour” to enjoy Tuesday’s huge 14-2 victory over Hempfield which vaulted Ephrata into Thursday’s L-L League finals.

But best be sure, he and his Mounts teammates loved every minute of what time they did have Tuesday after eliminating the Section One champions in such dominant fashion.

“It’s amazing,” Fassnacht said of the victory, which set up a showdown with Penn Manor Thursday night (7 p.m.) back at War Memorial for the League crown. The Comets (18-4) punched their ticket in Tuesday’s nightcap with a convincing 14-0 shutout victory over Manheim Central.

So how did the Mounts (15-7) pull off such a dominant victory with so much on the line?

Offensively, Ephrata pounded out 10 hits and drew nine walks off four different Black Knight hurlers Tuesday. The Mounts, who adjusted to a more patient approach early on Tuesday, strung together four multi-run innings, including the fifth when they broke open a 4-2 game with a six-run burst. Then in the top of the sixth, Fassnacht, who led the team going 3-for-3 with five RBI, added the finishing touches with three-run shot over the left-field fence to close things out.

“Our approach at the plate today was what I felt the difference was,” Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley said following the win. “We talked about working deeper counts, and then after that we started building quality at bats after quality at bats. We got those hits with people in scoring position. It’s what we needed.”

Senior pitcher Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish also gave his team a big lift after struggling with health and control issues for much of the season.

After allowing two runs off three walks and two hits in the second inning, Fogarty-Harnish settled in and tossed goose eggs the rest of the way, finishing with one strikeout and while scattering five hits. He did not walk anyone after the second.

“He came out and started a little shaky but by the end he got everything working and was pounding the zone and made them get themselves out,” Fassnacht said of his pitcher.

Fogarty-Harnish said he got a boost in confidence when he found out he was getting the ball Tuesday.

“It really meant that (Shelley) had trust in me, even though I haven’t had the best year,” he said. “My stuff was working well today. I threw a bullpen last week and things were working well. I had the confidence to go out and make pitches.”

Shelley said he gave his right-hander, who had not started a game since April 24, a pep talk heading into the game.

“He hasn’t pitched well for awhile,” Shelley said. “We had to dust off his arm. I had to pull up the couch and have a discussion with him and say, ‘hey, you are healthy. Your arm is fresh. You are the guy and you got to go out there and prove it.’ He did a great job today.”

The Mounts broke on top with a pair of runs in the top of the second off Hempfield starter Alec Miller. With two outs and nobody on, Brandon Schwark (2-for-4, 1 RBI) beat out an infield hit before Brian Wentz and Patrick Gallagher drew walks to load the bases for Fassnacht. He then ripped a Miller offering into centerfield to bring home both Schwark and Wentz and give the Mounts the early advantage.

Hempfield (19-3) quickly tied it with it’s two spot in the bottom of the inning. The damage could have been a lot worse, but Fogarty-Harnish was able to work out of a bases-loaded one-out situation when he retired three-hitter Jon Peterson on an infield fly before Derek Manning flew out to Wentz in center.

Ephrata countered in the top of the fourth to take the lead for good when Justin Carvell (2-for-3, 2 RBI) came through with another clutch two-out single to knock in a pair of runs to put the Mounts back on top at 4-2.

“Getting those runs right after their (second inning) was huge,” Fogarty-Harnish admitted. “It brought the momentum back to our team. It just got things going for us.”

It sure did. With Fogarty-Harnish now in cruise control, Ephrata broke it open in the top of the fifth, sending 10 men to the plate in the six-run frame.

Schwark knocked in the first run on an RBI ground out before Gallagher lined a two-run single to center. Chase Weik later delivered a two-run double to the gap in left-center, and the rout was on.

That set the stage for the top of the sixth when Fassnacht got a pitch he liked, and didn’t miss it.

“It was an inside fastball, which is exactly what I was looking for,” he said. “I just put my swing on it…it felt good.”

Up next, the Mounts get another shot at Penn Manor, which defeated Ephrata in Millersville, 1-0 back on April 22 as the Comet’s Jeff Taylor and Ephrata’s Matt McGillan were locked in a pitcher’s duel.

There will be a lot more riding on the outcome this time.

“We are just going to look toward Thursday,” Fogarty-Harnish said. “We can enjoy tonight for a little but we got to look toward Thursday. We really want to win the whole thing. Tonight is one step but we got to start focusing on Thursday.”

Ephrata will be making its first finals appearance since 2010, when the Mounts defeated Manheim Central for its second league title under Shelley. The Mounts’ other league title year under Shelley came in 2003.

Ephrata opened the L-L League playoffs Saturday afternoon at the War with an impressive 7-1 victory over Section Three champion Donegal.

The Mounts got solid starting pitching from freshman Adam Schwartz while collecting eight hits offensively to advance.

Schwartz struck out three and scatted four hits in five innings of work before giving way to Austin Lowrey, who went the final two frames to close things out.

“The freshman thing really wasn’t even a consideration.” Shelley said of Schwartz’ performance Saturday. “We felt he could go out there and handle it, which is what he did.”

Offensively, the Mounts’ Weik led the way with a 4-for-4 performance, including an RBI. Andre Good added two hits, including a go-ahead two-run single in the top of the third.

The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI double to the gap by Ethan Hess, which plated Cameron Nye, who earlier singled.

Donegal starter Sam Lazkowski relied on a pair of defensive gems to keep Ephrata scoreless through two. In the top of the first, a diving play by shortstop Dale Houser ended a bases-loaded situation for the Mounts. Then in the second, Elijah Myers’ snared a sharply hit ball by Fassnacht to get the force at second and erase a potential run-scoring inning for the Mounts.

But Ephrata finally got to Lazkowski (4 Ks, 3 BBs) in the top of the third, scoring four runs to break through and take command.

Weik led off with a single, and after Carvell reached base on an error, Dillon Good laid down a perfectly-placed bunt to load the bases.

Andre Good then delivered his two-run single to give the Mounts the 2-1 lead. Schwartz followed with an RBI single before Wentz’ sacrifice fly made it 4-1 Ephrata.

Both pitchers breezed through five before the Mounts finally knocked out Lazkowski and broke the game open.

With one out in the inning, Lazkowski walked both Wentz and pinch hitter Zach Roberts. Hess came in to relief and walked Fassnacht to load the bases. Weik then delivered his fourth hit of the contest to bring home both Wentz and pinch runner Andrew Thomas to make it 6-1. Carvell then knocked in the final run on an RBI ground out..

Lowrey had an uneventful bottom of the sixth but needed a nicely turned doubleplay by Weik and Wentz in the seventh to close things out.

“We try our best and try to be very efficient and maximize the base runners we get and continue to try to put pressure on the opponent,” Shelley said of his team’s offense. “We did that in the first (inning), did it again in the second and they made two extremely difficult defensive plays. I felt like our guys handled that well. We tried to stay even keel. They made two great plays but we were like, let’s just keep applying that pressure and sooner or later they won’t make that play.”

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