Mounts wrap up third-straight section crown with rout of Lebanon
by TODD RUTH
In baseball, a dogpile signifies the end of a successful mission.
Ephrata has had quite a few of them in recent years. And Monday night at War Memorial, the Mounts were at it again.
A Solanco loss earlier in the day put Ephrata’s Magic Number at one. That meant a win over winless Lebanon Monday and Ephrata would clinch its third-straight Section Two title and fifth in the last six seasons.
Ephrata and starting pitcher Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish spotted the Cedars an early two run lead on Kevin Schneck’s two-run home run in the top of the first. But Fogarty-Harnish settled down and tossed goose eggs the rest of the way.
Ephrata finally broke through offensively in the third when Chase Weik and Andre Good both produced RBI hits to key a five-run inning. With the lead, Ephrata tacked on four more in the fourth and one run in the bottom of the sixth.
That set the stage for the seventh, when Lebanon got two runners on with two outs before Schneck’s fly ball to right was snagged by Brady Sipe for the final out of the game to secure the 10-2 win and the title, which set off the celebration at the mound.
“The final out of any victory is satisfying; however, the final out to clinch a championship…and the dogpile that follows symbolizes the accomplishments of a team over the course of the season,” Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley said. “It’s the punctuation mark at the end of a chapter. I’m especially happy for the players. They’ve proven over the course of the last month that exceeding expectations can be done if they plan on it and work for it. They’ve earned this one!”
This group certainly did. After back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, the Mounts entered 2014 with little fanfare. Gutted by graduation which depleted their entire pitching staff of a year ago, Ephrata returned just three regulars to the lineup and this season had the look of a definite rebuilding year.
But, from Day One, Shelley said his players bought in, despite losing its section opener to Solanco, and they’ve never looked back.
“I think the Solanco loss to open league play was a pivotal game for us because it offered us our first glimpse at adversity,” Shelley said. “It also provided a golden opportunity to examine every aspect of how we were performing as a team, how we were coaching, and how we were practicing. We then had a team meeting to assess changes that had to occur if we wanted to seek different results. The message to everybody at that point was that if we truly wanted to be competitive and have any chance of reaching our team goals, then we needed to embrace those changes for the remainder of the season. To everyone’s credit, they bought in.”
Monday, Fogarty-Harnish allowed little after getting touched by the homer in the first. He went the distance, scattering just five hits while striking out four to pick up his third win of the year.
Offensively, Good led the nine-hit Ephrata attack, knocking in five runs on a 3-for-3 performance. Weik also had three hits while both Brady Sipe and team-leading hitter Nate Fassnacht (.469 average) added a pair of hits each in the win.
With Monday’s victory, Ephrata improved to 11-2 in league play (12-3 overall). The Mounts, who for the first time in Shelley’s 17 years are the top-ranked team in the District, will play out the rest of its schedule before entering the L-L playoffs May 10 at War Memorial where they’ll face the Section Four runner-up in Round One.
Asked about his team’s ultimate potential heading into the playoffs, Shelley said he expects his team to continue to claw and scratch the way it has throughout the campaign.
“Our focal point since our first loss of the season has been to compete every pitch and risk everything,” Shelley said. “I told the players that if you compete every pitch and you risk failing by giving a full effort, that’s all I can ask of them. But, without risk, there would be little reward…we needed everyone competing together to create the kind of synergy that makes certain teams consistently out-perform their opponents. This team found that somewhere along the line. Have we over-achieved so far? Perhaps…but, we’re having fun with it and I think that makes us an interesting team to continue to follow.”
In addition to Monday, Ephrata captured perhaps its biggest win of the year last Thursday at home as the Mounts took an early 3-0 lead and rode the right arm of starter Morgan Stauffer to a 5-1 victory.
Stauffer, who picked up his team-leading fourth win, struck out four and scatted four hits as he out-dueled Solanco ace Zack Leonard for the victory.
Offensively, Ephrata collected nine hits off the Solanco ace as Sipe, Bobby Nye and Josh Gehman all had two hits apiece for the Mounts. Both Sipe and Fassnacht scored a pair of runs in the win.
And last Wednesday at home vs. Penn Manor, pitcher Austin Lowrey went the distance, scattering four hits in a 3-1 victory over the Comets.
Lowrey struck out two in his complete-game win.
Offensively, Fassnacht went a perfect 3-for-3 while Charlie Warden added a pair of hit to pace the winners.
The lone blemish of the week came Saturday in a non-league contest at Emmaus where the host team earned a 4-2 victory over the Mounts.
Fassnacht had three of the seven Ephrata hits as the Mounts fell behind 4-0 after five innings before rallying for two runs.
Matt McGillan went the distance for Ephrata, allowing just six hits and two earned runs in taking the loss.
Cocalico went 1-2 on the week with its lone victory coming Friday at Lebanon in a 14-0 five-inning win. Cocalico pitcher Brandon Martin allowed just one hit as the Eagles pounded out 14 hits offensively.
Monday afternoon at home, the Eagles lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Elizabethtown as the Bears erased a 1-0 Cocalico lead with two runs in the fifth.
Cocalico pitcher Colin Myers was the tough-luck loser, allowing six hits with a pair of strikeouts.
Cocalico also dropped a 5-1 decision to visiting Warwick last Wednesday. Warwick held a 5-0 lead into the seventh before the Eagles got on the board.
The Eagles (8-8 overall) still are in line for a District berth. In the latest AAA rankings, Cocalico was rated 15th overall. The top 16 teams advance to Districts.
Cocalico host Ephrata Wednesday (4:15 p.m.) before traveling to CV Thursday (4:15 p.m.) and Solanco Monday (4:15 p.m.).
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