One to forget Miscues help Mules pull upset

By on April 3, 2013

By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor, Staff Writer

The success of the Ephrata High School baseball program throughout the Adrian Shelley era can largely be attributed to its ultra-aggressive offensive approach.

A close second would be its stellar play at the defensive end. Simply put, Ephrata rarely beats itself.

However, that wasn’t the case Monday afternoon at home vs. Solanco, in the Section Two opener for both teams.

The Mounts, who return just three starters from their section championship team of a year ago, simply struggled with the gloves Monday. Ephrata committed five key errors and several other mistakes which paved the way to a 10-7 loss to Solanco.

Ephrata’s Matt Herbener’s clutch two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the sixth, gave the Mounts (2-1 overall, 0-1 section) a 7-6 lead heading to the seventh, but they couldn’t hold it.

After Solanco (1-2, 1-0) tied it on an RBI single by Caleb Groff off Ephrata reliever Ethan Sipe, the Mounts could see their out of the inning when Eric Lefevre hit a two-out foul pop between home and first with runners at first and second. Unfortunately for Ephrata, the pop was misplayed and fell to the turf, giving Lefevre new life. The Solanco catcher took advantage, roping a double to the gap to knock in both runners and give the Mules a 9-7 advantage.

Another Ephrata error in the inning them produced the final run of the night before Solanco reliever Zach Leonard closed it out in the bottom of the inning with a pair of strike outs.

"We’ve always been known for our defensive execution, so these issues that we’re dealing with right now are not only uncharacteristic, but as we’re finding out…costly," Shelley said following the game. "The defensive miscues are exposing our inexperience, and it’s coming back to bite us. Hopefully, we can tap into our depth and resolve our (defensive) problems."

Six of the 10 Solanco runs scored were unearned, but despite its defensive woes, Ephrata still was in it till the very end thanks to an opportunistic offense.

The Mounts, who came from behind three different times in the game to either tie the score or take the lead, pounded out 10 hits in the contest. Herbener went 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI out of the nine hole, while sophomore rightfield Andre Good also had three hits to lead the way.

"I thought our line-up did a great job today responding when it was our turn at bat," Shelley said. "We’ve had to answer deficits multiple times in two of our first three games, and we’ve shown a lot of grit during those moments… so, that’s definitely a positive moving forward."

Solanco took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Damon Kreider, who reached on an error, scored on a wild pitch uncorked by Ephrata start Brandon Miller.

The Mounts tied it with a single run in the second when Miller opened the inning with a double to left and later scored on the front end of a well-executed first-and-third play. However, the Mules responded in the top of the third to make it 3-1, scoring both runs on the second Ephrata error of the inning– a throwing error which occurred with two outs.

But the Mounts appeared to take control in the bottom of the third, plating three runs to grab their first lead of the game at 4-2.

Herbener started off the frame with a single to left and Paul Larusso followed with another hit up the middle. Good then laid down a perfect bunt down the third baseline to load the bases.

A wild pitch plated the first run, and then Josh Gehman ripped a double to score another before Miller’s sac fly gave the Mounts the lead.

However, it wouldn’t last as Solanco tacked on two more runs in the top of the fourth to re-take the lead at 5-4. Miller, who deserved a better fate out of his second start of the season, was relieved after five full innings. He allowed five hits but only two earned runs with five strike outs and five walks.

"Brandon’s job was to pound the zone and make them put the ball in play. He did that," Shelley said. "However, we traded several key opportunities to record the final out of an inning and, in exchange, turned them into runs against us. No team can afford to do that and expect to find themselves cleaning up the winning dugout at the end of the game."

Solanco added a run in the top of the sixth off Sipe (2 Ks, 0 BBs) to make it 6-4 as Kreider delivered a two-out RBI single to plate Lefevre, who had singled earlier in the inning.

But that led to the Mounts go-ahead rally in the sixth. Colin Albright led-off the frame with a double to the fence in left field off Leonard, who relieved starter Harrison Ault (5 Ks, 0 BBs) to start the inning. Trevor Seibel then followed with a walk before courtesy runner Luke Morgan scored two batters later on Nate Cummings’ fielder’s choice grounder that was misplayed. That brought Herbener to the plate, and he delivered his big double to left to put the Mounts in front.

But unfortunately, they couldn’t hold it in the seventh. Lefevre, who got the key hit in the final frame, led the Mules’ nine-hit attack with three hits, including a double and a triple.

Leonard earned the win while Sipe was tagged with the loss.

While it is only one loss, every league game is doubly important in a season where there is no clear-cut favorite in Section Two.

"Three teams are sitting atop Section Two after today, and we’re not one of them, so we’ve got some work to do," Shelley said.

In addition to Monday, Ephrata also was in action Saturday in a non-league contest at home vs. Mid-Penn power Cumberland Valley.

The Mounts led 10-2 after five innings of play before holding off a late Eagle rally to post a 10-8 victory.

Albright knocked in three runs with a double while Miller added a key triple with two RBI to pace the Ephrata offense.

Winning pitcher Seth Griffith went five strong innings for the Mounts, striking out three and walking just one, before tiring in the sixth. Morgan Stauffer and Ethan Sipe both came on in relief to close it out for Ephrata.

Jordan Frazier and Mitchell Lacey each had three hits to lead Cumberland Valley (1-2).

Cocalico was also in action Monday afternoon in Lebanon where the Eagles ran into a hot pitcher.

Lebanon’s Cameron Martin tossed his second-straight complete-game shutout, allowing just one hit in an 11-0, five-inning victory.

Martin whiffed five Cocalico batters without issuing one walk in his gem.

Lebanon scored three runs in third and then broke it open with an eight-run fourth.

The Cedars had just four hits off Cocalico pitcher Jake Terry, who struck out eight. However, the Eagles committed four key errors behind the junior pitcher.

As for Cocalico, the Eagles were slated to face Lancaster Mennonite Tuesday afternoon but those results were unavailable as of press time.

Cocalico also was in action last Thursday at Garden Spot where the host Spartans erased a 1-0 Eagle lead with an 11-run fourth to seal an 11-1 victory.

Cocalico collected just three hits in the contest as sophomore pitcher Nate Baxter was tagged with the loss.

The Eagles will host Elizabethtown Wednesday afternoon before entertaining Ephrata on Friday. Both contests are set to begin at 4:15 p.m. More MISCUES, page B-2

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