Pitching has Mounts in familiar position
Another week, another search by Adrian Shelley for words to describe yet another outstanding pitching performance from his staff of unheralded hurlers.
Heading into the season, the biggest question mark on a highly inexperienced Ephrata team, was with its staff. A team gutted by graduation, the Mounts were hit hardest on the mound where every single one of its pitchers from a year ago was gone.
Yet, that same unheralded staff is the big, not the sole, reason why the Mounts are 9-2 overall (8-2 in league play) and now own a two-game lead over Solanco in Section Two with six games to play.
Monday night at McCaskey, it was the tandem of Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish and Matt McGillan who combined to toss seven goose eggs at the Tornado in an eventual 12-0 victory. Fogarty-Harnish went five innings and allowed four hits with four strike outs before McGillan pitched two more scoreless frames to close it out.
That came on the heels of Morgan Stauffer’s complete-game 2-1 victory over Hempfield last Thursday and Austin Lowrey’s 6-3 compete-game win over Cedar Crest last Wednesday.
For the season, the staff ERA is an astounding 2.12.
“There are a lot of adjectives that could be used to describe solid pitching performances, but I think the best way to describe our staff to date is ‘reliable,’” Shelley said Tuesday. “Ironically, we were anything but that when the season began due to the lack of varsity experience returning. And, to be honest, after the first few games, I think everyone was concerned that our inexperience on the mound was going to be our Achilles’ Heel all season long. But, then, suddenly, they all seemed to figure things out….how pitches were being called, how to hold runners on, how to keep their composure, how to compete, and most importantly how to consistently get hitters out. I can’t pinpoint a singular event, or moment of epiphany for them, but I can tell you that without their collective efforts over the past few weeks, we wouldn’t be in the position we currently find ourselves in.”
In Monday’s win at McCaskey, Fogarty-Harnish didn’t walk a batter and kept the Tornado offense at bay. That allowed the offense to respond, and they did just that scoring six runs in the top of the third to blow open a tight 1-0 lead. Ephrata later added a single run in the fourth before closing it out with a four spot in the top of the seventh.
Colin Albright knocked in two runs with a hit while Nate Fassnacht and Brady Sipe both had two hits each to pace the Mounts.
It was Fassnacht who was the hitting star in Thursday’s win over Hempfield. With the score tied 1-1 in the seventh, Fassnacht ended the game in walk-off fashion when his hit plated pinch-runner Brian Wentz with the game winner. Stauffer struck out seven, scattered five hits and walked just one en route to the win on the mound.
And in the win at Cedar Crest last Wednesday, Ephrata threw up a five spot in the second inning to give Lowrey a cushion he wouldn’t relinquish as he struck out five and walked just one in the victory.
Offensively, Chase Weik went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI while both Fassnacht and Albright had two hits each to lead the way.
“From Day One, I told this team that we had some obvious holes to fill…that we were a team full of role players, void of superstars, that had to out-hustle, out-compete, and out-execute opponents,” Shelley said. “I think some of the seniors took offense to that…maybe it motivated them, maybe not but, eventually, I think everyone acknowledged it and then embraced the team’s identity. Now, we’re just having fun with it. As someone once said, ‘We are who we thought we were.’”
And they are in great position to wrap up their third-straight Section Two championship. They’ll face Penn Manor Wednesday (7 p.m.) at War Memorial in the final crossover game of the year before Thursday’s huge Section Two contest also at the War against Solanco.
“As the head coach, regardless of how many times you’ve been in this situation before, you’re always managing details, worrying about this or that, and hanging on every pitch of every game, so, unless you’ve clinched, no lead is big enough,” Shelley said when asked of his team’s positioning in the standings. “This is not the time to crunch numbers in order to try to figure out how things should, or could play out. The mantra down the home stretch is to continue to approach each game and each opponent in isolation so that we remain focused solely on what we are able to control. That’s how we got here…and that’s how we’ll continue to proceed.”
While the Mounts ran their winning streak to three games, Cocalico suffered through a 1-2 week to fall into fourth place in the section with a 4-6 mark (7-6 overall).
Monday afternoon at Manheim Township, the host Blue Streaks jumped out to a 7-1 lead after four innings and cruised to an eventual 10-4 decision over Cocalico.
The Eagles out-hit the Streaks, 10-8 but committed five errors in the loss.
Cocalico also dropped an 8-5 decision at home to Penn Manor last Thursday. The Comets struck for five runs in the first inning and eventually held on for the win. Jake Terry did homer to lead the seven-hit Cocalico attack.
Cocalico did earn a big 11-0 shutout victory on the road at McCaskey last Wednesday. In that one, pitcher Colin Myers pitched a complete-game four hitter while striking out four and walking one for the victory.
The Eagles led 1-0 in the first before breaking it open with five runs in the fourth and five more in the sixth.
Cocalico will host Warwick Wednesday before traveling to Lebanon Friday to face the Cedars. Both contests begin at 4:15 p.m.