Post 429 sweeps Penn Manor to win fourth-straight league title

By on July 23, 2014
Pitcher Seth Griffith (left) and Brady Sipe celebrate with their trophy moments after the Post 429ers clinched their fourth-straight District 10 League title last Thursday at Penn Manor. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Pitcher Seth Griffith (left) and Brady Sipe celebrate with their trophy moments after the Post 429ers clinched their fourth-straight District 10 League title last Thursday at Penn Manor. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata legion Coach Derek Sipe said it best when he was asked to describe the feat his team pulled off over the final 24 hours of the District 10 American Legion playoffs last Thursday night at Penn Manor.

“I would say a grind is perfect way to describe it,” he said after watching his squad win three straight games out of the loser’s bracket to claim its fourth-straight District 10 League title.

It certainly wasn’t easy.

Ephrata overcame rainouts, a switch in venues which negated its home field advantage, and a pair of tough outs in Lancaster and Penn Manor (twice) to capture the title.

“And we did all of that with our backs against the wall, having to win to stay alive,” Sipe said. “They responded. We didn’t play our best but we did what we needed to do. We got some key performances from some key guys, and we found a way.”

No one was more key than right-hander Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish, who took the ball against Penn Manor after Ephrata eliminated Lancaster, 3-0, last Wednesday behind pitcher Nate Baxter’s six-hit shutout.

All Fogarty-Harnish did was go seven strong frames Wednesday evening against the Comets before darkness caused the suspension of the 2-2 game heading to the eighth. The next day, with Ephrata needing a win to force a final game against Penn Manor, Fogarty-Harnish picked up where he left off and tossed two perfect innings before getting the 3-2 victory when Ethan Sipe drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth to score brother Brady Sipe with the winning run.

Exactly 20 minutes after the win, Fogarty-Harnish took the mound again in Game Two and spun three more perfect frames before handing off to Seth Griffith, who went the rest of the way, allowing just one hit, in the eventual 3-0 Ephrata victory.

All told, Fogarty-Harnish, who was named the Outstanding Pitcher of the tournament, pitched a total of 12 innings over the final 24 hours and allowed just eight hits and two runs in the two victories over Penn Manor.

“Gavilan has been our go-to guy all season and he really showed heart out there,” said his battery mate Colin Albright. “He could have been done after the first game, but he went out and pitched his heart out.”

Coach Sipe was equally impressed with his ace.

“He was unbelievable,” he said. “What he was able to do yesterday and come back today is hard to describe…I don’t know if I’ll see anything like that again. Not only that he was able to do it, but how effective he was is just amazing. To come out today and throw five perfect innings is just unbelievable. You just got to tip your cap to him and recognize that it was something special.”

In the first part of Game One vs. Penn Manor last Wednesday, Penn Manor took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first before Ephrata quickly knotted it at 1-1 in the bottom of the inning when Albright reached on a walk and eventually scored on an error.

Ephrata then took its first lead of the game in the fifth when Anthony Embiscuso singled with one-out and came around to score on Ethan Sipe’s infield hit. However, Penn Manor rallied to tie it in the top of the sixth on Jake Herr’s RBI single.

That set the stage for the next day’s action, which Ephrata ended quickly in the second extra inning.

“It was nice to come back and finish the (first) game early,” Fogarty-Harnish said. “Once we got that first game then I really knew we could move on.”

And after Fogarty-Harnish retired Penn Manor in the top of the first, Ephrata gained even more momentum when the Post 429ers plated a pair of first inning runs. Ethan Sipe was hit by a pitch to start the game and Tournament Most Valuable Player Jake Terry followed with a bunt single. Sipe eventually came around to score on Albright’s groundout, and Terry added a second run when he scored from third on a first-and-third play.

“We gained a lot of momentum after the first win,” Albright said. “(Penn Manor) seemed to not have any energy, and once we scored those two runs we just sort of put them away.”

Terry agreed.

“Winning that first game in two innings, that was huge,” he said. “Everything just kind of worked out in our favor today.”

Fogarty-Harnish, who struck out four of the nine batters he faced in Game Two, and Griffith kept the Penn Manor offense at bay through five. Then in the sixth, Ephrata plated a huge insurance run when Terry was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. He moved to second on a balk before scoring later in the inning on a clutch RBI single to center by Baxter.

Penn Manor did threaten in the sixth, putting runners at second and third with two outs. However, Griffith retired Nate McFarland on a liner to Terry in left to end the threat. Then in the seventh, Griffith walked Jeremy Miller with one out. But Ephrata shortstop Jarred Martin got him at second on a force play for the second out. The Post 429ers then closed it out when Lee Estep, who reached on a fielder’s choice, was gunned down by Albright trying to steal second to end the game and give Ephrata the championship.

“At some point we are going to not win one, I assume,” Coach Sipe, who now has four league titles in four years at the helm, said. “But they didn’t want it to be this year. I think we have a special group. Winning four straight titles is pretty incredible and I think credit goes to the high school coaches and the job (Head Coach Adrian Shelley) does. The players deserve credit too for all the hard work they put in the off season and the hard work that they do in the school season. It’s difficult to win one year, let alone put four together. We saw how difficult it was for us this year. This was one of our best seasons but it was a grind. We had to battle. It took everything and everyone, but we found a way.”

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