Pride fall just short in New Era semifinals

By on July 23, 2014
Ephrata pitcher Nate Fassnacht stares in for his sign during the Pride’s New Era semifinal game vs. Hempfield at Clipper Magazine Stadium. (Photo by Dwight Palm)

Ephrata pitcher Nate Fassnacht stares in for his sign during the Pride’s New Era semifinal game vs. Hempfield at Clipper Magazine Stadium. (Photo by Dwight Palm)

Two baseball players could play on the same field on different nights and have the exact opposite perspective on the field itself. Case in point, Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, home of the Atlantic League’s Barnstormers. All of the A-League teams have players, who at one point have made it to the “Majors.”

To these men, Clipper Stadium is no big deal, as they’ve played in much bigger before. For the past week however, this venue was home to the New Era Tournament’s Midget Division (15 and 16-year olds). To these School Division players (primarily high school JV players in the spring), it’s a very big deal. Both head coaches at Friday night’s semifinal were in agreement.

Ephrata Pride skipper Jeff Oberholtzer said it was a motivator all year.

“The goal was “A trip to the Clip. The great experience of playing under the lights,” he said.

Hempfield Black Manager Jeremy Morrison’s pre-game speech addressed the surroundings.

“Relax and play to your capabilities.” He went on about the danger of playing in a pro stadium. “There’s a lot of anxiety in this environment. Kids get tight. You can see it in the first couple of games.”

Hempfield held on to beat Ephrata 5-4 Friday, advancing to the Midget final Monday where they lost to Strasburg/Willow Street, 5-4 in eight innings.

After a scoreless first inning, the Black broke on top in the bottom of the second on the first of three hits by third baseman Jeremy Noel. An errant pickoff throw at second base plated a second run as the Hempfield lead stood at 2-0 after two.

Ephrata closed to within 2-1 in the top of the fourth when third baseman Dillon Good hit the first of his two doubles into the left field corner, driving in Evan Frees from first base. The rally fell short when Black starting pitcher Chase Gilbert picked up his seventh and eighth strikeouts of the game to end the inning.

Hempfield struck again, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth, sandwiching three walks around two singles as Oberholtzer was forced to replace starter Nate Fassnacht with Good, one out into the inning. The Pride escaped without further damage on two plays at the plate, one a force on a ground ball to second, the last a tag play as Drew Scoggin tried to run home as a pitch became loose behind the catcher. Catcher Justin Carvell flipped the ball to Good, who completed the final out.

The Black upped the ante to 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth as Tim Gailor’s leadoff single was nursed into a run by taking advantage of his legs. The Hempfield shortstop stole second and third before dashing home with the eventual game-winner on a wild pitch.

For the second straight night, Ephrata put a crooked number on the board in the sixth. Frees led off with a single, moved to second on a walk to Good and the bases were loaded with no outs as pinch hitter Jory Hagen looped a single into right field. Adam Schwartz’s two run single made it 5-3 and bringing an end to Gilbert’s night on the mound.

Morrison replaced the lefthander with right fielder Greg Gambler. Normally, a steal attempt with runners on first and third is met with little resistance. However, Hempfield catcher Reilly Workman gunned down Schwartz for out number one. When Gambler walked Patrick Gallagher it left the Pride staff rethinking the steal attempt. Fassnacht’s third-straight single plated the fourth run, but the inning ended with Ephrata down by a run.

Good shut down the Black in the sixth, despite surrendering Noel’s third hit of the game, setting up the drama of the seventh and final inning.

Frees’ lead-off single was followed by Good’s second double, a towering shot into the right field corner to place runners at second and third with no outs. At this point, Hempfield made another pitching change, the second with two men on and nobody out. Second baseman Andrew Corso came to the mound with the game on the line.

The first batter he faced hit a hard ground ball to shortstop Gailor, who held the runners before collecting the first out at first base. Schwarz then lofted a short fly behind second, also gathered in by Gailor. Down to the last out, Corso coaxed another ground ball to Gailor to seal the victory.

Fassnacht and Good collected three hits each and Frees chipped in with two to lead the offense. However, Ephrata did strand 11 base runners for the game.

Normally after a game, the numbers tell the story of why one team or the other won, but Ephrata out hit Hempfield, 13-5. Ten of those hits, plus four additional baserunners came after the third inning. So, what was the difference?

“LOB’s (left on base) and BB’s (walks) but it was more than that,” said Ephrata boss Oberholtzer. “We started out the season going 0-3 and to end up here… I’m really proud of these guys.”

Morrison had nothing but complements for the Pride.

“They are a fundamentally-sound program both spring and summer,” he said. “We only had five hits, but were able to make the most of them.”

In Thursday night’s Quarterfinal, the sixth-seeded Pride roared from behind, erasing a 5-0 deficit to the #3 seeded Bears Blue squad. Ephrata scored five in the fourth and six in the sixth enroute to a 12-6 win also at Clipper Stadium.

Matt McGillan went the distance, scattering seven hits for his fifth victory of the summer. Fassnacht (three hits, triple, two runs), Good (two hits, triple, two runs), Carvell (two hits, two RBI’s) and Adam Schwartz (two hits, two runs) led the offense.

Oberholtzer talked about his pitcher’s effort.

“In the early going, he was feeling his way,” the coach said of McGillan. “By the fourth, he was getting comfortable and his confidence carried him the rest of the way.”

Ephrata ends the season at 9-6-1.


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