Rain wreaks havoc on Region Four Tourney

By on July 25, 2018
Ephrata pitcher Hunter Johns struck out nine and walked just one in the Chryslers’ 8-1 victory over Shippensburg last Friday. He’ll get the ball Thursday against New Cumberland. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Ephrata pitcher Hunter Johns struck out nine and walked just one in the Chryslers’ 8-1 victory over Shippensburg last Friday. He’ll get the ball Thursday against New Cumberland. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Play resumes Thursday at new venue with Ephrata one of four teams still alive

Thursday is the day the Region Four Legion Tournament will crown its champ. That much is known.

However, whether or not that champion is crowned the traditional way on the field is still really anybody’s guess.

The historical rains that have hit the area since Saturday have made a quagmire not only of Diller Field in Hanover but the entire tournament as well.

On Tuesday, for the fourth-straight day, rain put a serious damper on the schedule, wiping out all games that were on the docket.

They’ll try it again on Thursday, although revamped from double-elimination to single-elimination format, and at a different location at Memorial Park in Shippensburg. Ephrata, which opened the tournament with a convincing 8-1 victory over Shippensburg last Friday, will square off against New Cumberland, which defeated host Hanover 13-1 in its lone tournament game also last Friday, in the second game at noon.

Game One Thursday will feature Richland and Waynesboro in a completion of a game those two teams started Saturday with Waynesboro currently holding a 5-0 lead through three innings.

Thursday’s winners will meet in the championship game slated to begin 30 minutes following the Ephrata-New Cumberland match-up.

“I’ve been doing this a few years and I’ve never seen anything like this, or anything close to like it,” Region Four Director Bruce Daveler said Tuesday. “We’ve had a lot of tournaments where we’ve lost a day because of rain but that’s like the worst you ever get in the summer time. In the summer time, you get storms but you can usually play through them or play after the storm…but this is just unreal.”

Daveler said Wednesday’s dreary forecast prompted them to decide to reschedule all three remaining games to Thursday, which is the last day a champion can be determined since the State Tournament begins Saturday in Boyertown. Although the field in Shippensburg has lights “in case we run into any trouble,” and a better day is predicted weather-wise, if for some reason the games do not get played, the last resort could come down to a coin flip.

“We definitely don’t want to do that, and I’m confident that with all those things going in our favor that we’ll finally get a chance to get it in,” Daveler said. “Thursday looks like the sunshine is going to be back, so let’s just all do it one time, get all three games in, and we’ll be done.”

Daveler was asked if they considered moving the tournament to a turf field such as Red Lion or Ephrata to help them get in games. He said that decision is made with consideration to the host (Hanover) since it is responsible for all of the costs of the tournament.

“(A facility such as Ephrata or Red Lion) would not likely allow Hanover to come in, charge admission and have full use of their facilities without charging them. So you have to let the host work with someone that won’t charge them too much,” he said.

Despite all of the changes, Ephrata Coach Derek Sipe is confident his team, the defending State champions, can get it done Thursday.

“We are confident after seeing the teams play, we know we are capable of beating any of the teams there if we play up to our ability,” he said. “We also know we are capable of losing to any of the teams if we don’t. It’s nice that we’ll have all of our pitching available, but I think all the other teams are in the same boat as far as that goes. We are going to send our best out and hope that it’s better than the other team’s best.”

His best this summer has been lefty Hunter Johns, who’ll get the ball for the second time this tournament when they face New Cumberland.

Prior to all of the rain, Ephrata opened the tournament last Friday afternoon with a convincing 8-1 victory over Franklin County champ Shippensburg behind the two-hit pitching of Johns.

Johns was on point from the opening pitch, striking out nine with one walk in 5 2/3 innings pitched. He gave way, after throwing 80 pitches, to reliever Ashton Sensenig, who got the last out in the sixth and went all of the seventh to close things out.

Offensively, Ephrata collected nine hits off Shippensburg pitching. Brock Kauffman and Ben Spencer led the way with two hits each and a pair of RBI.

But the big story was Johns, who faced two batters above the minimum through the first five innings to lead the way to victory.

“I felt great,” Johns said. “Everything was working. Whatever (catcher Ricky Bromirski) called I felt confident in throwing, and for the most part it was around the zone.”

“Obviously Hunter commanded the zone, threw strikes and was working ahead of the batters,” Sipe added. “That made it easy for our defense to stay in the game and stay engaged.

Sipe said Johns, who went 3-0 last post-season as the Chryslers captured a state title and advanced to within a game of the national World Series, gained tons of confidence from that experience, and has taken that into this season.

“I think he just has a ton of confidence every time he takes the mound,” Sipe said. “It seems like he just gets stronger and stronger as the year goes on. Doing what he did last year, against some great opponents, and going deep into ballgames, this is just another game for him now. He’s use to that big stage and nothing is going to intimidate him. He’s just going to go out and give the same outing day in and day out. For him it’s just another game.”

After Johns held down the fort through the first three frames, Ephrata finally got going offensively off Shippensburg starter Colton Zeigler in the bottom of the third.

Kyle Rhoads lined a single up the middle to start things off before Aidan Bracken followed with a walk. After Zeigler got Spencer on strikes, Kauffman delivered an RBI single to right to plate Rhoads with the first run of the game. Adam Maser then reached on an error to bring home the second Chrysler run before Bromirski delivered an RBI single to give Ephrata and Johns a 3-0 lead.

“Getting the lead really helped,” Johns said. “My mindset really changed. I started to relax a little bit more because I knew my guys were with me. It got better from there.”

Ephrata tacked on a run in the fourth when Tim Beever doubled to lead off the inning and came home two batters later when Spencer delivered a clutch two-out RBI single.

Johns carried that four-run lead into the sixth. With his pitcher reaching the 80-pitch mark, Sipe decided to gamble and pull his starter with hopes of using him later in the tournament. Sensenig came on and got out of the sixth, and then the offense added four more runs in the bottom of the inning to pull away.

Bracken knocked in the first run with an RBI double. Spencer followed with his second RBI hit of the game before Kauffman brought him home with a double to left. Kauffman later scored the final run of the inning when he came home on a sac fly to left by Maser.

“It’s really important to keep scoring runs in a tournament like this,” Sipe said. “Even when it was a four-run lead I didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable taking Hunter out, especially the way he was pitching. But coming back and adding those insurance runs at the end just made things a whole lot easier.”

Shippensburg (11-8) did get on the board in the top of the seventh on a two-out RBI single by Logan Martin. But Sensenig got the next batter Noah Jumper to fly out to left to end the game.

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