Red Land ousts Ephrata from regionalsPlayoff run ends with heartbreaking one-run loss
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
With the exception of one inning, Ephrata pitcher Andre Hoover had Red Land’s offense handcuffed.
Hoover, who had entered the game in the fourth inning in relief of starting pitcher Ryan Brubaker, had done a masterful job of mixing his pitches and enabling his teammates to get the upper hand on Red Land.
So there was no reason not to stick with him going into the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday with Ephrata protecting a three-run lead.
Unfortunately for Ephrata, though, the final three outs proved to be the most elusive, as Cumberland County champ Red Land strung four timely hits together, including a walk-off two-run double by Benjamin Dunmire to cap their come-from-behind 8-7 win in an American Legion Region 4 tournament game at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg.
"They came out swinging. What more can you do?," Ephrata skipper Derek Sipe said. "Hoover was throwing good pitches. They just put them in play and not where we were. Somehow, that’s how baseball works out … I would not change anything (about the ninth). Hoov’s our guy at that point and he’s who we wanted out there."
With the loss, Ephrata (17-7 overall) was ousted from the double-elimination tourney, just one win shy of advancing to the finals where they would have earned a rematch against New Oxford, a 7-4 winner over South Western York in Tuesday’s other battle. Only the Region champ advances on to States and Ephrata was hoping to become the first Lancaster County team to do so since Lititz in 2008. They were also trying to bring home Ephrata’s first Regional title since 1990, a team that featured current Ephrata varsity baseball coach Adrian Shelley.
"There’s just a completely different environment this year," said Sipe, an assistant on last year’s squad, "and that really goes back to the guys. They just love being together, they have a ton of fun together, and you could see that today. This one is going to hurt, and I think that shows how special the season was."
Indeed, the District 10 champs had snapped a 4-4 tie with a three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth. Nine-hole hitter Paul Larusso singled, stole second and then did a nifty job to avoid Red Land catcher Dunmire’s tag on Tim Murray’s RBI single to left. Then Dusten Rutt singled, pitcher Kyle Zimmerman threw the ball away and Murray circled the bases. Ephrata scored its final run of the frame on a sac fly by Branden Rutt (2-for-3, 2 RBI’s), putting them up 7-4.
Then after Hoover retired Red Land in order in the eighth, Ephrata seemed to be in good shape going to the ninth. Red Land, though, was at the top of its lineup, and two-hole hitter Zimmerman sliced a double to left field just out of the reach of a diving Murray.
"Tim made a heck of an effort and unfortunately, he wasn’t able to come up with it," Sipe said.
Next, Brad Medellin (3-for-4) delivered an RBI single down the left field line, and when the throw went to the plate, he moved up to second base. Nevertheless, Jeff Scaramuzzino (2-for-4) followed with an RBI double to right, cutting Ephrata’s lead to 7-6 and bringing Dusten Rutt to the hill.
Rutt, who had closed out Ephrata’s 10-9 opening-game win over Hummelstown, was hoping to recapture that magic on Tuesday and he got the next hitter, Shawn Anderson, on a fly out to center. But Jamie Eshelman was hit by a pitch and then both he and Scaramuzzino scored when Dunmire (3-for-5) stroked a 2-2 pitch for a double into the right-center field gap. Ephrata had a chance at cutting off Eshelman at the plate, but the relay throw from second baseman Brok Martin short-hopped catcher Fassnacht and he wasn’t able to hold on to the ball.
"We did a good job of getting the relay in," Sipe said. "Unfortunately, if Brok’s throw is a little short or just a little long, it takes a normal hop or (it goes) straight to Chris. Either way, we have the guy by a good three, four steps. But they came out swinging."
Rutt suffered the tough-luck loss, while Zimmerman, who was also Red Land’s third pitcher in the game, earned the win.
It was Eshelman who started on the hill for Red Land and Ephrata scored an unearned off him in the first to go up 1-0. Martin reached on an error, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the inning, Medellin’s RBI single tied it off of Ephrata starter Ryan Brubaker, who pitched well over three innings, allowing just three hits while walking five and striking out one.
With high-scoring games a common sight in the tournament, both squads were getting solid work on the mound and it remained a 1-1 game until Ephrata pulled in front with three runs in the fifth. Three straight singles by Dusten Rutt, Brok Martin and Branden Rutt produced the go-ahead run. Then, with the bases loaded, Fassnacht was hit by a pitch and Parke Martin walked to force in two more runs. Branden Rutt and Mark Lowrie each finished with two hits to lead Ephrata.
With Hoover retiring seven of the first eight batters he faced, Ephrata took control in the middle innings. He finished with six K’s, while walking two and scattering 10 hits.
Red Land tied it in the seventh inning with four hits and two walks, but Hoover avoided further trouble by rolling an inning-ending double play.
Ephrata recaptured the lead one more time, but unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Their two losses in the tournament were by a combined total of just two runs.
"Both games could’ve easily gone the other way and been in our favor," Sipe said. "But I’m extremely proud of the guys. They continued to fight and give an effort and what more can I ask? We came here expecting to win. We weren’t able to quite do the job, but if a play or two goes a different way in both of those games, we’re sitting here at 4-0 and needing one more win to move on. I think the final three teams are probably pretty happy to see us out."
On Monday, Parke Martin was 4-for-6 with three RBI’s and two runs as Ephrata overcame an early 5-1 deficit to defeat Waynesboro 18-11 in a slugfest to keep their hopes alive.
Trailing 6-3, Ephrata scored five runs off of Waynesboro starter John Barr in the bottom of the fourth to take a lead they never lost. Branden Rutt and Lowrie had three hits apiece, while Hoover and Evan Weaver chipped in with two hits apiece.
Brandon Miller went the distance for the win. He recorded nine K’s while walking six and scattering 13 hits.
Ephrata suffered its first loss of the tournament on Sunday in heartbreaking fashion, dropping a 10-9 loss to New Oxford in a marathon 12-inning classic at Wenger Field.
Joe Murren’s two-out, bases-loaded shot into the left-center field gap slightly before midnight drove in Andrew Czap with the game-winning run, completing a big comeback win for the York champions.
Supported by Branden Rutt’s first-inning RBI double and second-inning RBI single, along with five New Oxford errors in the first four innings, Ephrata jumped out to early leads of 6-0 and 9-3. But New Oxford relievers Conrad Miller and Clint Roche held them scoreless after the fifth inning.
Overall, Ephrata pitchers Evan Young and Dusten Rutt, along with three New Oxford hurlers, combined to throw 436 total pitches.
"It was a great baseball game," Sipe said. "(New Oxford’s relievers) did a heck of a job throwing strikes. We were able to string some hits together (off of starter Cody Pieper), but we also worked some counts and got some walks off of him. The last two (pitchers) just did a great job of being around the plate and throwing strikes and unfortunately for the first time in a long time, we weren’t able to get some hits. I think we were a little surprised about that, but that’s baseball. That’s going to happen."
Still, Ephrata had a golden opportunity to break the 9-9 tie in the top of the 12th against hard-throwing Roche. Chris Fassnacht led off and laced a double to left field and then Parke Martin followed with a fly out to right.
"Parke’s one of our hottest hitters and I was really struggling between bunting him and not bunting him, and it ended up not working out for us," Sipe said.
But Evan Weaver’s eight-pitch walk kept the rally going, and then Paul Larusso singled to right-center to load the bases. New Oxford right fielder Murren made a diving attempt for the ball, which kept Fassnacht from scoring on the play. From there, Roche pitched out of the jam by getting Tim Murray on strikes and then retiring Andre Hoover on a fly out to left.
"Unfortunately, Chris got a little mixed up (on Larusso’s hit) as far as tagging or not tagging and ended up slipping on the play," Sipe said. "But we were still in great position with the bases loaded and one out. And it just seemed like that was kinda the story of our night from the sixth inning on — we just couldn’t get that big hit to tack on an extra run."
In the bottom of the 12th, Dusten Rutt got the first two batters he faced, and then Czap (4-for-7, 3 runs) extended the inning with a single to right, Roche (6-for-7) singled to left, and Pieper reached on Larusso’s fielding error to load the bases. That set the stage for Murren, who smashed a 1-1 pitch from Rutt for the game-winning hit.
"Dusten pitched great for us for (6 1/3) innings and it’s a shame we couldn’t get him a run to make it a better outcome for him, but he pitched a heck of a game," Sipe said.
Rutt, who also pitched three innings for the save in Ephrata’s opening-game 10-9 win over Hummelstown, suffered the tough-luck loss. Throwing a nasty back-door breaking ball, the lefty kept New Oxford at bay while striking out five, walking one and scattering nine hits.
Young went the first 5 1/3 innings on the mound for Ephrata and was in command after his teammates capitalized on three New Oxford errors and Branden Rutt’s RBI single to go up 2-0 in the first.
They added four more in the second off of Pieper as Murray worked a bases-loaded walk, Hoover and Brok Martin hit back-to-back sac flies and Branden Rutt stroked an RBI single to center, pushing the lead to 6-0. Branden Rutt was on base five times while going 3-for-4 with two walks and two RBI’s. Parke Martin chipped in with a 3-for-5 night at the plate and Hoover added two hits and two RBI’s.
Czap had a two-run base hit in New Oxford’s three-run second-inning rally to cut its deficit to 6-3. But Ephrata answered with two in the fourth as Larusso walked and scored when Murray reached on an error and then Brok Martin added an RBI single. They scored their final run in the fifth on Hoover’s RBI base hit which drove in Evan Weaver.
New Oxford, however, didn’t go away. They rallied for two in the fifth inning, then pulled even with a four-run sixth, and both teams’ relievers kept it that way until the decisive 12th inning.
After collecting five hits in the first two innings, Ephrata had just six the rest of the way.
"We’ve been hitting the ball like crazy and we did the first five innings," Sipe said, "and something just happened where we all slumped at the same time. It happens."
Dusten Rutt finished 2-for-5 with two runs and three RBI’s, while Lowrie went 2-for-5 with two RBI’s in support of winning pitcher Andre Hoover, as Ephrata opened things on Saturday with a 10-9 victory over Dauphin County champ Hummelstown.
Trailing 4-3, Ephrata took a lead it never lost with a seven-run sixth and then withstood a late Hummelstown comeback attempt. Hummelstown had the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base in the eighth, but Dusten Rutt rolled an inning-ending double play and then pitched a perfect ninth to end it.
"They kinda had momentum and Dusten was able to roll that ball back to him and turn a big double play and that shifted it all back in our favor," Sipe said. "I knew they had the bottom of their order coming up (in the ninth) and I think at that point, Dusten had given up what he was going to give up."
Early on, Hummelstown took early leads of 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3 behind Colbe Herr, who was 4-for-5 with a double and three RBI’s.
But Hoover went six strong innings for Ephrata to keep his team close. He struck out four, walked just two and scattered nine hits while throwing 80 pitches.
"I told him, ‘The plan is to give us six good innings. If you can go more, great,’ but it was a warm day and he threw a good amount of pitches," Sipe said. "He did a great job and I thought he actually deserved to fare a little better than he did. But he kept us in the game and we were able to take him out with a lead."
They were able to do that thanks to Ephrata’s big sixth-inning rally in which they sent 11 men to the plate and capitalized on two errors and four walks by Hummelstown pitchers Marshal Kiessling and Casey Kulina.
"We did a good job of working the pitchers that inning," Sipe said. "We put the ball in play and made things happen, and when that happens, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense, especially on a hard field which is pretty fast. We did a good job that inning just battling at the plate against a couple of good pitchers."
After Brok Martin and Branden Rutt worked back-to-back leadoff walks, Lowrie battled back from a 1-2 hole and scorched a two-run double to right-center to chase Kiessling and give Ephrata the momentum.
"I thought that was huge," Sipe said of Lowrie’s double. "With first and second and nobody out, they probably assumed a bunt was coming. But he put a great swing on the ball and drove it to center. That set the tone for the inning. The rest of the guys kinda settled in after that knowing we had the lead and they could be comfortable hitting."
Parke Martin added an RBI single to right, Larusso hit a sac fly, Dusten Rutt delivered an RBI single to center, and two more runs scored when Hummelstown center fielder Taylor Paul dropped Brok Martin’s shot to right-center field, making it 10-4.
In the eighth, Paul smashed a leadoff homer to left and Herr added a two-run single to left to cut Ephrata’s lead to one, 10-9, but that was close as they would get. More LEGION, page B-2