Township outduels Merlins in League playoffs
Ephrata to face Cocalico/Mountville winner in loser’s bracket
In a well played pitching and defense-dominated contest, the Ephrata Merlins (10-7-2) fell 3-0 to top-seeded Manheim Township (18-1) in the Lancaster County Youth Baseball League (LCYBL) 10U Section One playoffs on Monday night at Maneta Park in Denver.
The only runs in the game came were scored in the bottom of the second, when four of the first five Blue Streaks hit safely, scoring two earned runs. A third unearned run crossed the plate when an errant throw sailed past third base and against the surrounding fence.
This was game two for both clubs in the League playoffs. On Friday, the Merlins clubbed Manheim 15-3 while Township ousted Solanco handily. Ephrata falls into the loser’s bracket and plays tomorrow night (Thursday) at 6 p.m. against the winner of the Cocalico/Mountville match at Denver. The Streaks play the Warwick Cardinals (11-7) Friday at 6 p.m. at Kunkle field in Mount Joy in the winner’s bracket final.
The Merlins’ defense was on display early, when Township pitcher Mike Heckman tried to go from first to third on a single, but was thrown out at third on a throw from first. In the third, Ephrata catcher Coy Schwanger threw out a Streak base runner, who was attempting to steal third. In the fourth, Merlin shortstop Zach Musser converted outstanding back-to-back plays, first ranging behind second base to snare a short fly, then going into the hole toward third and throwing out the runner. The topper occurred in the fifth, when Ephrata center fielder Dawson Shelley robbed Township’s Ryan Flury with a leaping catch on a ball that was at minimum a double and possibly more.
Merlins’ skipper Brad Crills was pleased with his team’s effort.
“I can’t be disappointed,” he said. “I’m pleased with their improved knowledge of the game. They did things on defense to save runs.”
When asked about the difference in the game, Crills said, “The great equalizer is the breaking ball. Township uses it, and we don’t allow it at this age. Give credit to them. There is a reason that they only have one loss.”
The Streaks out-hit the Merlins 7-4 and the one Ephrata error cost them a run, while Manheim Township did not have any. Township pitchers struck out six while issuing no walks. The Ephrata hurlers struck out two while walking three and hitting one. The game was over in an hour and five minutes, testimony to the well-played game.
Coach Crills talked before the game about how he gets his players.
“The entire Ephrata organization has a winter evaluation system,” he said. “The high school players give back to the community by helping the summer coaches rate each player by skill level.”
Another way to get them is by the second generation route. You might remember the last names like McCracken, Crills, Shelley, Hurst and Hagen, all athletes at Ephrata High School in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Their sons are all playing for the Merlins this year.