Warrior bats explode, hand Ephrata first league loss

By on April 18, 2012

By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor truth.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

It was all about the approach.

In his pre-game speech Monday, Warwick Baseball Coach Matt Gale emphasized the importance of getting into good hitting counts against Ephrata senior pitcher Andre Hoover, a tall lefty with a good live fastball and a devastating breaking pitch.

"We talked about just staying back, because (Hoover) has really good off-speed stuff, and to look for the fastball. You don’t want to get behind against a guy like that."

Message received.

Warwick pounded out 11 hits over the first three innings against Hoover, who had not given up an earned run all season and was 3-0 coming into the game. Warwick led 9-2 when Hoover was finally lifted with two outs in the third, and the Warriors cruised from there en route to an eventual 9-3 victory at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.

Derrick Shields went 4-for-5 with two RBI while Korey Johnson added a big two-run double to pace the Warriors, now winners of four straight. Even starting pitcher Zack Hurst got into the act with a 2-for-3, three RBI performance with the bat. Hurst, a "sub-marine pitcher," was equally impressive on the mound, scattering five Ephrata hits while striking out seven to earn the complete-game victory.

"I would venture to say that (Hoover) wasn’t as sharp as he normally is, and that played in our favor," Gale said. "But we really just got some clutch hits early, and that just took a lot of pressure off our pitcher and our defense. It was just the approach that we took and guys just coming up big, getting good swings in good counts with the right pitches against them."

Ephrata (6-1 Section Two, 8-3 overall), which suffered its first league loss of the season, used four pitchers on the night, committed two key first inning errors and was off balance at the plate all night long against Hurst.

It was just one of those nights for the Mounts.

"Guys have off nights," Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley said. "That’s just how this game works. We did enough early in the game to put us in a situation where we backed ourselves into a corner. You can look at it that way, but I’ll still say (the Warriors) have to go up there with a bat in their hands and stroke out 11 hits in three innings.

"They strung together some quality at bats and made some really good defensive plays. Some times instead of trying to figure out what went wrong you have to tip your hat to them. Warwick came out and played a good brand of baseball tonight."

It started from the opening pitch as the Warriors sent eight men to the plate in the top of the first as they grabbed a quick 3-0 lead on the Mounts.

Shields got it started with a one-out single before Tyler Morris and Brian Eshleman each followed with hits. The latter brought Shields home with the first run of the game. Then, after an Ephrata throwing error loaded the bases, Hurst ripped a two-run double to the gap in right-center to complete the three-run frame.

Ephrata did come right back and plate two runs of its own in the bottom of the first, but it could have been much more than that as the first six batters reached base. However, Tim Murray was picked off at first and Paul Larusso was thrown out at the plate for two huge outs. Hoover’s infield single did plate the Ephrata runs, scoring both Parke Martin and Ryan Schwark.

Warwick got one run back in the second when Johnson drew a lead-off walk and eventually came around to score on an RBI single to right by Shields. Then in the third, the Warriors broke it open with a five-run inning.

After Hoover struck out Robert Gerofsky to start the inning, the Ephrata ace didn’t record another out as Warwick strung together six-straight hits to chase him from the ballgame. Braidy Weiler, Chris Wentzel and Morris all delivered RBI singles while Johnson clubbed his big two-run double.

Hoover struck out four and walked one in suffering his first loss of the season.

"Andre’s outing may be the headline, but we were also frustrated offensively tonight," Shelley said. "When we (came to bat) in the first inning it looked like we were just going to jump right back in the game. But when they matched it that kind of took out some steam. Their pitcher did a nice job tonight with his funky delivery. And when we got behind it kind of muted our run game a bit."

After their first inning, the Mounts never threatened again offensively until the seventh as Hurst cruised. Ephrata did score one run in its final at bats as Murray singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch. But Hurst, who was pitching with a hairline fracture on his right pitching hand, was able to get Ephrata DH Parke Martin to ground out to end the game.

"Zack has thrown really well for us this year," Gale said. "I initially thought he was done for the year (because of the injury) after having two good games for us to start the season. He said he felt he could do it, and that was even more impressive to me that he was able to go out and do what he did tonight."

With their four-straight wins, the Warriors suddenly find themselves back in the Section One race at 4-3 (5-6 overall). They’ll go for five in-a-row Wednesday in Lititz (4:15 p.m.) when they face another strong Section Two foe in Solanco.

Gale said he hopes his team continues to ride the wave of momentum heading into the second half of the year.

" The last week we really started getting on a roll," Gale said. "Baseball is just a game of momentum, and when guys are feeling good, feeling confident, seeing grapefruits at the plate, then it all comes together. That’s kind of what’s going on right now and we just hope it continues."

"It was a big win for us," he continued. "We are aware of how good (Ephrata) is. I don’t doubt that that team can definitely continue to beat good teams. We are aware of what they are capable of so it was nice to get a big win tonight."

As for the Mounts, Ephrata must put this one in the rearview mirror quickly with a battle vs. Section One leader Cedar Crest looming for Wednesday (4:15 p.m.) in Cornwall. They also host Hempfield in another tough crossover match-up Friday night (7 p.m.) at the War.

"They definitely can come back," Shelley said of his team. "I expect them, being the veteran team that they are, to come out to the ballpark and expect a new result. They’ve proven it twice this year when we were able to bounce back from defeat. On the other hand, we can only control our effort. We play two very good baseball teams. I’m not interested in seeing how they’ll respond. I’m pretty confident that they will come out and play hard because that is the type of team that we have."

He added, "I think our record stands for the type of play we’ve had. We’ve earned that record, and that’s coming from playing some very good baseball. The other part of this is the way the game is designed, and it’s very hard to do that day in and day out. Every once in a while when it doesn’t happen, you have to maintain. There are no reasons to point fingers or place blame or press the panic button. I’m good with it."

It was actually a good week for the Mounts, who notched league wins over Manheim Township and CV, as well as a non-league victory over South Western Saturday night.

Friday afternoon at Manheim Township, the Mounts staked out to a 7-0 lead after four innings before holding on for a 7-4 victory.

Brandon Miller went six strong innings, allowing just three runs to get the win. Evan Young came in the seventh inning to shut the door and earn the save.

Offensively, Evan Weaver was a perfect 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI to pace the 11-hit Mounts’ attack. Hoover and Martin both added a pair of hits each for the winners.

Last Wednesday at home vs. CV, Seth Griffith went six, strong innings to lead the Mounts to a 6-1 victory. Griffith struck out three and scattered four Buckskin hits en route to the win.

Offensively, Martin and Weaver accounted for the Mounts’ lone two hits in the victory.

Ephrata added a 10-4 non-league win over South Western Saturday night at War Memorial. Weaver went 3-for-3 with four RBI while Hoover knocked in three runs with a pair of hits to pace the 11-hit Ephrata attack.

Ephrata used four pitchers with starter Jeremy Franck earning the victory.

As for Cocalico, the Eagles dropped three games this past week to fall to 1-9 overall on the year (1-5 section).

Monday afternoon in Denver, visiting Hempfield scored 17 runs in the first three innings as the Black Knights cruised to a 17-5 five-inning win.

Hempfield, the top ranked team in the District, pounded out 14 hits off three Cocalico pitchers.

Offensively, Adam Marshall led the way for Cocalico with a home run.

Friday afternoon at Cedar Crest, the host Falcons overcame a 1-0 Cocalico lead in the fifth, scoring three times to key a tight 3-1 decision.

William Sinnot went the distance for Cocalico, striking out four and walking just one while scattering four Falcon hits. He was the hard-luck losing pitcher.

And last Wednesday at home vs. Solanco, the Mules scored three runs in the top of the first and held on for a 5-2 victory over the Eagles.

Freshman Nathan Baxter went the distance for the Eagles, striking out three and walking none. Adam Planamento and Luke Emling both homered to pace the Mule attack.

Up next, Cocalico hosts McCaskey Wednesday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. More BASEBALL, page B-4

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