Delivering the ‘Goods’

By on June 1, 2016

 Senior pitcher blanks Cumberland Valley as Mounts reach title game

Ephrata’s Dillon Good delivers a pitch during Tuesday’s victory over Cumberland Valley. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata’s Dillon Good delivers a pitch during Tuesday’s victory over Cumberland Valley. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

The Ephrata baseball team made a little history Tuesday.

That’s kind of saying something based on the fact that the Mounts have won a slew of section championships and have claimed three league titles under Coach Adrian Shelley.

But before Tuesday, Ephrata had never reached a District title game or played in the State playoffs. Now, the Mounts will get to do both in the next week.

Tuesday in the District Three AAAA semifinals at Nye Elementary School in Hummelstown, the Mounts scored an early run against Cumberland Valley and then rode the right arm of ace Dillon Good the rest of the way en route to a thrilling 1-0 victory over the Eagles.

Evan Frees laced an RBI single off the shortstop’s glove in the bottom of the second inning to account for the game’s only run. Good did the rest, shaking off some early trouble before settling in to post a complete-game, four-hit shutout.

Ephrata players huddle with Coach Adrian Shelley (right) moments after clinching a spot in the District finals with a 1-0 victory over Cumberland Valley Tuesday. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata players huddle with Coach Adrian Shelley (right) moments after clinching a spot in the District finals with a 1-0 victory over Cumberland Valley Tuesday. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

The win vaults the Mounts (20-5) into Thursday’s District Three title game opposite Governor Mifflin (17-7), which knocked off Cedar Cliff 6-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal. Thursday’s game will be played at 1:30 p.m. at First Energy Stadium in Reading.

In addition to that game, the Mounts will make their first-ever appearance in the State Tournament, which begins Monday at a site and time to be determined. Should the Mounts win the District title, they would face the fifth seed out of District One. If they finish as the runner-up, Ephrata will draw either the District Two or District Four champion.

“It just feels great being the first Ephrata team to make it to the District finals and to make it to States,” Good said after Tuesday’s win. “It’s huge for us. Last year winning the league championship, we kind of wanted to build on that. We wanted to make a better run even than that so it feels good to kind of fulfill that goal but at the same time we know we are not done yet.”

Shelley, in his 19th season, said it was nice to see his team take that next step and make the finals against the ninth-seeded Mustangs.

“For me personally, we are kind of excited to take our team and our school to the big stage like that,” he said. “We’ve won our share of section titles and collected a couple league titles so it’s nice to finally get here and play for a District title. As I’ve said before, it’s a 16-team field, it’s a single-elimination format, that’s tough. It’s hard to be a Manheim Central football program in baseball. You got to have a couple things go your way. You get into some tight games like this and your players have to grind. Right now that’s where we are and I’m proud of them.”

Tuesday, Ephrata scored the lone run in the bottom of the second against Eagle starter Mitch Hoon, who was a 3-2 winner over Ephrata in an early-season meeting on the West Shore.

Patrick Gallagher drew a lead-off walk to start the frame but was erased on Nick Auker’s RBI ground out. But eight-hole hitter Mitch Storb followed with a walk to place runners at first and second with one out. Frees then stroked a two-strike fastball that glanced off shortstop Zach Belansek’s glove and into centerfield to bring home Auker for what turned out to be the game’s lone run.

“Real good approach,” Shelley said when asked about Frees’ hit. “Since the playoffs started he’s tweaked some things. “He’s had some great BPs. He hit another ball hard, he just caught it a little bit up the barrel. That bottom of the lineup had to grind it out today.”

Frees said he was looking for a fastball and got it.

“It was early in the game and I was just looking for my pitch,” he said. “It was low and away, the spot where I like it and I was very fortunate to get it, especially with two strikes.”

“Throughout this tournament all nine guys in the lineup have been swinging the bats really well,” Frees continued. “We got nine at bats where we are hitting the ball hard and good things are happening. I just went up there, he just gave me my pitch and I just stayed with it and just drove it. If you put the ball in play, good things happen.”

Good things have happened for the Mounts all season with Good on the mound. And that was the case again Tuesday after he was spotted the lead.

After surviving a 27-pitch first inning in which CV (15-7) left runners on second and third, Good allowed just five base runners the rest of the way and only one reached scoring position as he faced one batter above the minimum from the second through sixth innings.

“That was huge,” Good said of pitching with the lead. “You look at it and it’s only a one-run lead but to go out there and pitch with the lead that really allows you to settle in and throw a lot of strikes.”

He did that, striking out two and walking a pair in the win.

“It was just really being confident in my stuff,” Good said. “In the beginning I kind of struggled a little bit. I couldn’t get my fastball over too well early, but as the game went on I started getting the fastball over better and my velocity stayed up pretty much the whole game so that helped out. Just being consistent with the fastball is what got me through the whole game.”

Shelley added, “The first two innings were a little shaky, and then he started to pitch a little more to contact. He didn’t really have many strikeouts. They put the ball in play, and guys made plays. They elevated a bunch of balls for us so that was a good thing.”

CV did get the lead-off runner on in the seventh when pinch hitter Taylor Zampelli ripped a single past Ephrata third baseman Chase Weik to start the inning. Ryan Carnes then tried to move the runner to second with a sac bunt, but Good gathered it up quickly and threw a strike to shortstop Nate Fassnacht to get the lead runner at second.

Adam Overcash then lofted a ball down to left field that was slicing to the line but Ephrata’s Andrew Thomas made a nice diving catch to put the Mounts just one out away. That came one batter later when Good got Belansek on a lazy fly to center to end it.

“Anybody who is a student of the game will tell you pitching and defense is what wins you championships,” Shelley said. “Whether you hit a solo shot or you get an ugly run off a hard-hit ball off the shortstop’s glove, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day if the pitching and defense shows up. Both teams were locked in a pitcher’s duel, and you either play nine innings and both of them have to leave the game and you hand it over to your bullpen or somebody gets a fortuitous hop and ends up getting the complete game ‘W’. It happened to be us.”

Hoon was the tough-luck loser, allowing just three Ephrata hits with three strike outs and three walks before giving way to the bullpen.

With the loss, Cumberland Valley will now face Cedar Cliff Thursday in the third-place game with the third-and-final State berth awarded to District Three.

As for Ephrata, the Mounts will get a chance to win its first District title Thursday.

“It’s been a goal for us since the beginning of the season, and coming into the District playoffs from Game One we’ve showed that we could be a championship team,” Frees said. “It fueled our drive, and the fact that we did it…we won here and now that we are in the championship game, it truly is a blessing. We worked hard all year and for it to pay off like this, it’s a blessing.”

Ephrata advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals with an exciting 5-4 walk-off quarterfinal victory over Muhlenberg last Thursday at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg.

After Muhlenberg scratched across a run to tie it at 4-4 in the top of the seventh, the Mounts won in dramatic style in the bottom half of the inning when Good’s clutch two-out hit drove in Fassnacht with the winning run.

“At that point we didn’t need an extra-base hit. Nate is fast enough that a single is going to bring him in so I just tried to hit a hard ground ball or a line drive, and that’s what I did. It worked out,” Good said of his clutch AB.

Ephrata, which trailed 3-0 early in this one, probably wouldn’t have advanced had it not been for the stellar relief job turned in by senior Matt McGillan, who took over for starter Adam Schwartz in the second inning and tossed 4-and-two-thirds innings of scoreless baseball.

The Mounts advanced past the second round for the first time since 2004.

“This is huge for us,” McGillan said. “We haven’t advanced past this game in a while, so to be a part of the team that does that is huge for us.”

McGillan struck out just one and did not walk a batter in his relief appearance.

“We knew we had to have somebody come in and pound the zone and make them swing the bats. Matt just did a great job,” Shelley said of McGillan.

Muhlenberg (16-7) took advantage of some Ephrata miscues to take a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first. The Muhls drew two walks, one batter got hit by a pitch, a costly Ephrata error and an infield hit all contributed to the first inning runs off Schwartz (1 K, 3 BBs).

Schwartz then walked the lead-off hitter in the second before being relieved by McGillan, and that runner came around to score on a two-out throwing error by Fassnacht.

But the Mounts responded in the bottom of the second to get two of those runs back. Gallagher got a one-out single before Auker was hit by a pitch. After Muhlenberg starter Alex Bohn retired Mitchel Storb on strikes for the second out, nine-hole hitter Frees delivered a clutch two-run double to the gap in left-center to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Ephrata grabbed its first lead of the game in the fifth when Frees was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and Justin Carvell followed with a double. Two batters later, Good’s sac fly to right tied it before Weik’s double to center gave the Mounts the 4-3 lead.

In the sixth, after Muhlenberg runners reached second and third, Fassnacht was summoned to the mound with two outs to face lead-off hitter Cody Fidler. The Ephrata senior came up big with a huge strikeout to end the threat.

But down to their last at-bat, the Muhls responded with a run to tie the game in the top of the seventh.

Eli Glick drew a lead-off walk off Fassnacht, and when Fassnacht went 2-0 to three-hole hitter Sean Guilbe, Shelley brought in freshman Zach McGillan to finish the at-bat. Guilbe did reach on an infield single but McGillan limited the Muhls to just one run, striking out clean-up hitter Devin Keiper before inducing a ground out which brought home the tying run.

“I thought Zach handled himself extremely well,” Shelley said of his freshman hurler.

That set the stage for the home half of the seventh and the exciting conclusion.

After two quick outs to start the inning, Fassnacht legged out a grounder to short. One pitch later, Fassnacht stole second before Good delivered his gamewinner with a line drive hit to right.

For the game, Muhlenberg out-hit Ephrata, 6-5. Zach McGillan got the win while Muhlenberg reliever Brayden Keller was tagged with the loss.

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