Chryslers become first Lancaster County team to claim State title, join ‘90 Elks as second to qualify for Regional Tournament

By on August 2, 2017
Ephrata players dog pile in celebration after winning Lancaster County’s first State Legion title Saturday at War Memorial Field. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Ephrata players dog pile in celebration after winning Lancaster County’s first State Legion title Saturday at War Memorial Field. Photo by Missi Mortimer

As his team sprinted toward first base to join in the celebratory dog pile Saturday afternoon, Ephrata Legion Coach Derek Sipe and Assistant Ryan Crowther stood together along the third baseline at War Memorial Field and just watched it all unfold.

That moment was a culmination of an amazing week, not only for Sipe and his Post 429 team, but also for Ephrata itself, which proved to be an outstanding host of the Pennsylvania State American Legion Tournament.

After going two-and-out at the Region Four Tournament two weeks ago, some wondered if Ephrata, which qualified for States as the host team, could recapture the magic it had all season long.

Well that question was answered with a big resounding, yes.

Ephrata closed out its magical week in grand style Saturday afternoon at the War, defeating Region 8 champion Wesleyville, 7-0, to capture the 2017 State championship.

The Chryslers, who finished a perfect 5-0 for the tournament, broke out on top early with two runs in the first, and then turned it over to pitcher Dillon Good, who would be named Tournament MVP and it’s Outstanding Pitcher. Good every bit lived up to his last name as he tossed a complete-game five-hit shutout to close things out.

With the win, Ephrata not only won the first State championship in program history, the Chryslers became the first team from Lancaster County to bring home the State crown.

So when the celebration kicked off following the last out, Sipe and Crowther just sat back and took it all in.

“To be the first team in Lancaster County history to win a State title is pretty special,” Sipe said when asked about the final moment. “To have it all click perfectly all at once and end like this…it’s just unbelievable. It was just the perfect ending…you couldn’t have dreamt it any better.”

“It feels good,” said Ephrata catcher Justin Carvell of the victory. “It was amazing because it’s my last year and we actually got it done. This is what we came here to do…get it done. And that’s what we did.”

Ephrata, and runner-up Wesleyville, now advance to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Fireman’s Field in Purcellville, Va. The Chryslers become just the second team in Lancaster County history to play beyond the State Tournament, joining the 1990 Ephrata Elks squad, which happened to be in attendance Saturday to cheer on the Chryslers.

“It’s one of those things where it’s hard to recognize the moment when you are in it,” Sipe said. “And I think having the 1990 team out there and knowing the history of them kind of lets us recognize what we really achieved.”

Ephrata (26-5) opens Mid-Atlantic play Wednesday at 7 p.m. where the Chryslers will face host Leesburg Rangers. The other teams in the tournament include: Hopewell, NJ; Rockland County, NY; Wesleyville; La Plata, MD; Wilmington, DE; and Albemarle, VA.

The winner of the Mid-Atlantic Regional will advance to the American Legion World Series, which is set for Aug. 10-15 in Shelby, NC.

Ephrata entered play Saturday in the driver’s seat as Wesleyville had to beat the Chryslers twice while an Ephrata win in Game One would give them the title. It became apparent early that the Chryslers had no intentions of losing.

Good, who allowed just five hits and no runs in 14.2 innings in the tournament, got Ephrata off to a strong start when he got through the top of the first unscathed.

The Ephrata offense went right to work in the bottom of the inning. Brock Kauffman drilled a double to the gap in right-center to lead things off. Carvell then sacrificed him to third before Nick Lucky drew a walk.

That brought Good to the plate, who crushed a one-hopper off the wall in left center field to plate Kauffman and Lucky, who scored all the way from first to give the Chryslers the early cushion.

“We have a goal to win every inning,” Sipe said. “That’s what we want to do in the first inning and then go the rest of the game with that same mentality. It’s really important, especially in a championship-type game, to get that lead early. And when a team knows it has to beat us twice, that can be a deflating feeling when they get down and know it’s going to be a long day. So it’s important to get the lead and not only stay on top, but keep pushing the lead ahead and just give them no chance. We were able to continue to put pressure on them and keep adding on more runs.”

They did just that with another two-spot in the second. Nate Young got it started with a one-out infield single, and Tournament Batting Champion Bryan Downey, who went 7-for-13 for the tournament with four runs scored, five RBI, four walks and four steals, followed with a walk to place runners at first and second.

That brought Kauffman to the plate, who delivered his second big hit of the game, this time a single to left to plate Young with the third Ephrata run. Downey scored two batters later to make it 4-0 on Lucky’s sac fly to right.

While Good was cruising along, Ephrata tacked on two more runs in the fourth and one in the fifth off Wesleyville starter Ethan Sacco to take the commanding 7-0 lead.

Carvell got things started with a single and a steal in the fourth before coming home on Lucky’s RBI single to center. Two batters later, Evan Frees’ RBI single brought home the sixth Ephrata run.

The fifth inning run was set up by Downey’s lead-off bunt base hit. He stole second one batter later and came home on Carvell’s RBI hit.

Downey, the number nine hitter in the lineup, was a catalyst all tourney long for the Chryslers.

“He has a lot of speed, he can control his bat, he’s a difficult out,” Sipe said of Downey. “All those things put pressure on a defense, and things really clicked for him this week. Some balls found spots and he hit some balls hard. It just seemed he had a lot of opportunities to come up with runners on base and it seemed he was always able to come through.”

Downey, who played his high school ball at Lancaster Catholic, said he just tries to help the team in any way.

“Winning the batting award definitely means a lot to me but it was just awesome to be able to help the team,” he said. “Honestly, that big trophy coach was holding up, that’s the trophy I cared about the most.”

With a 7-0 lead in his back pocket, Good wasn’t about to let Wesleyville back in it. He allowed just one hit over the final four frames, and struck out six and walked two in the victory.

“That was probably the best I’ve ever witnessed from Dillon,” said Carvell, Good’s batterymate for the last five seasons. “He was on from the start, even from warm-ups on…he was focused, he knew what he wanted to do and he got it done.”

“I felt good out there,” the ace pitcher said. “I always think about ways I can improve on those five hits. You always think about maybe making different pitches and maybe hitting your spot better, but it’s hard not to be pleased with how I did. I felt great all tournament…it’s been a lot of fun.”

No one appreciated Good’s performance more than Sipe, who pulled him out of a no-hitter in Game One of the tournament so that he’d have him for Saturday.

That move certainly paid off.

“Sending him out there on Day One and thinking he’d be here at the end of it and this would be his stat line…it’s hard to imagine anybody doing that regardless of how good you are or what level you are at,” he said. “I mean he pitched like an ace. He pitched like the best pitcher of the tournament, and he was. What he did was special, and it was fun to watch. I just kind of stayed out of the way. He was locked in, and Justin called two tremendous games. Those two just have so much chemistry, and as things went on they just seemed to get better and better.”

Offensively, Kauffman and Carvell led Ephrata’s nine hit attack with two hits apiece. Zack Mosbacher had two hits to pace Wesleyville.

“Honestly it hasn’t sunk in quite yet,” Carvell, who was the catcher on Ephrata High School’s 2016 District championship squad, said. “It’s kind of like when we won Districts in high school, it doesn’t sink in until later when you actually realize what you’ve done. And we are moving on and that’s what we came here to do.”

While Good enjoyed pitching in front of the home folks, he’s looking forward to Regionals and a chance to face some of the best teams in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“It was great getting to put on a show in front of these fans who came out every day and supported us,” he said. “It was awesome to see the big crowds. We love to see them pack the stands like that, and to be able to bring a championship home for them means a lot.”

“As far as going to Regionals, I don’t see any reason why we won’t have a good chance to win,” he continued. “As long as we keep getting the most out of our pitchers…I mean that’s the key with these tournaments. Pitchers have to be efficient and every guy we put out there really was (at States). We don’t get here without Hunter (Johns) and Zac (McGillan) having the performances they had. We just have to keep the pitching going and if we do we’ll have a good shot at winning it.”

Ephrata’s road to its first State title in history began last Tuesday in the opening round at War Memorial vs. Beech Creek.

This one took on a similar theme as Saturday’s final as Ephrata scored early and often while Good was lights out on the mound.

Good took a no-hitter into the sixth inning but was removed when he reached his 75th pitch, which allowed him to be available for Saturday’s final.

Ephrata led 9-0 at the time and held on for an eventual 9-4 victory over the Region 7 champs.

Downey led the way for Ephrata with three hits and three RBI. The Chryslers, leading 1-0, broke it open in the fourth and fifth innings, scoring four runs in each frame.

Good, who retired the last 12 batters he faced, finished with nine strikeouts and two walks.

With the win, Ephrata remained in the winner’s bracket and advanced to face Region 6 champion Ambridge-Baden, which knocked off Spring City 7-6 in 11 innings on Day One, in the nightcap on Wednesday.

Ephrata’s starting pitching once again ruled in this one as lefty Johns stole the show in an eventual 4-0 victory.

Johns went 7.2 innings before reaching his 120 pitch count, striking out 11 with no walks while blanking A-B on eight hits.

Ashton Sensenig came in to finish off the eighth while Kauffman closed out the ninth for the shutout victory.

“Hunter’s a competitor,” Sipe said of Johns following the win. “He has an on-and-off switch and when it’s game time he knows when to turn it on. In big games, it seems he has the opportunity to shine even brighter. He was ready today and went out and completely delivered.”

Offensively, Ephrata staked Johns out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first as both Good and Carvell delivered RBI singles. Ephrata tacked on its other two runs in the fifth as Frees was hit by a pitch and Tyler Keppley followed with a double to place runners at second and third with one out. Adam Schwartz then followed with an RBI single to right to plate both runners.

For the game, Frees and Schwartz both had two hits each to pace the Chryslers.

Noah Krokonko led Ambridge-Baden with three hits, including a double.

Thursday Ephrata went up against South Parkland, the Region 2 champion that like the Chryslers, carried a 2-0 record into the 7 p.m. showdown.

South Parkland knocked off Wesleyville 6-5 in 11 innings in Round One, and beat defending State champion Swoyersville 4-1 in Day Two.

Ephrata yielded its first runs of the tournament in the top of the first as the first four South Parkland batters reached base. McGillan, Ephrata’s starter, did give up two runs in the inning, but pitched out of further damage. And the big right-hander tossed goose eggs the rest of the way.

McGillan would go 8.2 innings before reaching 120 pitches, striking out three and walking just one batter as Ephrata earned an eventual 3-2 victory.

“I just trusted my defense tonight,” McGillan said when asked about his performance on the mound. I just settled in with my breaking ball. My control has been up and down lately but I figured it out tonight when it really mattered.”

The Chryslers knotted the game in the bottom of the third with two runs on just one hit.

Ricky Bromirski and Downey both walked to start the inning. Then with two outs and runners at second and third, Lucky delivered the big hit, lacing a single to right field to bring home two runs and draw Ephrata even.

The Chryslers scored what turned out to be the game-winning run in the bottom of the fifth. Downey led off with a single and scored one batter later when Kauffman delivered a double to the fence in left-centerfield.

Ephrata collected just five hits in the game off South Parkland starter Dylan Peiffer and reliever Adam Mellinger. Kauffman and Good both hit doubles in the win.

Cullen Wadsworth led the way for South Parkland, going 3-for-4 with a triple.

The Ephrata win guaranteed the Chryslers a spot in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament and a berth in Saturday’s final. The only question would be whether Ephrata would have to lose once or twice Saturday in the double-elimination tournament.

That question was answered Friday afternoon when the Chryslers clinched the latter scenario with a wild 11-8 come-from-behind victory over Swoyersville.

Frees was the offensive hero in the bottom of the eighth with Ephrata trailing 8-7. His two-out, two-run single down the left-field line brought home a pair of runs and gave Ephrata the lead for good at 9-8. The Chryslers added two insurance runs on a clutch two-run hit by Young before Kauffman came in to close out the win in the ninth.

“Evan and Nate Young both came up huge there, with incredibly big hits to give us a huge opportunity to play for the championship,” Sipe said after the win.

After starting pitcher Adam Maser surrendered a pair of runs in the top of the first, Ephrata came back to plate five runs in the bottom of the inning to grab a 5-2 advantage.

A two-run single by Downey and bases-loaded walks by Schwartz and Tim Beever were key plays for Ephrata in that frame.

Swoyersville would eventually grab the 8-7 lead with two runs each in the third, fifth and sixth innings after Ephrata scored two runs in the fourth.

But the Chryslers rallied with their four spot in the eighth to earn the win. Carvell and Kauffman both reached base before Good was intentionally walked to load the bases for Frees, who came through with one of the biggest hits of the tournament to put Ephrata ahead to stay.

Maser and Sensenig both went three innings for Ephrata before Bromirski pitched the seventh and eighth to bridge the gap to Kauffman.

Frees knocked in three runs on a pair of hits for the winners. Swoyersville, which was eliminated with the loss, was led by Jake Packer, who collected a pair of two-run doubles.

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