Closing in on another crown Mounts’ Magic number down to one

By on May 2, 2012

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

It’s the first week of May and the Ephrata High School baseball team is playing its best baseball and closing in on another crown.

What else is new?

The Mounts took a huge step toward that goal Friday night with a big 13-3 victory over second-place Solanco at War Memorial. Ephrata got even a step closer Monday night with an 11-0 win at home over Lebanon, a victory that clinched an L-L playoff berth.

With three games to go, including Wednesday’s tussle vs. Cocalico in Denver (4:15 p.m.), Ephrata (11-2 section, 13-4 overall) maintains a commanding three-game lead over the second-place Mules (8-5, 12-5). The Mounts’ magic number sits at one, and they can clinch their sixth section title in 10 years with a win Wednesday at Cocalico.

"We are getting after it right now," Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley said following Friday’s win. "You trust that they are going to come through when there is more on the line, and you see this team right now is really starting to pick it up."

"We had a tough week last week," he continued. "We went 1-2, and didn’t play our best baseball. We talked about the fact that this was a big week for us. Every single game is big from here on out and it is time now to shift it into another gear. We have to tighten things up. We’ve got to start playing for the post-season, and that’s what they’ve done."

Monday night vs. Lebanon, the Mounts rode the five-hit shutout pitching of Seth Griffith (7 Ks, 1 BB) to the easy victory over the Cedars.

Ephrata got all the runs it would need in the first, scoring three runs in the frame to grab the lead. The Mounts then clinched the victory in the bottom of the fourth, plating eight runs in the frame.

Offensively, Shane Cochran, Brandon Miller (3 RBI) and Andre Hoover all had two hits each to lead the nine-hit Ephrata attack.

Friday night, it was the table-setters who set the tone early for the Mounts, who jumped out to an early lead and built from there.

After Hoover set the Mules down in the top half of the first, Ephrata went right to work as Tim Murray coaxed a lead-off walk before Paul Larusso followed with a single. It appeared as though Solanco may dodge a bullet when pitcher Luke Emling struck out both Parke Martin and Ryan Schwark for two big outs. However, as it so often does, the Ephrata run game picked up the slack. Murray stole third and came home on an errant throw, while Larusso also scored thanks to the error, a steal of third and a wild pitch.

"Up to this point in the season we had not been beaten when we scored first and we really felt we needed to get a shutout inning in the top half of the frame and then come out offensively," Shelley said. "You never try to script an inning but our first couple batters in the lineup, particularly Timmy, he knows, the other guys know, what they have to do.

"Timmy set the table, and Paul followed with the base hit up the middle. The interesting part of it is we chose not to bunt. We wanted to let (Martin and Schwark) swing away and we got two strikeouts. But we were still able to get those two guys over because of the other aspect of our offense which was kind of on display in full show tonight."

Solanco did get one run back in the top of the second as Cole Martin drew a lead-off walk and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. But Ephrata plated two more runs in the bottom of the inning to open up a 4-1 advantage.

Cochran singled with one out before Jeremy Franck ripped a double to the gap to place runners at second and third. After Murray struck out, Larusso beat out an infield single which plated both Cochran and a hustling Franck from second.

The Mounts then opened it up in the third, sending nine men to the plate in a five-run frame that made it 9-1. Schwark was hit to lead-off the inning before Evan Weaver tripled him home. Hoover followed with an RBI single, and both he and Cochran, who walked, would both come around to score on Franck’s second double of the game. The final run of the inning came on an RBI single off the bat of Murray.

Ephrata did run into a bit of trouble in the top of the fourth, when Hoover (4 Ks, 7 BBs) gave up one run and still had the bases loaded with one out. Shelley summoned Griffith from the bullpen at that point to face Emling, who leads the L-L League with seven home runs. Griffith did get a ground ball but an error cost the Mounts a run and an out. However, the junior righty shook that off with a big strikeout of clean-up hitter Adam Planamento before getting Cole Martin to ground out to end the inning.

Shelley said he had no trepidation in bringing in Griffith to face perhaps the league’s best hitter witht he bases juiced.

"(Emling) is arguably and statistically speaking the best hitter in the section and maybe the league," he said. "But Seth made some very good pitches. He forced Emling to put a ball in play that we weren’t able to get an out on but that was exactly what we were looking for. Seth is our ‘three man’ in our rotation but in that situation he knew he might have to come in and clean up some things."

Leading 9-3, the Mounts tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the fourth as Hoover, Miller and Franck all delivered hits in the inning. And then, after Franck came in to retire Solanco in order in the top of the fifth, Ephrata put an end to it in the bottom of the inning as Martin was hit to lead off the frame, moved to second on an error before Weaver drilled an RBI single to close things out.

Franck led the 12-hit attack with a perfect 3-for-3, three RBI performance out of the nine hole. Weaver and Hoover added two hits each.

Solanco managed just four hits in the game as Hoover claimed the victory.

Ephrata also was in action last Wednesday night at home where the Mounts rode the pitching of Miller to a 6-1 victory over Penn Manor.

Miller went the distance, striking out nine while scattering four hits to earnt he win.

Schwark went 2-for-3 with three RBI while Martin knocked in two runs on a pair of hits to pace the Mounts’ seven-hit attack.

Meanwhile, Cocalico dropped two of three this past week to fall to 4-9 in Section Two play (4-12 overall).

Monday afternoon at home vs. Elizabethtown, the Bears blanked the Eagles, 5-0 in a well-pitched game by both sides.

Cocalico starter Adam Marshall was especially impressive, striking out 14 and walking just two as the tough-luck losing pitcher.

E-town scored one run in the top of the third, two in the fourth and two more in the sixth to secure the win. Cocalico had just six hits offensively.

Last Thursday at Lebanon, freshman Nate Baxter went the distance on the mound, striking out eight while scattering four Cedar hits in a 5-0 complete-game victory.

Cocalico led 1-0 before breaking it open with a four-run sixth inning.

The Eagles also were in action last Wednesday at home vs. Warwick where the visiting Warriors scored seven runs over the first two frames and cruised to a 9-2 win.

Up next, Cocalico will host Ephrata Wednesday (4:15 p.m.) before closing the season with road games at CV Friday (4:15 p.m.) and Solanco on Monday (4:15 p.m.).

After Wednesday’s game, Ephrata will host E-town Friday (7 p.m.) before closing the regular season on the road Monday at CV (4:15 p.m.) More BASEBALL, page B-3

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