Crowning achievement: Mounts blank L-S to clinch section title

By , on May 4, 2016
Ephrata’s Nick Auker (left) leaps onto the “dogpile” in celebration of the Mounts’ section-clinching victory over Lampeter-Strasburg Tuesday. The title is the program’s sixth in the last eight years.

Ephrata’s Nick Auker (left) leaps onto the “dogpile” in celebration of the Mounts’ section-clinching victory over Lampeter-Strasburg Tuesday. The title is the program’s sixth in the last eight years. Photo by Stan Hall.

It took two days, but strong pitching and defense paved the way for the Ephrata baseball team’s 2-0 victory over Lampeter-Strasburg on the turf at the War Memorial Field. The win, which started Monday night and was completed Tuesday afternoon, clinched the Section Two championship for the Mounts (11-2 league, 14-3 overall), their fourth title in five years and sixth in the last eight.

The Ephrata defense stood tall behind pitchers Dillon Good (4.1 innings Monday night) and Adam Schwartz (2.2 innings Tuesday afternoon) in shutting out the Pioneers (5-8, 7-10), who last year put an end to the Mounts’ three-year-reign as section champs. Monday night’s torrential rain coupled with bursts of lightning and thunder to suspend play in the top of the fifth inning.

L-S never advanced a runner to third base as a double play, force-out and two runners gunned down by Mount catcher Justin Carvell kept the Pioneers away from scoring position.

Ephrata’s Adam Schwartz delivers to the plate.

Ephrata’s Adam Schwartz delivers to the plate.

“I was trying to throw strikes and let the defense take care of business,” said Good, after taking part in the celebration dawg-pile after the game. “I was a little sloppy in the second and third innings (four walks) but got it back in the fourth (three strikeouts). It was a little frustrating that the rain came after I got it working. All three strikeouts came on the splitter.”

“The strategy was to hit my spots and move the ball around,” added Schwartz. “With the lead, I wanted to let the defense take care of things. It was definitely a big thing for the team, but we have to keep focused on improving ourselves. There’s a lot of baseball left to go.”

Schwartz struck out three and Good K’d four as L-S never came close to scoring.

The Mounts got on the scoreboard early Monday night when shortstop Nate Fassnacht stroked a one-out single in the bottom of the first, then promptly stole second base. One out later, Good helped his own cause by driving a fastball to right-center, plating Fassnacht with the first run of the game.

“We try to make the infielders uncomfortable,” described Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley, on putting pressure on L-S with aggressive base running. “We try to make them have as many moving parts as possible while making them throw from different angles.”

The second and final run of the game came in the bottom of the fourth. Carvell led off the inning with a fly to left-center that dropped for a hit. The Ephrata catcher never stopped and his hustle was rewarded with a double, another example of aggressive base-running.

Evan Frees’ ground ball to second moved Carvell to third. Patrick Gallagher followed with an RBI ground ball to second as the throw was late to get Carvell at the plate. Gallagher was on base all three times, despite not getting a hit. In addition to the fielder’s choice, he also worked the L-S pitchers for two walks.

Third baseman Chase Weik (single, walk), right fielder Nick Auker (fielder’s choice, walk), Fassnacht (single, walk) and Carvell (double, error) were on base two times each as the Mounts’ one negative was nine players left on base.

“The offense needs to finish,” said Shelley. “We had a chance to put them away. When we get to the playoffs and it’s win or go home, that can be the difference. Sometimes it is easier to work on those things after a win.”

The Mounts wrap up the regular season with two of three games on the road, the first Wednesday at Garden Spot and the last Monday afternoon at Conestoga Valley. In between, senior night is Friday night at 7 p.m. as Ephrata hosts Elizabethtown.

The section title allows Ephrata to clinch the first locked in spot in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, which begin a week from Saturday (May 14) at the War Memorial Field as they host the second-place finisher in Section Four. The L-L appearance will mark the Mounts’ ninth consecutive and 13th in the last 14 years where they are the defending league champs.

The loss does not eliminate the Pioneers from the L-L playoffs, but it does put their backs to the wall and they need help.

“Section Two has been tight all year,” said L-S skipper Keith Martin. “Getting on a streak can’t be the goal. We have to win the one in front of us first.”

“It’s been a season of ups and downs, but we’ve jelled as a team,” added Martin. “Sometimes adversity makes you tougher. As a result we continue to battle.”

The last word on the Ephrata accomplishment Tuesday goes to the senior Fassnacht.

“It’s exciting,” he said of winning another section crown. “To beat the team that won it last year, it’s good. We are proving ourselves as a team and we really came together this year.”

In addition to the L-S game, it was a big week for the Mounts, who not only beat Solanco Friday by a 6-3 score but knocked off Penn Manor, the then top team in the District, in a 2-1 thriller last Wednesday at home.

In the victory over Solanco Friday, the Mounts scored four runs in the bottom of the third to erase an early 3-1 Mule lead.

Frees knocked in two runs and a double to pace the four-hit Ephrata attack.

On the mound, Matt McGillan got the win and his freshman brother Zach picked up the save. The younger McGillan was especially sharp, throwing the final four frames without allowing a hit while striking out three.

In last Wednesday’s showdown with the Comets, Fassnacht delivered a long home run in the bottom of the fifth to break a 1-1 tie and give the Mounts the victory.

Good allowed just four hits while striking out six in the complete-game victory.

Also of note this past week, the Mounts picked up a forfeit win in non-league play from it’s game vs. Waynesboro played April 23 at home.

Waynesboro won the game 2-1 in eight innings, but self-reported to District Three last Wednesday that it had used an illegal pitcher in the game, resulting in the forfeit.

As a result, the Mounts are now 14-3 and are the fourth-rated team in District AAAA as of this writing. The top four squads in the District are L-L teams (Hempfield, Penn Manor, Warwick and Ephrata).

The District Three Tournament will begin May 23.

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