Eagles remain in hunt after win at Donegal

By on May 11, 2016
Connor Martin advanced to both District singles and doubles tourna - ments while helping the Eagles make the District Team Tourney.

Kevin Starner of Manheim Central dives back to the base safely in
front of Cocalico fielder Hunter Pannebecker during Mo

Two weeks ago, the Cocalico baseball team certainly didn’t expect to be in this position.

After an 11-2 victory over Lancaster Mennonite, the Eagles were sitting in a tie for first place and had their eyes set on making a post-season run. But then they started dropping games.

And as the losing streak reached four in-a-row Monday in a 6-2 setback at home to Manheim Central, the Eagles found themselves in a fight for their playoff lives.

Fortunately, Cocalico will indeed live to fight another day, thanks to a gutsy 7-4 victory on the road at Donegal Tuesday.

The Eagles gave the ball to junior Austin Harven, and he delivered a complete-game, six-hit performance. However, Cocalico still trailed 4-2 before exploding for five runs in the sixth to take command and steal the huge victory.

Now, Cocalico remains alive and well in regards to one of the two L-L League playoff spots given to Section Three.

Manheim Central leads Section Three with an 11-4 mark while Lebanon (10-5), the Eagles (9-5) and Elco (8-5) all remain in the hunt. Cocalico still controls its own destiny though, meaning wins in their final two home games vs Lebanon (Wednesday) and Elco (Thursday) would punch their ticket to the post-season.

“If you would have told us at the beginning of the year that we’d have a chance in the last two games at home to win out and find our way into leagues, I would have taken that,” Cocalico Coach Mike Bertolino said after Tuesday’s win. “I know a couple of weeks ago we wouldn’t have necessarily thought we’d be in this position but it’s the position we’re in. We need to just keep moving forward and keep grinding.”

That’s exactly what Harven did Tuesday.

He struck out two and walked two while scattering six Donegal hits. Most importantly, he gave his team a chance.

“That kid is as tough as they come,” Bertolino said of his pitcher. “We made some mistakes behind him tonight that put him in some bad situations, and all he did was gut his way through it and fight and fight and fight. That’s what we’re looking for. We are looking for guys like that, who want the ball desperately, and he’s as tough as they come.”

Offensively, Justin Burd, Brett Geib, Harven and Brady Sawyer all knocked in key runs in timely spots to fuel the comeback win.

“I mentioned this to the players,” Bertolino said. “Our at bats with runners in scoring position the past couple of weeks haven’t been great. I thought tonight we did better, and I told the guys this. I’m still not necessarily thrilled with the quality of contact that we made but we had some good at bats. We got some walks, made some good reads on balls in the dirt. Tonight was kind of a night we needed because we did more little things. We still didn’t do some of the big things great, but we started doing some of the little things better.”

While there still is obviously work to do, the Eagles have their playoff fate in their own hands. Should they get there, it will be a big step for the program that has been down for a number of years.

“It would be kind of the next step that we want to take,” Bertolino said. “Program building is not a process that happens in a year or two or three. It happens over time and guys have to learn to get into winning habits. Granted, I know this is my third year but I’m 33 years old so I’m still pretty young in the coaching world and I may not be as patient when it comes to understanding how a program grows.

“When you look at programs like Donegal and Manheim Central who are historically so consistently good, winning begets more winning, and I think our guys are starting to get a taste of that. They are starting to get a sense of how hard it actually is to do, and it would mean everything to us. Granted, we’re not the kind of team that just wants to make it. We want to get there and see what we can do because we feel as though we can compete against anybody on any given day. But you got to make it there first. I told our guys coming into today, it’s a three-step process. We accomplished step one. We can’t accomplish step three without accomplishing step two, so we are trying to keep everything in perspective as best we can.”

The L-L League playoffs are scheduled to get underway Saturday with quarterfinal action all at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field. Two more wins and Cocalico will be one of the eight vying for a league title.

This past Monday, as mentioned above, Manheim Central defeated the Eagles in a 6-2 decision.

Central lefty Taylor Rohrer improved to 5-0 as he K’d eight, walked five and yielded just one earned run on six hits in six-plus innings of work.

Rohrer and Eagles’ starting pitcher Tyler Stricker waged a scoreless pitcher’s dual before the Barons broke on top in the fourth.

After Tyler Lutz reached on an error, courtesy runner Jeremy Landis stole second, but he was still there with two outs. Then back-to-back walks to Neely and Eberly loaded the bases, and Loser’s free pass forced in the game’s first run.

The Barons doubled their lead to 2-0 in the top of the fifth, as Jake Novak singled, Tyler Lyons reached on an error, and Mummau hit a sac fly.

Cocalico halved its deficit in the bottom of the fifth, but Central responded in their next at-bats. Neely singled, then Loser (2-for-4) stroked an RBI triple to right-center and scored on Trevor Hosler’s safety squeeze, pushing the lead to 4-1.

They added two more in the seventh. Kevin Starner (2-for-4) singled, advanced to second on Lutz’s sac bunt, stole third and scored on a throwing error by the catcher. Mummau then walked and scored on Eberly’s RBI single.

Drew Sawyer collected an RBI for the Cocalico offense while Brandon Eberly delivered a double in the Cocalico loss.

Stricker struck out three and walked five in the Eagle defeat.

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