L-L Champs!!

By on May 20, 2015

Mounts roll past Penn Manor 7-2 to claim title

After ripping a two-run blast into the left field bleachers off of Penn Manor pitcher Grant Gale last Thursday, Ephrata’s Dillon Good is greeted by his ecstatic teammates at home plate. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

After ripping a two-run blast into the left field bleachers off of Penn Manor pitcher Grant Gale last Thursday, Ephrata’s Dillon Good is greeted by his ecstatic teammates at home plate. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata came within a couple of outs of not qualifying for the L-L League Tournament.

Trailing Conestoga Valley, the Section Two last-place team, going into the last inning of the final regular season contest, the Mounts rallied to tie the game and then win a 6-5 thriller in walk-off fashion to punch their ticket into the tourney as the second-place team in Section Two.

And they’ve been rolling ever since.

Last Thursday evening at War Memorial Field, the Mounts clinched their third L-L League crown under Coach Adrian Shelley with a convincing 7-2 victory over Section One runner-up Penn Manor.

Senior pitcher Austin Lowrey turned in perhaps his most impressive outing of the season, albeit on the biggest stage. Lowrey kept the potent Penn Manor lineup in check, scattering six hits while striking out three and walking just two en route to the win. And Dillon Good led a late surge by the Ephrata bats, ripping a clutch two-run homer to the seats in left field, to add some insurance to what was a dicey 2-1 advantage and key the victory and the title.

“It’s awesome,” Lowrey said in the post-game celebration. “It’s like a dream come true really. It’s my senior year, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

The win over the Comets (19-5) culminated what was a near-perfect tourney for Ephrata (16-8), which knocked off Section Three champion Donegal and Section One champion Hempfield to get to the final game with Penn Manor. According to Shelley, who also won league titles in 2003 and 2010, his team found a way to regroup after losing out to Lampeter-Strasburg in the section race.

“We have high expectations here and when we didn’t win the section we took a step back, tried to regroup,” he said. “We told them, ‘we are not going to be able to put one of those (section) banners up (on the outfield wall), but you still have a chance to hang an even bigger one.’ And coming into it we said we have the ability to play with anybody, we just haven’t proven ourselves yet. So if we begin to do the things that we’ve been challenging them to do all year, and they start doing them, anything can happen in this tournament.

“I think once we got that win under our belts against Donegal, we started to do the things that we needed to do. The things that we are good at doing, the things that we coach them hard to do, we started buying into it. I will say this, we stopped keeping stats. I told them,’ there are no stats. You find a way to move a runner up, you find a way to draw a walk or get hit by a pitch … who cares about stats.’ The only stat that matters when you get into the playoffs is in the win column. And they bought into it.”

Penn Manor drew first blood Thursday with a single run in the top of the second. Comet starting pitcher Grant Gale knocked in Colin Groff with an RBI ground out to give his team the early lead.

Ephrata did get the first two runners on base in both the second and third innings but failed to score. But the Mounts kept applying the pressure and eventually got on the board in the fourth.

Andre Good coaxed a leadoff walk and Adam Schwartz followed with a single. The Comets then botched a sacrifice bunt try by Brandon Schwark which loaded the bases and chased Gale in favor of reliever Jeremy Miller.

The Mounts’ Brian Wentz then hit a slow roller to third but the throw to home on a potential force play eluded catcher Anthony Knight and allowed the tying run to score. Ephrata plated the second run on the same play when Knight threw down to second to get Schwark, who was caught between second and third. On the play, Schwartz came home from third with the go-ahead run.

“The first three innings was a great example of what a lot of our season was like,” Shelley said of the wasted opportunities prior to going ahead in the fourth. “I just reminded them,’ I don’t want to chase that run. Think beyond that one run. If you just focus on that one run , then there is pressure. We need more than that to win. Let’s break this thing open.’ They worked some better at bats after that and we finally got some things done even though that was a crazy inning when we put up that two frame.”

Lowrey said getting the lead allowed him to settle in.

“When you pitch with a lead you are so much more relaxed,” he said. “You can throw to contact, just let them hit it because you got defense behind you. It just takes so much stress off your shoulders.”

If stress was relieved there, imagine what the pitcher felt like when Good followed a Chase Weik single by drilling his first home run off the season in the bottom of the fifth to open the lead up to 4-1.

“(Dillon) has been talking about hitting a home run all year,” Lowrey said. “He’s hit the top of the fence probably five times. He’s been looking for that all year and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

According to Good, he got the pitch he was looking for.

“I felt like I was getting good swings earlier in the game,” Good said. “I was just going up there looking for something to hit. I was looking for something middle-in, and that’s exactly what he gave me and I did what I wanted to do with it.”

With a 4-1 lead in his pocket, Lowrey got a nice defensive play from shortstop Nate Fassnacht to avoid any damage in the top of the sixth. Then Fassnacht’s bat helped increase that lead in the bottom of the inning.

His two-run double to the gap in left-center plated both Wentz and Patrick Gallagher to up the advantage to 6-1. Then, Fassnacht came home one batter later on a sac fly to right by Weik.

“Adding those three in the sixth was huge,” Shelley said. “ We had to put it away right there. And we did a good job of that in this tournament, tacking on runs in late innings.”

Leading 7-1 and needing just three outs to clinch the win, Lowrey did allow a run to score after an Ephrata error was followed by an RBI double by Knight. But with two outs, Lowrey got Groff, who was 3-for-3 at that point, to pop up to Fassnacht to end the game and set off the big celebration by the home squad.

“This season has definitely been a rollercoaster,” said Good, who led the seven-hit Ephrata attack going 2-for-3, including his dinger. “We came into the playoffs and we knew we were a good team and had a good shot. We just came out here and really hit the ball well. We tried to go out there every day, stay focused and do it one game at a time, and I think we did that.”

While Ephrata received three quality starts in the League playoffs from Schwartz, Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish and Lowrey, Thursday’s winning pitcher admitted the bats were the key to winning the title.

“Our bats caught fire coming into Saturday when we played Donegal,” Lowrey said. “Ever since then they just stayed hot. If you have a lineup, nine guys that can hit the ball well, your pitcher is that much more confident right off the bat because you know you are going to get that run support. You don’t know when but they are going to come eventually. And they came.”

Shelley added, “This had to do with the team getting hot at the right time.”

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