Oh so Close….Paxton rallies for two runs in sixth to upend Chryslers and capture Region Four title

By on July 24, 2019
Ephrata catcher Ricky Bromirski desperately tries to lay down the tag on Paxton runner Ryan Murphy, who scored what turned out to be the game-winning run in Tuesday’s region for championship at War Memorial.

Ephrata catcher Ricky Bromirski desperately tries to lay down the tag on Paxton runner Ryan Murphy, who scored what turned out to be the game-winning run in Tuesday’s region for championship at War Memorial.
Eph 0 – Paxton 2

With Ephrata pitcher Hunter Johns and his Paxton counterpart Reilly Shafer dealing as they were, it was obvious fairly early Tuesday night at War Memorial that the team that would find a way to take advantage of their limited opportunities would ultimately emerge as Region Four champion.

Ephrata, the three-time regional and 2017 State champions, had its best chance in the third when they had runners at second and third with one out and the top of the order coming up. Unfortunately, a pair of groundouts to the pitcher Shafer followed and the Chryslers were kept off the scoreboard.

Paxton, the Dauphin County champions, had one hit through five innings against Johns, who allowed just two baserunners during that span. But Paxton capitalized in the bottom of the sixth to score the first two runs of the game. First, base-runner Ryan Murphy broke the scoreless tie when he beat Ben Spencer’s throw from second to home on an infield grounder to score the game’s first run with one out. Then with two outs, Scotty McManamon delivered an RBI double to give Paxton a 2-0 lead and some breathing room with three outs to get.

And as he had done all night, Shafer, who allowed just one hit in his complete-game effort with six K’s and three walks, finished off the 2-0 Paxton win with a one-two-three top of the seventh.

“When you are going against a (pitcher) like that you got to tip your cap,” Ephrata Coach Derek Sipe said following the ballgame. “They probably did the same to Hunter tonight but they were lucky enough to break through and get a couple runs, and we weren’t.”

With the win, Paxton now advances to the State Tournament, which will begin Saturday in DuBois. Ephrata, which had advanced to States the last two year’s, including its title in 2017, closed out its season at 29-7.

“We definitely gave it our best shot…I like to think that we always do,” Sipe said. “We put ourselves in a great position having Hunter available tonight. We’ll take that against anybody. Unfortunately tonight it wasn’t enough.”

Both pitchers retired the side in order in each of the first two frames. But Ephrata appeared to be in business when Josh Farina lined a solid single to center to open the third. Dylan Embiscuso, who reached base all six plate appearances in two games Tuesday, followed with a walk to place runners at first and second with nobody out.

Young then advanced the runners with a two-strike sacrifice bunt, but they were left stranded when Colby Martin and Justin Byler both grounded out sharply to Shafer.

“When you have pitchers that were as dominant as those guys were tonight, it seemed that each team might get one chance,” Sipe said. “We had our one chance and didn’t capitalize on it and they end up with one chance and they did just enough to win a ballgame.”

While Ephrata did get two runners on in the fifth, the Paxton offense never had a runner advance past first base through the first five frames.

Johns (7 Ks, 1 BB), who was on the mound when Ephrata won its regional title two years ago, was that locked in.

“We know in these big games that’s what we are going to get from him,” Sipe said. “You just see a different level from him when playoffs arrive and big games arrive…a different Hunter arrives. We kind of joke about ‘Playoff Hunter,’ but it’s a real thing. When you get in a big game…this is the first one, a big game, that I can remember him losing. He did a hell of a job and obviously kept them off-balance. They are a good team one through nine just like we are. To keep it at a minimum as he did throughout the entire game, he did a great job.”

Johns started the Paxton sixth with a strikeout of eight-hole hitter David Shroyer. But Murphy followed with a bloop single to right. Then lead-off hitter Joe Barbera made it back-to-back hits when he singled up the middle.

A wild pitch then advanced the runners to second and third and set the stage when Shafer hit a sharp grounder that Spencer fielded cleanly but his throw to catcher Ricky Bromirski was a little high. Murphy slid just under the tag to score the eventual winning run.

Barbera was then erased on a double-steal attempt for the second out, but then McManamon ripped his double down the left field line to plate Shafer with the second run.

And that was the ballgame.

“In the moment right now it’s a disappointment,” Sipe said following the loss. “But when you look at it overall, you got to say it was a successful season. Record-wise it was a very positive one. You peel that all away and we played a lot of baseball this summer. We have a lot of guys who are serious about baseball and are showing up and getting better, and that’s really the goal of summer baseball.

“We’ve been fortunate enough as a program to be able to turn it into something that is a little bit more than that. The 250 or so teams in our state that are playing, just about all of them would be happy with where we are at right now. But we are upset and we have guys upset because we’ve been there the last two years. And we were hungry to get back because I think we have a team that could have competed again.”

After falling to Paxton 3-2 Sunday evening in the double-elimination tournament, Ephrata needed to win two more games to reach Tuesday’s title game opposite Paxton.

Monday night in an elimination game vs. Mechanicsburg, Ephrata got the sticks going early and cruised to an eventual 10-5 victory over the Cumberland County representative.

The Chryslers sent 12 men to the plate in a seven-run first which keyed the win.

Byler had a double and a triple and knocked in a run while Farina added a two-run double to pace the five-hit Ephrata attack.

Ephrata used three pitchers as Aiden Bracken went the first three before giving way to relievers Ryan Jantzen and Kyle Rhoads, who closed things out.

With the win, the Chryslers advanced to Tuesday’s opener opposite Lebanon County champ Campbelltown with a finals berth on the line.

Despite falling behind 1-0 early, Ephrata was dominant both at the plate and on the mound as the Chryslers advanced with a 6-2 victory.

Offensively, Ephrata took a 3-1 lead in the top of the second and never looked back. Embiscuso was the hitting star, going a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.

Spencer added two hits as Ephrata scored three runs in the second and single runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings.

Pitching-wise, Young gave the Chryslers a shot in the arm as he went six strong innings, allowing just two runs on six hits with three Ks and five walks. He gave way to Owen Gockley, who slammed the door on Campbelltown in the seventh as Ephrata punched its ticket to the finals.

Ephrata opened the tournament Friday evening with a convincing 11-2 victory over York County runner-up New Oxford.

The Chryslers, who were the visiting team, led 2-1 before exploding for five runs in the pivotal fifth inning. they later tacked on two runs each in the sixth and seventh to break it open.

Colby Martin was a home run away from the cycle, going 3-for-4 with a double and a triple while Bromirski reached base all five times, which included three hits, to lead the way for Ephrata.

While the offense was hot, Ephrata’s pitching remained stellar as Johns, the starter, and reliever Gockley combined to allow just four hits while striking out 14 batters (7 each) on the evening.

Ephrata took a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Martin led off the game with a double off New Oxford starter Mason Weaver, before scoring two batters later on another double by Bromirski. But New Oxford responded to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the frame when Brevin Neveker singled and stole second before AJ Baadte knocked him in with an RBI single off Johns.

The Chryslers regained the lead at 2-1 with a run in the second on Colby Martin’s RBI triple, and it stayed that way until the fourth when Ephrata sent 10 men to the plate in the pivotal five-run inning which upped the lead to 7-1.

Colby Martin, Byler and Brendan Martin all had RBI hits in the inning.

In the sixth, Josh Farina added to Ephrata’s lead when he delivered a two-run single. Then after Brodey Neveker tripled and later scored in the bottom of the frame to make it 9-2, Ephrata added the finishing touches with two more runs in the seventh.

Saturday evening, fellow Lebanon County League foe Campbelltown was the Chryslers opponent. Ephrata was out to seek revenge after Campbelltown defeated the Chryslers 7-6 last week to win the Lebanon League crown.

And it didn’t take long for Ephrata to respond.

The Chryslers plated eight runs in the first to take command and key an eventual 16-3 victory that was cut short to five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

Byler led the 11-hit Ephrata attack as he went a perfect 4-for-4 with three triples and five RBI.

Young (0 Ks, 1 BB) started on the mound for Ephrata and went three-plus innings before giving way to Brendan Martin, who finished it off.

With the win, Ephrata advanced to Sunday’s winner’s bracket final opposite Paxton.

This game was arguably the best game of the tournament (prior to Tuesday’s gem) as Ephrata grabbed a lead but couldn’t hold it as Paxton came from behind to capture a 3-2 victory.

Ephrata’s Zac McGillan and Murphy of Paxton were locked in a classic pitcher’s duel as they held the game scoreless through three innings.

The Chryslers finally got to Murphy in the fourth when they loaded the bases on a McGillan walk, a Spencer single and a Farina walk. McGillan would eventually score on a two-out errant pickoff attempt by Weaver. Then Spencer hustled his way into another run, scoring from second on an error in the infield.

But Ephrata could not hold the lead as Paxton rallied for three runs in the fifth to take the lead for good.

Barbera doubled down the left-field line to open the inning and came around to score one batter later on Shafer’s RBI single up the middle. McManamon followed with a “check swing” that found green for a hit. Then later with the runners at second and third with one out, Shafer scored the tying run on an RBI ground out by Josh Dougher. Justin Miller then followed with a bloop hit to left that brought home McManamon with the go-ahead run.

Ephrata went quietly in the sixth, but in the seventh Bracken reached on a two-out infield single and stole second. However, Rhoads followed with a ground out to short to close things out.

McGillan, who took the tough-luck loss, scattered 10 hits with five strikeouts and two walks in 5.1 innings pitched. Weaver surrendered just four Ephrata hits with one strikeout and four walks. He also induced three inning-ending doubleplays in the contest as Ephrata stranded

Rhoads had the lone extra base hit— a one-out triple in the third— for Ephrata but was left stranded when Colby Martin lined out to short and Byler followed with a flyout to left.


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