Sweet tournament for Ephrata

By on August 9, 2017

Chryslers’ run ends in Mid-Atlantic finals

Ephrata’s Bryan Downey (right) receives high-fives from Tim Beever (35) and another teammate after scoring in the Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament. Photos by Preston Whitcraft

Ephrata’s Bryan Downey (right) receives high-fives from Tim Beever (35) and another teammate after scoring in the Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament. Photos by Preston Whitcraft

Justin Carvell struggled to find the right words.

Ephrata had just punched its ticket to the American Legion Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament’s championship game with an 8-6 win over Leesburg on Sunday and the Chryslers catcher was still trying to grasp the magnitude of it all.

“To think that we’re one of 16 teams left in the whole nation … I mean, it’s amazing,” Carvell said. “Out of 3,600 teams and you’re one of 16, you can’t believe it.”

“It’s real exciting,” said pitcher/center fielder Adam Schwartz, who got the win against Leesburg with 6 1/3 hard-nosed innings on the mound. “We’re going to leave it all out on the field for the last game.”

They did exactly that, and thanks to a four-run sixth-inning rally which cut the Post 429ers’ deficit to 7-6 against New Jersey state champ Hopewell in the nightcap of Sunday’s doubleheader, Ephrata’s dream of a trip to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C. was still very much alive.

Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t meant to be.

Hopewell’s Luke Blair slugged a two-run homer in the top of the ninth and Post 339 held on to defeat Ephrata 10-6 in the finals at Firemans Field in Purcellville, Va.

While Hopewell (38-10) now advances to the American Legion World Series, to be held Aug. 10-15, the District 10 and Pennsylvania state champion Chryslers saw their stellar run end with a record of 30-7.

That included a 9-2 combined record in the State and Mid-Atlantic Tournaments, with wins over Maryland and Virginia champs La Plata and Albemarle along the way.

In fact, Ephrata’s only two losses over that span came against Hopewell, which snapped a seven-game Chryslers’ win streak with a 10-7 victory on Saturday morning.

“It would have been a great next week with these guys,” said Ephrata skipper Derek Sipe, whose team joined the 1990 Ephrata Elks squad in becoming just the second in Lancaster County history to play beyond the State Tournament. “I don’t even know what we’re missing out on because we’ve never been to that point, but I’m sure it would have been special and a lot of fun. So it’s disappointing to see it end, but you’re also proud of what they were able to accomplish.”

Sipe and his coaches delivered that message to their players while huddling with them for the final time in the left field corner of Firemans Field.

“We just talked about how outside of baseball, this is still a special moment,” Sipe said. “Right now, they’re thinking about the game and some plays they maybe didn’t make or an at-bat that didn’t go their way. But five, 10 years from now, they’re not going to remember much that happened from the game. They’ll remember that we lost, the silly things that we did back at the hotel and the different things we did between games … the times with each other are going to be remembered. They’re able to appreciate that now, but I think as time goes on, they’ll recognize that more and more.”

They will no doubt appreciate the never-say-die attitude that they brought to the field. Needing to win two games after their 10-7 loss to Hopewell on Saturday to reach the finals, they took care of business with a 13-2 seven-inning rout of Albemarle later that day, then returned on Sunday to knock off host Leesburg 8-6.

As Leesburg catcher Brandon Kelman looks the ball into his glove, Ephrata’s Justin Carvell scores a fourth-inning run in the Chryslers’ 8-6 win on Sunday. Phot by Preston Whitcraft

As Leesburg catcher Brandon Kelman looks the ball into his glove, Ephrata’s Justin Carvell scores a fourth-inning run in the Chryslers’ 8-6 win on Sunday. Phot by Preston Whitcraft

With the stage set, Hopewell took a 1-0 lead off of Ephrata lefty Adam Maser in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by Chris DeClerico (2-for-4, 3 RBI).

The Chryslers might have caught a break in the bottom of that inning, as Nick Lucky (3-for-5, 2 doubles) was ruled safe on a bang-bang play at first, and then cleanup hitter Dillon Good launched a 1-2 pitch from Hopewell pitcher Norman Fleming over the fence in right-center for a 2-1 lead.

Then things got weird. As Maser delivered to Hopewell leadoff batter Will Karp (2-for-4, 3 runs) in the second, he was called for a balk. Even though Ephrata’s players appeared to hesitate, the play remained live and when third baseman Lucky threw the ball past first on Karp’s bunt, Drew Bodine — who walked with one out — circled the bases. Karp later scored on an RBI single by Sam Margulis to make it 3-2.

It remained that way until Hopewell tacked on four runs in the fourth, capitalizing on three walks by Maser, DeClerico’s two-run double down the left field line and Nick Psomaras’ two-run single to left, extending the lead to 7-2. Maser yielded five earned runs on seven hits and four walks, with one K, while suffering the loss.

“They just had two clutch hits with runners in scoring position that broke it open a little bit,” Sipe remarked. “… They’re a great lineup. We had a couple of innings where we made a couple miscues, both offensively and defensively to limit the runs and give them a couple. And when you have a team that can hit like they can, if you give them walks and extra outs, it’s going to result in some runs put up on the scoreboard.”

Brock Kauffman, who pitched five innings out of the ‘pen, retired eight of the first 10 batters he faced to hold Hopewell at bay. He K’d one and walked one while yielding just two earned runs on five hits.

Meanwhile, the Chryslers clawed back into the game with four runs on seven hits off of Fleming in the bottom of the sixth. Schwartz (2-for-5) and Evan Frees started it with back-to-back singles, then Tyler Keppley (2-for-4) laced an RBI double to left, and Ashton Sensenig (2-for-2) legged out an RBI infield hit.

Next, Bryan Downey dropped a bunt which Fleming fielded. Hopewell’s lefty looked to third, then muffed a throw to first, allowing Downey to reach and Keppley to score, which cut the Post 429ers’ deficit to 7-5. On the play, though, Sensenig got caught between second and third and was tagged out. Following Kauffman’s two-bagger to right-center field, Carvell’s (2-for-5) RBI single drove in Downey, but Kauffman was tagged out at the plate.

For the game, Ephrata outhit Hopewell 15-12.

“We talked after we got down five that we’re capable of coming back,” Sipe said. “There was plenty of game left — that’s the beauty of these nine-inning games … That inning, we hit a lot of balls hard, a couple of things bounced our way and we were able to put up a big number. Unfortunately, I thought we kinda left (Hopewell) off the hook a little bit. I think it easily could have been six, seven or more. But four got us back in the game, and at that point, it was anyone’s game.”

Hopewell regained a two-run cushion in the top of the eighth on Karp’s RBI bunt single, but Ephrata had a golden opportunity to strike again in the bottom of that inning. Sensenig singled to left, and then with two outs, Kauffman walked and Carvell greeted reliever Andy Blake with a bunt hit, loading the bases. But Blake escaped the jam with an inning-ending ground out to second base.

Fleming, who gave up six earned runs on 14 hits and two walks with three K’s in 7 2/3 innings, got the win, while Blake finished it and earned the save.

“We certainly had our opportunities,” said Sipe, whose club left nine on base for the game. “We had a lot of clutch hits and clutch at-bats, but we needed one or two more. Unfortunately, we hit the balls at people instead of getting the base hits, and I’m sure a couple of people would like to have a couple at-bats back, but that’s baseball.”

The missed opportunities loomed big in the top of the ninth when Hopewell’s Margulis singled and then Blair slugged the first pitch he saw from Kauffman over fence in right field to make it 10-6.

Down to its final at-bats, Ephrata got a four-pitch leadoff walk by Good, but then Blake induced a double-play grounder, followed by a game-ending fly out to center field to seal the deal.

“After (Blair’s home run),” Sipe said, “you could see the air kinda come out of the sails, and we talked after about, ‘Who knows what can happen? We’ve put up four before, we’re capable of doing it.’ But it’s tough when you have a pitcher throwing strikes — you need to do a lot of things right and we got off to a good start, but then the double play obviously was the killer for us.”

Still, as Sipe noted, the memories for Ephrata will no doubt last a long time.

“It’s a great group,” he said. “Things just clicked for us this year and a big part of that is just how well we got along. A lot of that is some of the older guys that came back and they fit right in. They’ve been here for a long time, they know how we run things, and it’s going to be sad to see them go. But we have a good group coming back and we have that chemistry still, so hopefully that’s something that is established at this point that we can continue to build upon.”

Ephrata 8, Leesburg 6

Earlier on Sunday, Carvell went 3-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs to help support winning pitcher Schwartz in Ephrata’s 8-6 victory over Leesburg. Schwartz K’d three, walked four and allowed four earned runs while scattering 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Lucky added two hits and two RBIs, as Ephrata reached three Leesburg hurlers for nine hits.

Relying heavily on his slider, Schwartz needed just six pitches to retire Leesburg in order in the first.

“We based that off my bullpen,” he said. “My slider was going in for a lot of strikes and then did the same thing in the game.”

In the second, Leesburg took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Logan Cooper (3-for-4), and the Chryslers answered with the tying run in the top of the third on Schwartz’s sac fly.

But the Rangers capitalized on two walks and three base hits off of Schwartz in the third, taking a 3-1 lead on RBI knocks by Hunter Keim and Grayson Rauch (2-for-4, BB, 2 RBI).

Once again, Ephrata wasted no time battling back in the fourth. grabbing a 4-3 lead on Carvell’s two-run single to center field and Lucky’s RBI base hit.

A one-out solo home run by Leesburg’s TJ Holdredge tied it 4-4, and then after the Rangers put their next two batters on base, Schwartz got out of trouble with a Downey-to-Patrick Gallagher-to-Good double play.

It was the first of two double plays that Ephrata’s defense turned behind Schwartz.

“It saves tons of pitches, obviously it gets two outs and can end a bunch of rallies,” Sipe said, “so we were very fortunate to get a couple balls hit at the right spot at the right time.”

“The defense was great,” Schwartz added.

The Chryslers’ offense created some good fortune in the sixth off of Leesburg reliever Michael Mozeyko. Kauffman, who walked three times and scored three runs in the game, worked a six-pitch free pass. Next, when Rangers’ outfielder Rauch dove for and missed a line drive off the bat of Carvell, Ephrata’s No. 2 hitter hustled to third base with an RBI triple, putting the Post 429ers up 5-4.

“After I saw that (Rauch) missed it, I just put on the burners and went to third. I was looking for the inside-the-park home run, but I’m not quite that fast,” Carvell smiled.

Lucky and Schwartz both added RBI singles, as Ephrata went up 7-4 and took a lead it never lost.

With one out in the seventh, Schwartz reached his pitch limit of 120 and Ashton Sensenig took over.

“(Adam) didn’t have his best stuff the whole day and he had to grind through a lot of at-bats,” Sipe said, “and that doesn’t help the pitch count. They’re also a good offensive team, so they weren’t striking out a whole lot, they were putting balls in play and making him work. So he did a great job to not only keep us in the game, but let us keep the lead and bridge the gap over to Ashton at the end.”

In the seventh, Keppley singled and scored when Kauffman reached on an error, making it 8-4.

Sensenig, who retired the first six batters he faced, carried that edge into the ninth, where the Rangers scored on Holdredge’s RBI ground out and Rauch’s RBI single, but it wasn’t enough. Sensenig struck out two and walked none while throwing 39 pitches in 2 2/3 innings.

Ephrata had also defeated Leesburg 11-2 in their opening game last Wednesday, Aug. 2.

“I think we knew we were the better team,” Sipe said. “We also respected the fact that they rattled off a bunch of wins in a row since losing that first day, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy here on their home field and backs against the wall. So we were ready for a fight and we got one and we were fortunate enough to come out on the right side of it.”

Ephrata 13, Albemarle 2

In their second of two games on Saturday, the Chryslers scored six runs in both the first and second innings to build a commanding 12-2 lead, then cruised to a 13-2 win over Albemarle. The game was halted after seven due to the mercy rule.

Kauffman was 3-for-5 with three RBIs out of the leadoff spot, Schwartz added two hits and scored two runs and Ricky Bromirski ripped a key three-run triple in the second inning. Bromirski finished the game with four RBIs, while Frees, Downey and Keppley scored two runs apiece.

Zach McGillan notched the complete-game win for Ephrata. He struck out three and surrendered only two runs on 13 hits and one walk.

Hopewell 10, Ephrata 7

Hopewell sent 12 batters to the plate in the top of the sixth, snapping a scoreless tie with eight runs and then holding on for a 10-7 win in the winner’s bracket finals over the Chryslers earlier on Saturday. The game was postponed Friday night due a marathon game in which Albemarle needed 13 innings to outscore La Plate 19-18.

In five-plus innings, lefty Dagen Young gave up six earned runs on six hits and six walks, with four K’s, while taking the loss.

Kauffman’s bases-loaded three-RBI double and Lucky’s RBI base hit highlighted a four-run rally by Ephrata in the seventh. Then, trailing 10-4 going to the ninth, the Chryslers gave Hopewell a scare, as Downey tripled and scored on Kauffman’s RBI ground out, Schwartz was by a pitch to force in a run and Frees had an RBI single to make it 10-7 with the bases loaded. But Hopewell reliever Blake ended it with a fly out to center.

“I think we were able to build some momentum back at the end of that game,” Sipe said. “I wasn’t expecting to get back to the point where we could win the game, but we were a batter or two away from having that opportunity. I thought it was great how we reacted. We let one inning get away from us, but besides that, it was a great game for us.”

Kauffman, Carvell, Lucky and Downey each had two hits to lead the offense. Relief pitchers Sensenig, Gallagher and Ryan Jantzen combined to yield just two runs over the final four innings to help give the Post 429ers a chance.

Ephrata 3, La Plata 2

On Friday morning, Good tossed a complete-game gem to lead the Chryslers in a 3-2 win over La Plata. The big righty struck out five, walked three and allowed just two runs on eight hits.

His effort came on the heels of a nine-inning masterpiece by Ephrata junior-to-be Hunter Johns on Wednesday night in a 11-2 win over Leesburg. Johns whiffed 12 and gave up just two runs on eight hits and three walks.

“We’ve come to expect that from them over the past month or so, and every time we go out there, we feel really good about our chances to win,” Sipe said. “And it seems like the bigger the stage, the more they’re stepping up.”

Throwing first-pitch strikes was crucial to Good’s success against the Maryland state champs.

“With the stuff that (Dillon) has,” Sipe said, “if he’s able to work ahead, he becomes really hard to square up. So I think that was the key to the game, that he was able to get that first-pitch strike and that allowed him to throw his pitches in his counts.”

Carvell dropped an RBI bunt and Kauffman stole home to put Ephrata up 2-0 in the third. They added one more in the ninth on Carvell’s bases-loaded walk.

In the bottom of the ninth, Good pitched out of a bases-loaded one-out jam to clinch the win.

“It was a gut-wrenching moment,” Sipe said. “He wanted to stay in, he wanted to finish it and he was able to.”

Ephrata 11, Leesburg 2

Young was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Carvell, Lucky and Schwartz each chipped in with two hits to support Johns in an 11-2 win over Leesburg.

Leading 4-2, the Chryslers broke it open with a six-run rally in the top of the seventh, highlighted by Young’s two-run base hit.

That was plenty for Johns, who went the distance.

“Hunter’s a guy that doesn’t get rattled by moments,” Sipe said. “He appreciates the opportunity and he desires the opportunity and if there’s anybody who wants the ball in those situations, he’s a guy that will step up and say he wants it. And he’s been delivering on it too, which has been impressive.”


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