The reign has ended

By on July 15, 2015
Ephrata’s Ethan Sipe (18) and teammate Brandon Schwark (28) catch Justin Henson in a rundown during Tuesday’s District 10 League final at War Memorial. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata’s Ethan Sipe (18) and teammate Brandon Schwark (28) catch Justin Henson in a rundown during Tuesday’s District 10 League final at War Memorial. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

 

Ephrata’s four-year reign as District 10 American Legion champs is officially over.

Tuesday night in the District 10 title game at War Memorial, Penn Manor scored five first inning runs then rode the talented left arm of pitcher Jeff Taylor to a 5-1 victory and the title.

The Comets, who lost to the Chryslers in last year’s legion finals and suffered similar fate against Ephrata in the L-L title game in high school this past spring, finally got that monkey off their backs.

“I said to the kids the other day, we’ve had some epic battles with (Ephrata), good baseball games, and right now, this year, we’ve taken four out of six from them,” Penn Manor Coach Jim Zander said following the win. “The high school one hurt obviously. But Jeff wanted a chance today. He wanted the ball, and we were going to ride our horse.”

The win did break Ephrata’s league string but the Chryslers, along with Penn Manor, will both advance to next week’s Regional Tournament, which will be held at War Memorial.

The fact that they still have some baseball to play took some of the sting out of Tuesday’s loss for Ephrata.

“It stinks,” Ephrata Coach Derek Sipe said. “Obviously it’s a different feeling for me since it’s the first time I’m losing it, but I think Penn Manor is more than deserving. They’ve been a quality opponent for several years now and it’s a shame they haven’t been able to showcase their talent at the regional level, so I’m thrilled that they are going to get their chance to do that this year, and I’m very happy that we are going to be joining them as well. They deserve it.”

Penn Manor will open Regionals Saturday opposite the Cumberland County champion (either Carlisle or Red Land) at 4 p.m. while the Chryslers, who received an automatic bid as host of the tournament, will face York County champion Northeastern in the fourth game of the day, beginning approximately 7 p.m.

Prior to the Ephrata game, the 1990 Ephrata Elks legion squad, which went on to become the only Lancaster County team to ever advance to Nationals, will be honored in a ceremony, celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Back to Tuesday where Penn Manor gave Taylor all the support he would need in the top half of the first inning off Ephrata starter Zach Roberts.

Taylor drew a one-out walk before Anthony Knight singled and Collin Groff walked to load the bases. That brought to the plate Cameron Dickerson, who drilled a two-run single to get his team on the board. The Comets would then score the remaining three runs without a hit to stake Taylor to the commanding lead.

“When you are facing a good pitcher, any time you give up big innings it’s going to hurt you,” Sipe said. “And when you do it in the first inning before you even hit, it seems like a very steep mountain that you have to overcome. And obviously we weren’t able to do it.”

Ephrata did respond with its run in the bottom of the first when Jake Terry led off with a single and later came around to score on the back end of a first-and-third play to make it 5-1.

But Taylor settled in after that. The lefty, who would strike out three and allow just four hits, never was in trouble again, thanks to a pair of inning ending doubleplays in the third and fifth innings.

“There were several times during the game where we just needed something to go our way to kind of ignite us, but we never got that moment,” Sipe said. “I thought we did a decent job against him tonight, battling. We hit a bunch of balls hard but unfortunately some were right at them, some they made good plays. But he does a really good job at throwing both of his pitches for strikes in all counts. He has that pace to his fastball where he’s throwing in the low 80s consistently, and to be able to throw two pitches, which are both great pitches, for strikes at any point in any count make it very difficult.”

And something the Chryslers couldn’t overcome on this night.

Roberts settled in after the first inning and both he and reliever Adam Schwartz, who pitched three-plus scoreless frames, combined to allow just one hit the rest of the way.

Andre Good, Roberts and Brandon Schwark had the other three Ephrata hits in the loss.

«««

Facing elimination in the face Monday night in a loser’s bracket game vs. Manheim Township, the Chryslers leaned on lanky lefthander Nate Baxter to carry them through.

And boy, did the recent Cocalico grad deliver.

Baxter went the distance and struck out seven Township hitters to lead the Chryslers to a 4-0 shutout victory. Baxter, in fact, carried a no-hitter into the sixth before Justin Kilpatrick finally broke up the bid with a solid single down the right field line. But that was all Township could muster as Ephrata advanced to face Penn Manor in Tuesday night’s title game.

Baxter had every pitch in his arsenal working Monday night. He allowed just four baserunners the entire game and retired the first 10 batters that he faced.

“He was lights out from the beginning,” Sipe said. “All three pitches were working, and you could tell from some of the swings they were getting that not only was he pounding the zone but it was just hard to pick up. They were fooled in all counts and he got a lot of bad swings out of it. He had great movement, great stuff and a bigtime outing at this stage of the tournament.”

Baxter got all the offensive support he would need in the bottom of the first as Ephrata scored a pair of runs to jump out to a 2-0 early lead.

Terry got it started with a single before moving to second on a balk call. From there, Schwartz brought him home with an RBI triple. Jeremy Marshall brought home the second run one out later with an RBI single.

While Baxter was cruising, Ephrata tacked on a run in the bottom of the third. Baxter reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced all the way to third on Schwark’s double to right. That brought Ethan Sipe to the plate, who laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to plate Baxter with the third Ephrata run.

After striking out the side in the third, Ben Richards became Township’s first base runner of the game in the fourth when he was hit by a Baxter pitch. But Chase Weik turned the first of two 5-4-3 doubleplays in the game to get out of trouble.

“The defense was great tonight,” Coach Sipe said. “Chase made a couple outstanding plays…those doubleplays were huge. Baxter threw strikes and let the defense work behind him.

Ephrata added it’s final run in the bottom of the fourth as Ethan Sipe was hit by a pitch and later came across the plate when Schwartz was drilled by a pitch with the bases loaded. Ephrata could have broken it open with the bases loaded and still nobody out. However, Marshall, Weik and Andre Good all made out to keep the score at 4-0.

“We did a better job tonight than we did the first two days, but we just can’t pick up those hits with runners in scoring position,” Sipe said of the Ephrata offense, which collected just five hits. “Hopefully it starts coming at some point. Hopefully once one it happens it kind of opens the flood gates and everything else just follows suit.”

Ephrata is sitting in familiar position. A year ago, Ephrata needed to beat Penn Manor twice to win the tournament, and did just that, so the Chryslers remain a confident group.

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Ephrata was sent to the loser’s bracket of the District 10 Tourney after suffering a tough 4-2 loss to Penn Manor at War Memorial Field Sunday night.

Penn Manor (second seed) broke on top early, rapping four singles, the last three with two outs in the top of the first. The RBI were delivered by shortstop Groff, centerfielder Dickerson and first baseman Grant Gale.

Ephrata (first seed) got some measure of revenge in the bottom of the first when Terry led off the inning with a shot into the left field stands, bringing the Chryslers within two.

Ephrata starter Austin Lowrey held the Comets at bay for the next five innings, while his offense reduced the gap to one in the fourth. Andre Good drew a one out walk, advancing to second when left fielder Schwartz was struck by a pitch. Second baseman Marshall loaded the bases after stroking a single.

Weik flied to center field, deep enough to plate Good and move Schwartz to third. But, Marshall was thrown out trying to steal second, halting the rally.

“He (Lowrey) definitely settled down and was locating the ball better,” said Sipe, of his pitcher. “He was up in the zone in the first, but he still gave us the opportunity to win.”

Penn Manor added an insurance run in the seventh when catcher Anthony Knight’s second hit of the game drove in second baseman Ryan Witmer, who had been sacrificed to second base by Taylor. It was also Witmer’s second hit.

Down to their last chance, Ephrata kept the door open as Weik singled and Schwark worked a walk. After reliever Taylor struck out Baxter, a passed ball sent both runners into scoring position. But the lefty shut the door, striking out pinch hitter Roberts and delivering a ground ball to short by Terry, ending the game.

Winning Coach Zander was asked if the three runs in the first or the fourth in the seventh inning were the most important.

“That’s a good question,” responded Zander. “I’d say the three in the first. We’ve had some epic battles with Ephrata and the three runs early was huge.”

Sipe agreed adding, “It changed what we like to do. We couldn’t bunt or run as much as we like.”

As to the advantages and challenges of knowing as team so well, (they’ve played five times this year) Sipe was clear.

“It’s a disadvantage to both teams. It takes away what you try to do. There are no surprises.”

Zander felt that adjustments were necessary. “We know that they play small ball, so we try to take that away. They are also great at working the count, so we try to get ahead in the count.”

The Comets outhit Ephrata in the contest by a count of 9-5.

«««

Ephrata opened the tournament Saturday, earning a 3-1 victory over Manheim Township.

The Chryslers, who managed just two hits in the game, broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the sixth with a two spot to key the victory.

Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish went the distance on the mound for Ephrata, allowing just four hits while striking out nine to earn the victory.

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