Tough Start: Late E-town rally leads to Mounts’ second-straight loss

By on April 5, 2017
Ephrata’s Andrew Thomas (left) pulls into third base during Saturday’s season opener vs. Cumberland Valley. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Ephrata’s Andrew Thomas (left) pulls into third base during Saturday’s season opener vs. Cumberland Valley. Photo by Missi Mortimer

One of the staples that has catapulted Ephrata into becoming one of the top programs in the District is it’s ability and willingness to take some chances.

However, Monday night at War Memorial in the Section Two opener vs. Elizabethtown, it was that over-aggressiveness that may have been the Mounts’ downfall.

Two big plays— one offensively and defensively— changed the complexion of the game, and consequently led to a tough 2-1 loss to the Bears.

In the bottom of the sixth, after Ephrata scored to take a 1-0 lead, the Mounts were in position to tack onto their lead with runners at the corners with nobody out, and one of their top hitters, Adam Schwartz, striding to the plate.

But Schwartz was first-pitch swinging, and hit a foul pop between home and first. As soon as the catch was made, Andrew Thomas tagged from first and Adam Maser did the same from third.

Maser, in turn, was a dead duck at home, and the Bears were able to work out of further damage.

“I kind of liked the double tag, situationally however, it may not have been the ideal time to do it,” Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley said “But it’s aggressive, and I’m not going to second-guess that. What ends up happening is when you struggle to score runs conventionally, you may try to get a little over-aggressive sometimes with some things to try to push some buttons, and that probably was the case there.”

Then in the top of the sixth, an errant pick-off throw to second by Ephrata relief pitcher Hunter Johns placed an E-town runner at third with nobody out. Chad Caley then delivered an RBI single to tie the game. An Austin Denlinger double later in the inning brought home Caley for the go-ahead run.

E-town then turned to ace pitcher Nick Stoner, who slammed the door in the sixth and seventh innings to earn the save.

“That was one of two instances where we really showed our age,” Shelley said of the ill-fated pick-off attempt. “We had discussed out there that the runner on second was meaningless. We are the home team, we are up a run. I’m more concerned about the guy at the plate. I think within a one-pitch span the middle infield wasn’t comfortable with his lead and they tried to make a pick move. We talk about if you are going to make that move you have to signal the centerfielder ahead of time, and the second thing is you got to knock that down.”

Both starters, Schwartz (7 Ks, 2 BBs) from Ephrata and E-town’s Caley (5 Ks, 4 BBs) matched each other with goose eggs through the first four frames.

Ephrata had the best chance to score early on with runners on second and third with nobody out. However, Caley was able to get a couple strikeouts and eventually wriggled out of damage.

The Mounts actually didn’t get their first hit until designated hitter Nate Young, who had two of Ephrata’s five hits, lined a single up the middle in the bottom of the fourth.

Ephrata finally broke through first in the bottom of the fifth when Johns worked a lead-off walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Maser then dropped a perfectly placed bunt down the third baseline and stole second one pitch later to place the runners at second and third.

Andrew Thomas then delivered a clutch RBI single to plate Johns and give the Mounts the short-lived 1-0 lead before the crucial double-play ended things in the inning.

That seemed to give the Bears some juice as E-town’s Justin Shelly got his team’s sixth-inning rally started with a ground-rule double to left, which is when Coach Shelley decided to pull Schwartz (71 pitches) in favor of Johns.

“Adam pitched a great game,” Shelley said. “I just thought it was too early in the season to extend him for a complete game. He was starting to elevate the ball.”

The loss dropped the Mounts to 0-2 overall (0-1 Section Two) after losing their season opener 7-4 to Cumberland Valley Saturday.

The Mounts return just one regular starter from their District title team, and it will take some time for the new guys to adjust to the varsity level. But despite dropping their first two games, Shelley said he’s been generally happy with what he has seen from his young club thus far.

“I do like the way we played overall…sometimes the outcome isn’t desirable and this happens to be one of those cases,” he said. “We are doing a lot more things well than we are not. We are playing some pretty good defense and we are pitching well. Obviously the glaring issue is being able to find ways to score runs. We had opportunities tonight, and we didn’t cash in on them.”

In Saturday’s game, which was a rematch of last year’s District semifinals (won by Ephrata 1-0), the Mounts led 3-0 after four innings but couldn’t hold it.

The Eagles rallied for four runs in the top of the fifth before tacking on three insurance runs in the seventh to get the win.

Thomas went 2-for-4 to pace the Mounts’ six-hit attack.

Cumberland Valley’s Drew Baughman was 2-for-3 and knocked in five runs to key the Eagles’ surge.

Eagles’ Rally Comes Up Short

Elsewhere Monday, Cocalico scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth, but could not close the gap after Elco scored seven through the first four innings to hold on for a 9-6 victory in the Section Three opener Monday in Denver.

The top of the lineup led the way for Elco, with Kyle Knight, Clay Hain and Cole Miller combining to go 10-for-14 with four RBIs and seven runs scored. Hain went 4-for-4 with three doubles and a single.

For Cocalico, Brady Sawyer went 3-for-4 with a run scored while Drew Sawyer knocked in four runs on a pair of hits. Nick Lucky also picked up two hits for the Eagles. Cocalico pitcher Tyler Stricker took the loss as the Eagles fell to 2-2 overall.

Last Wednesday at home vs. Conestoga Valley, the Eagles scored a single run in the bottom of the sixth to key a 3-2 victory over the Buckskins.

Stricker earned the victory, pitching six strong innings, striking out three while scattering six hits. Offensively, Drew Sawyer went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI to lead the way for Cocalico while Austin Harven also knocked in a run.

Cocalico also was in action Thursday at home in a non-league contest vs. Exeter.

The visitors broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the top of the second and never looked back en route to an 8-3 victory over Cocalico.

Exeter’s Joe Fylypowcyz went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI to lead his team.

As for Cocalico, Lucky collected a pair of hits while Justin Burd contributed a double in the loss.

Up next, Cocalico travels to Lebanon Wednesday before returning home to face Northern Lebanon Friday and Garden Spot Monday. All of those games begin at 4:15 p.m.

Ephrata hits the road Wednesday to face Lampeter-Strasburg (4:15 p.m.) and will remain away from home Friday as the Mounts battle CV (4:15 p.m.).

The Mounts return home next Monday night (7 p.m.) when they host defending L-L League champion Solanco.

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