The Squires lost 5-0 to Brandywine Heights in a District 3 Class AA baseball semifinal game at Ephrata High School. They have lost in that round for the fourth time in five years.
"It takes some luck," Squires coach Alan Felix said. "There were some times where we could say we beat ourselves. I think we got beat by a better pitcher today. If we don't score any, the reality is no matter what you do, well ..."
Their trouble happened largely because of an excellent performance by Brandywine Heights starting pitcher Luke Erb, who threw a shutout, struck out 12 and allowed three hits.
He retired the first four Squires, three by strikeout, before allowing consecutive one-out walks to Austin Buckley and Seth Bullers. The pair moved to second and third bases as part of a double steal, but Erb recorded two strikeouts to end the inning. The final came on a pitch on which Mark Fagnani appeared to hold his swing.
The Squires (18-6) put runners on first and second with no outs in the third, but Erb induced a double play and a strikeout. He allowed runners to reach third in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but escaped trouble all three times. His curveball was a strong point.
"When he's working two pitches, he's really tough," Bullets coach Chris Cole said. "He's been shutting teams out all year."
Erb has thrown two no-hitters, one over five innings and the other seven.
Buckley, who started for the Squires, battled some trouble with his command, especially early.
"I don't like to make excuses," Felix said. "The mound is steep. He had trouble adjusting to the mound, the flatness and then it gets real steep."
Bullets third baseman Nick Delong walked to lead off the game before Erb singled. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch before Zack Tomasko hit into a double play that scored Delong for a 1-0 lead.
"It was big to get on top early, especially as the visiting team," Cole said. "I think that kind of calmed our nerves down, especially the pitchers knowing you got one up already before you step on the mound."
Zach Ernst added a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth to extend the Bullets' lead to 2-0. They scored again an inning later on a double by Tomasko before adding two more runs in the top of the seventh against Squires relief pitcher Cooper Ayres.
The Squires, however, weren't able to do much against Erb and the Bullets (14-7).
"We were expecting to get more runners," Felix said. "He was pretty efficient all day getting ahead of our hitters. We had a few opportunities, some things they were giving us that we could take that we couldn't do. It was a pretty discouraging way to end, not just a good season, but nine guys that are really good baseball players."
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