For Public Opinion
BOILING SPRINGS - The Shippensburg Greyhounds finally restored some equilibrium to their baseball rivalry with the Northern Polar Bears.
And it couldn't have come at a better time.
Travis Ott pitched seven strong innings, Wyatt Mowery drove in two runs and the Greyhounds defeated Northern 5-2 in a one-game tiebreaker Friday afternoon at Boiling Springs High School to finally decide a Mid Penn Colonial Division winner.
The Hounds won for the 15th time in 19 games and advance to play Commonwealth Division champion Cumberland Valley in the opening round of the Mid Penn Conference tournament on Monday. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Northern High School.
"I have nothing but respect for those guys over there," Shippensburg coach Dan Watkins said. "They know how to win and they know how to compete. And they've been awfully tough on us since I've taken over - I can still count on one hand the number of times that I've beaten them."
Ott delivered in the most important start of his career, allowing just two runs and five hits in the complete-game effort. The southpaw, who threw 79 of his 139 pitches for strikes, struck out eight, walked five and hit a batter.
Ott said, "I was getting a little tired during the middle innings - my curveball stopped working and I couldn't find the zone with my fastball. It was at that point that I decided to step back and take a deep breath."
The Polar Bears (14-5) had beaten Shippensburg six of the last seven times dating back to 2009, including the two previous meetings this season. The Hounds also snapped the defending PIAA Class AAA state champs' three-game winning streak.
"Not too many pitchers can hold us to just five hits, so I have to tip my cap to Ott," Northern coach Brian Robison said. "He's a nice pitcher and he was on, but I still thought we had some pretty good at-bats off him. We made him earn it today, and he threw some big pitches when he had to."
Justin Charles, the first of three Polar Bear pitchers, took the loss after giving up three runs on two hits and three walks in three innings. Relievers Vince Apicella and Rusty Simmoneau held the Greyhounds to just three hits and two unearned runs over the final four innings.
Anthony Salomone had a two-run double in the fifth for the Polar Bears, who await word on their postseason fate. The District 3 playoff pairings are scheduled to be released on Sunday.
Robison said, "I keep telling everyone that we didn't play in the Mid Penn tournament last year either - we were supposed to, but never did because of the weather."
Shippensburg scored three times in the second inning for a 3-0 lead. Derek Herb hit a one-out homer, then after Caleb Fogal
The Greyhounds extended the margin to 5-0 in the fourth when they pushed across a pair of unearned runs, aided by two miscues by Polar Bear third baseman Salomone. The second, a two-out, bases-loaded throwing error, allowed Koser and Jeremy Musser to both score.
Northern, which stranded at least one baserunner in every inning, put the first three men on against Ott in the fifth, but the southpaw got No. 3 hitter Jon Mayer to fly out to Musser in center and retired cleanup hitter Dylan Tamecki on a fielder's choice comebacker. After Salomone doubled home Cody Mclaughlin and Mark Stetts, Ott limited the damage by getting Tyler Betz on a two-hopper back to the mound.
"I thought the 3-1 pitch he made to Mayer was the turning point in the game," Watkins said. "Travis is one you can ride; I mean he is a horse and he likes to throw deep into the game. He certainly gutted it out today."
Herb and Mowery each went 2-for-3, while Koser scored twice for Shippensburg. Justin Pyne had the only other hit for the Greyhounds, a leadoff single in the seventh.
The Polar Bears left a total of 10 runners on base and were just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Robison said, "One hit and it's a new ballgame, but these guys have been through the grind before and the last thing I want is for them to get uptight. They didn't give up untill that last ball was caught.
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Musser cf 4 1 0 0 Mclaughlin lf 4 1 2 0
Pyne dh 3 0 1 0 Stetts dh 2 1 0 0
M.Witmer lf 4 0 0 0 Mayer c 3 0 0 0
S.Witmer 1b 4 0 0 0 Bisch cr 0 0 0 0
Herb rf 3 1 2 1 Tamecki 1b 3 0 0 0
Barnhart c 2 0 0 0 Salomone 3b 4 0 2 2
Fogal ss 2 1 0 0 Betz ss 4 0 1 0
Koser 3b 2 2 0 0 Saylor cf 3 0 0 0
Mowery 2b 3 0 2 2 Miller 2b 3 0 0 0
Ott p 0 0 0 0 Wong rf 1 0 0 0
Charles p 0 0 0 0
Apicella p 0 0 0 0
Simmoneau p 0 0 0 0
Totals 27 5 5 3 Totals 27 2 5 2
Shippensburg 030 200 0 - 5
Northern 000 020 0 - 2
E-Ship 1; Nor 2. LOB-Ship 6; Nor 10. 2B-Salomone. HR-Herb (1). SAC-Barnhart. SB-McLaughlin, Tamecki. CS-Herb.
ip h r er bb so
Ott (W,4-1) 7 5 2 2 5 8
Charles (L) 3 2 3 3 3 3
Apicella 2 2 2 0 1 3
Simmoneau 2 1 0 0 0 5
HBP-by Ott (Tamecki). WP-Ott; Charles 2, Apicella.