Watch highlights of the Greencastle-Antrim baseball team and its journey through the Mid Penn Conference tournament. Video by Lindsey Smith
For most teams, playing an eight-inning baseball game, only to turn around and play in a championship game 45 minutes later would spell disaster.
But Greencastle-Antrim is not most teams.
The Blue Devils claimed a 3-2 victory in extra innings of the Mid Penn Conference semifinal over Mifflin County, then later faced West Perry in the conference championship. An 8-2 win over the Mustangs gave G-A its first-ever MPC title.
"They were really intense pregame, and focused during the game and as we are entering 'win or go home' time, that's how it has to be all the time," Greencastle coach Eric Shaner said. "The results were what we wanted tonight because they were focused, intense and engaged."
Like much of the regular season, Greencastle (17-1) came out in the first inning ready to put runs on the board. Almost like an instant replay of Game 1 against Mifflin County, the first five Greencastle batters made it on base, with Quin Ambeault working in both games to knock in a few early runs. Against West Perry, Ambeault brought in two RBIs with a single to right, and a solo RBI in the opening inning against Mifflin County.
"It's huge (to get those runs early)," Ambeault said. "It set the pace and they feed off our energy and I think that made (West Perry) not play as well. As long as we carry our energy throughout the game we will keep being successful and I think that's why we won today because we wanted it more."
"He's a tremendous hitter," Shaner said. "He sees the ball deep and he's so naturally strong. He just hits line drives and he can hit good pitching. He's an advanced hitter."
While the runs on the board kept the championship in sight, Derek Measell kept West Perry's bats in check on the mound, striking out eight and walking one in 6 1/3 innings pitched. He was relieved by Nathan Starliper, who closed out the seventh with a strikeout and fly out.
Measell also went 3-for-3 with an RBI.
After Ambeault's debut at the plate in the championship game, West Perry decided to make a pitching change without an out on the board. The Mustangs switched out a side-arm pitcher for lefty Ethan Lesher, who kept the Blue Devils off balance for a short period, striking out three straight batters in the second inning. Despite being a relief pitcher, Lesher threw for 21 total outs.
"We have a lot of confidence in him to come in during that situation, and I thought he did an outstanding job trying to keep it close," West Perry coach Jeff Sanno said.
Shaner said, "With the submariner, the message was to eliminate all the stuff and just see the ball out of his hand, and the lefty was throwing a knuckleball or something crazy and it took us an inning to adjust to that, but I thought we did a nice job taking disciplined at-bats."
Ambeault finished the tournament going 4-for-7 with four RBIs.
Greencastle prevailed over Mifflin County in the first game, despite a top-notch pitcher, Peyton Reesman, who threw the Blue Devils off-balance.
G-A put up two runs in the first inning, and the Huskies came back to tie it up in the third to eventually force extra innings.
In the eighth, Ambeault reached on a walk and stole second. Measell then hit one into the gap to bring Ambeault home for the eventual game-winning run. Starliper closed it out for Greencastle in relief, striking out one.
Greencastle's Cade Bender started and pitched seven innings, striking out three and walking one.
Reesman fanned 15 batters through seven innings and walked just two. He allowed two runs in the first inning, and then settled into a perfect rhythm, allowing just one runner to reach third base after the first inning.