LAMPETER- Ephrata’s baseball players want to hit, not run. And because they did the former on a blustery Wednesday afternoon in Lampeter, they will not have to do the latter.
At least for a day.
The Mountaineers pounded out nine hits, none bigger than a three-run homer by shortstop Nate Fassnacht in a four-run fourth inning, en route to a 9-6 Section Two victory over Lampeter-Strasburg.
As significant as that was – Ephrata (2-0 league, 3-1 overall) remained in a tie for the section lead with Conestoga Valley – the players can also be heartened by the fact that they struck out just twice.
That means they won’t have to do any performance training – i.e., running – before their next practice, part of a deal the Mounts struck with coach Adrian Shelley during a team meeting Monday.
The backstory is this: Ephrata managed five runs and 10 hits (and struck out 16 times) while splitting their nonleague games against Hershey and Cumberland Valley.
Shelley wanted a better approach at the plate, and convened what he called “a little meeting of the minds” when Monday’s game against Solanco was rained out.
“We had to negotiate some interesting and creative terms to wake the sticks up,” he said.
The players wanted to do away with those performance training sessions, which last 20 minutes, if they fanned fewer than five times in a game. Shelley countered with a sliding scale: Zero Ks, and they wouldn’t have to run for two days. One or two, and they could skip a day. There are additional incentives beyond that – and, Shelley said, “Anything over five, we’d tack some (conditioning work) on.”
The Mounts did strike out seven times in Tuesday’s makeup game against the Mules – no cheat day for you -- but they also had 11 hits in an 11-2 victory. And on Wednesday they not only knocked around two L-S pitchers; they also took full advantage of three walks, three hit batters and three errors.
“More games are lost than won,” said Pioneers coach Keith Martin, who saw his team fall to 1-1 and 3-2. “We shot ourselves in the foot today.”
Ephrata snapped a 3-3 tie with that four-run fourth, doing all its damage with two outs. Adam Schwartz, who started in right field but gained the victory in relief, doubled off Chris Pirozzi, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Mitchell Storb was hit by a pitch, and an error by L-S shortstop Bear Shank allowed the inning’s first run to score.
Fassnacht, who reached base four times and scored three runs, followed by hitting Pirozzi’s 2-2 curveball over the fence in center field, making it 7-3.
The Pioneers chased Mounts starter Matt McGillan by scoring three times in the bottom of the fourth, on Shank’s bases-loaded walk, an error and Colin Eckman’s infield single.
But Ephrata scored twice in the fifth, making it 9-6. Justin Carvell led off with a triple and Dillon Good walked. Good moved up on an infield out, and Evan Frees drove in a run with another bouncer. Schwartz (2-for-3) did the same when he grounded a single through the left side of the infield.
Schwartz worked three scoreless innings. Then Fassnacht, who started at shortstop, closed things out by blanking the Pioneers in the seventh.
That’s noteworthy, because Fassnacht, a senior, had some arm trouble in seventh grade and had not pitched at all in high school until Tuesday, when he also worked an inning. Now he was putting the finishing touches on an all-around day.
“I love it all,” he said.
Just as Shelley loved what his team accomplished after the incentive plan was put in place Monday.
“I don’t know if that worked,” he said. “I’d like to say they felt empowered to have some control over it. Whatever works.”
Ephrata 102 420 0 – 9 9 2
Lampeter-Strasburg 003 300 0 – 6 8 3
McGillan, Schwartz (4), Fassnacht (7) and Carvell; Pirozzi, Eshleman (5) and Weiant. WP – Schwartz; LP – Pirozzi. SO-BB: McGillan 0-1, Schwartz 2-1, Fassnacht 0-1; Pirozzi 2-1, Eshleman 0-2. HR – Fassnacht (E).