LITITZ — Give this Warwick outfit a number of chances to swing the bats — particularly the top half of the Warriors’ potent order — and opposing pitching staffs likely are going to yield some sort of damage.
Doesn’t matter if Bob Locker’s bunch is in front, tied or sitting in arrears.
Certainly didn’t pose a problem in Warwick’s latest outing, although everything started in remarkably strange fashion … for both sides.
Trailing Lampeter-Strasburg as Friday’s Lancaster-Lebanon League crossover moved into the late innings, Locker’s Warriors put together a pair of timely rallies and posted a come-from-behind 7-5 victory over the visiting Pioneers.
Luke Mariano, Matt Cover and Tyler Martin, the first three hitters in Warwick’s attack-minded batting order, each finished with two knocks.
Cover also plated three runs — including the tie-breaking score in the bottom of the sixth — while Justin Smith added a clutch two-run triple that smacked off the right-field fence in the home half of the fifth that tied the game at 5-all.
“It’s just timely hitting for us,” Cover said.
“Big hits in big situations, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Once in front, closer Thomas Elliott came on in the top of the seventh to maintain the lead, fanning all three hitters he faced as the Warriors (8-1, 5-1) banked their fifth consecutive victory and held on to a share of the L-L 1 lead.
Elliott’s third save in his three late-inning appearances just this week — fourth overall — preserved the win for starter Ethan Norman. Norman worked the first six innings, conceding eight hits and all five runs while striking out one.
All five runs were unearned.
Caleb Danehower recorded two hits for Keith Martin’s Pioneers (4-5, 2-4), who dropped their third game in a row and fourth in five outings. L-S also picked up a two-run single in the third inning from Bear Shank.
Dylan Byler, the second of the Pioneers’ four pitchers, suffered the loss.
Todd Shelley worked the first four innings for L-S, surrendering a pair of unearned runs and four hits while walking three and whiffing two.
Leading 5-2 in the home half of the fifth when Byler came on for Shelley, Martin’s Pioneers soon found themselves in some trouble when Mariano singled to left and Cover reached when Byler couldn’t come up with his sacrifice bunt.
Mariano moved up on a wild pitch, but wheeled home moments later when Martin served up a single to right that sliced the L-S lead to a pair (5-3). While Zach Peters’ bouncer forced Tyler Martin at second for the first out, Smith followed with a laser to right that chased home Cover and Peters and tied the score.
“I can’t even explain,” Cover said of the Warwick atmosphere in the dugout. “Justin has been key with that hitting all season long. We just get excited. When we see that ball fly, we know it’s going somewhere good and we know it’s going to land.”
“Cover and Smith have been hitting the ball all year,” Locker continued. “They’re both right around .500. We’re only so far through the season, but they’re both hitting around .500. And they’ve been consistent all year long.
“They’re hot. They got it done when we needed them to.”
Then, after skipping through the top of the sixth without incident, Warwick worked a little two-out magic in the bottom of the frame, manufacturing the tie-breaking run and even adding some insurance that stood large as Elliott warmed.
Although Byler retired the first two hitters, Mariano was able to work the L-S righty for a walk. Then, with Cover facing an 0-2 delivery, Mariano was able to get a terrific jump and swipe second, putting himself in scoring position.
When Cover laced a single to right, Mariano scampered home, ending Byler’s stretch on the mound and prompting Keith Martin to summon Alec Gordley.
And while Gordley began his brief stint by walking Tyler Martin, Peters followed with a single to right that plated Cover and increased the Warwick lead to 7-5.
Elliott needed 16 pitches to close things out, but bounced off with yet another save after retiring the side on strikes and securing another Warriors win.
“Quite honestly, Elliott’s been just rock solid,” Locker said. “Four appearances for saves, four saves. He’s got his curveball working and to come back from two 3-0 counts, that showed a lot of grit. Like I said, he’s been tough.”
Although L-S opened the game with back-to-back singles from Danehower and Byler, the Pioneers failed to cash in. Same thing happened in the bottom half of the inning as Warwick’s first four hitters reached yet no runs were scored.
Once the offenses began to kick in — and some sloppy play also led to several extended innings — both sides were able to tack up runs.
“That’s what we try to do,” Cover said. “That’s what we try to do when we get opportunities like that. We’ve just got to keep going with it.”
Cover’s two-run single in the second staked Locker’s outfit to an early lead, but L-S responded by scoring four times in the third inning — the last two riding home on Shank’s single to shallow left and giving the Pioneers a 4-2 advantage.
“The inning they scored four, that’s not who we are,” said Locker, referring to an L-S third that was helped along by three miscues. “Throughout the year we’ve been very clean defensively. We’ve gotten good solid pitching and played good defense. … That was very uncharacteristic for us.
“I give our kids all the credit in the world for hanging in there and coming back and then getting some really timely hitting when it mattered.”
While Colin Eckman’s two-out single chased home Ben Rhoades in the fifth and stretched the visitors’ lead to three, Warwick still had several chances to swing the bats remaining before this thing was decided.
And right on cue, Locker’s bunch came through.
For the fifth straight game.
“Our kids hit,” a grinning Locker said. “We like it. It’s nice.”
Warwick 7, Lampeter-Strasburg 5
Lampeter-Strasburg 004 010 0 — 5-8-4
Warwick 020 032 x — 7-9-4
Todd Shelley, Dylan Byler (5), Alec Gordley (6), Ioanni Kovack (6) and Caleb Danehower. Ethan Norman, Thomas Elliott (7) and Justin Smith. W-Norman. L-Byler. S-Elliott.