EPHRATA — Obviously, there’s some reason why the folks who designed the game of baseball opted to give each team three outs to play with.
Regardless of that reason, you've still got to get those three outs in order to retire the side and get your own turn at the plate.
And for those teams that just happen to find Bob Locker’s Warwick Warriors parked in the opposite dugout — especially right now — you’d better make sure you record all three of those outs.
If not, it could wind up being a disappointing night.
Buoyed by a quality start from Zach Peters and scoring all four of its runs in consecutive innings — all of them with two outs — Warwick extended its winning streak to six games Monday night with a 4-1 victory over Ephrata before a nice gathering at remarkably comfortable War Memorial Field.
Justin Byler rang up three of Warwick’s 10 hits — all of them singles — while Tyler Martin and Justin Smith each finished with two knocks and a run batted in.
Peters also helped himself with the stick, knocking in Warwick’s first two runs with a third-inning single.
“All of their runs were two-out runs,” lamented Ephrata skipper Adrian Shelley. “As I remind my team, two-out runs are backbreakers.
“You’re anticipating getting one out and coming back in, but instead they’re extending the inning and turning the scoreboard over. They deserve credit for that.”
Able to maintain its share of the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s Section 1 lead with Monday night’s crossover win, Warwick (9-1, 6-1) also was able to gun down three Ephrata runners at the plate, two on tag plays and one in a rundown.
Those critical plays came in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings — all with the Section 2 frontrunners (8-2, 6-1) trailing 4-1 and trying valiantly to get to Peters.
Shelley’s bunch, which came in riding a seven-game winning streak, never did as Peters conceded just four hits and walked one while fanning five.
Dillon Good went the distance in defeat for Ephrata, spacing those aforementioned 10 hits while walking just one and striking out four.
Three of the runs Good allowed were earned.
“We’re starting to do a better job of hitting the ball,” admitted Locker. “We’ve got some kids that are starting to rake the ball.
“And that was a good high school pitcher out there.”
While the Warriors parlayed singles from Luke Mariano and Martin into a first-inning threat, Good was able to wiggle out of trouble by getting the last two outs.
That wasn’t the case in the third, as Matt Cover was hit by a two-out pitch and hustled to third on Martin’s ground-rule double. Moments later, Peters delivered a crisp single up the middle that plated both runners and put Warwick up 2-0.
Locker’s crew wasn’t done, as courtesy runner Tyler Hess swiped second and rolled home on Smith’s rip up the middle.
Ephrata finally broke through in the home half of the fourth, as Nate Fassnacht drew a leadoff walk and Chase Weik followed with the Mounts’ first hit. Trying to move up both runners, Justin Carvell dropped a beautiful bunt down the third-base line.
Peters, though, threw wildly to first in an effort to nab the Ephrata catcher, allowing Fassnacht to trot in with the Mounts’ first run. While Peters appeared to be in in the midst of a serious jam, he was able to get Evan Frees to fly to left. And when Jake Weachter made a strong throw in, neither runner could advance.
Then, when Thomas Elliott hauled in Patrick Gallagher’s fly ball in right field moments later, he uncorked a terrific throw to Smith at the plate that had Weik trying to scramble out of a rundown. Instead, a textbook 9-2-5-1 putout was the result.
“We made some good defensive plays, but that’s stuff you work on,” Locker said.
Yet Locker’s club wasn’t done flashing the leather.
Good also appeared to get stronger and become more effective as the game played on. And while Warwick had runners aboard in the final three innings, Good was able to work out of trouble each and every time.
His teammates tried to cash in, but could not.
Piecing together an Adam Schwartz single, Good’s walk and a Mitchell Storb sacrifice, Shelley’s Mounts had runners at second and third with one out in the bottom of the fifth. And when Nick Auker grounded a ball toward first, Warwick’s Tim Griest opted to come home with the ball.
While Smith had the ball in time, the hustling Schwartz tried to dive and slide a hand under the tag. Schwartz, however, was ruled out on the play.
Another fly ball to right ended Ephrata’s threat.
Weik ignited yet another would-be Mounts threat in the home half of the sixth, reaching first safely when Griest dropped the ball en route to the bag to make the putout. After Carvell fanned, Frees sliced a double into the left-center gap.
Running all the way, Mariano’s relay to the plate appeared to beat Weik to the dish and another bang-bang play went Warwick’s way. Frustrated by the play, Weik lost his cool and began shoving Smith and was ejected from the contest.
Peters quickly brought an end to the sixth inning by whiffing Patrick Gallagher. He retired the side in order in the seventh minutes later, closing out his four-hitter.
“He kept them off balance,” Locker said. “He ran into some trouble with his off-speed pitches in the middle innings, but he found it again.
“I was really impressed with the way he came back.”
Warwick’s two-out lightning — along with those plays at the plate — also proved to be a critical element in determining a victor.
“Those were close plays. Those were close plays,” Shelley said. “And they’re not major-league umpires. Sometimes you get those calls, sometimes you don’t.”
While Locker’s Warriors benefited, they also tucked away another satisfying victory over an L-L 2 side — in this case the league-leading side.
“To get the first two crossover games with wins, that’s pretty good,” Locker admitted. “Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
“They earned it,” Shelley added. “Whether or not those calls were debatable, it’s still only two runs. My hat goes off to them. This isn’t an easy place to play.”
Warwick 4, Ephrata 1
Warwick 003 100 0 — 4-10-3
Ephrata 000 100 0 — 1-4-3
Zach Peters and Justin Smith. Dillon Good and Justin Carvell. W-Peters. L-Good.