EPHRATA- Odd scene in the top of the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s Ephrata-Penn Manor baseball game in War Memorial Field.
The Mountaineers, attempting to protect a one-run lead, had just committed their third error of the night, prompting coach Adrian Shelley to call time and march to the mound.
And with his battery and infielders gathered around him, Shelley -- always an animated sort -- began waving his arms above the heads of his players, as if polishing their invisible halos.
Once the Mounts had secured a 2-1 victory, Shelley was asked what was going on there.
Nothing much, really.
Just an attempted exorcism.
“I said I could see the demons circling their heads,” he said. “That’s exactly what I said: ‘The demons are circling your heads. I can see them from the dugout.’ ”
They continued to hover. Ephrata committed yet another miscue immediately after Shelley’s visit. But seniors Dillon Good and Nate Fassnacht kept the evil spirits at bay – Good by pitching a complete-game two-hitter and driving in a run with a first-inning single, Fassnacht by blasting a go-ahead solo homer off Jacob Herr in the fifth.
The Section One-Two crossover game was a rematch of last year’s Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game, which the Mounts won as well. It also featured a Manor team that in addition to being ranked No. 1 in the District Three Class AAAA field owned a share of the Section One lead, and an Ephrata club that sat atop Section Two.
The Mounts, however, had hit a rough patch, losing last Monday to Warwick and last Friday to Hempfield. It also appeared they had dropped a 2-1 non-league game to Waynesboro in eight innings on Saturday, but the game has since been transformed into a forfeit victory for the Mounts (9-2 league, 12-3 overall), after the Indians self-reported a violation of the weekly innings limit by one of their pitchers.
Either way, Wednesday’s victory allowed them to chase off some larger demons.
“It definitely means a lot,” said Good, who yielded an unearned run while striking out five, walking two and hitting a batter. “We’ve been struggling recently. We needed a comeback to get back to who we are, as Ephrata baseball.”
“We’ve been having some struggles in our dugout,” he said. “This is a good way to keep our spirits alive. They’re a good team to beat. They’re solid all around.”
The Mounts’ Adam Schwartz drew a walk from Herr leading off the bottom of the first and stole second. And with two outs Good lined a 2-2 pitch into left field to deliver the night’s first run.
Good in the meantime skated out of trouble after the Comets (9-2, 12-2) loaded the bases with two outs in the third, retiring Collin Whiteside on a fielder’s choice bouncer.
But the demons arrived in the fourth. Manor’s Grant Gale blooped a leadoff double to right – his team’s first hit – then continued to third when right fielder Andrew Thomas’ throw to second went awry. Good struck out the next two hitters, but second baseman Patrick Gallagher fielded Eric Snyder’s grounder and threw the ball away at first, and just like that, the game was knotted, 1-1.
Fassnacht snapped the tie for good when he lined Herr’s first-pitch fastball into the left-field seats with one out and the bases empty in the fifth.
“If he was in the leadoff spot, we’re telling him to work the count there,” Shelley said. “In the 2-hole, after the first out is made, he has a little bit more freedom to swing.”
Fassnacht, who will play next year at George Washington, is happy to hack early in the count; he had also homered on the first pitch to tie the Waynesboro game in the seventh.
He was just as happy to have an opportunity to atone for a failure earlier in Wednesday’s game.
“My first at-bat,” he said, “I swung at two pitches over my head (while fanning in the first), which wasn’t very smart.”
His throwing error with one out in the sixth prompted Shelley’s visit, which was followed by the final miscue, first baseman Mitchel Storb’s inability to come up with Good’s pickoff attempt.
No matter, though. This night would belong to somebody other than the demons. To the would-be exorcist, to some degree. To Good and Fassnacht, definitely.
Penn Manor 000 100 0 – 1 2 0
Ephrata 100 010 x – 2 3 4
Herr and Snyder; Good and Carvell. SO-BB: Herr 6-4; Good 5-2. HR—Fassnacht (E).