BASEBALL: Ephrata claims 2015 L-L title
The team motto all season, according to head coach Adrian Shelley, was "to defend the turf."
Thursday night at Ephrata War Memorial Field, still fresh with the brand new turf laid during the fall sports season, the Ephrata Mountaineers baseball team succeeded with just that, completing a challenging run through the L-L League tournament with a 7-2 victory over the Penn Manor Comets.
"Really, this has nothing to do with the field," Shelley said of the Mounts' third title, their first since 2010. "This had to do with the team getting hot at the right time."
Considering the Mountaineers played through multiple one-run contests early on in the season, Ephrata (16-7) came out swinging throughout the tournament, besting section titlists Donegal and Hempfield by a combined 21-3.
On Thursday, the Mounts took advantage of a series of miscues from Penn Manor (18-5), taking a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on a pair of errors.
Then in the fifth, designated hitter Dillon Good sparked a quasi-rout with a two-run homerun to left to pace Mountaineers' starter Austin Lowery to a 4-1 lead.
"Absolutely, that got us going," Lowery said of his teammate's blast. "He's hit the top of the fence probably five times, here or other places. He's been looking for it all year; it couldn't have come at a better time."
After Good singled in the second inning, the junior grounded sharply into a 5-4-3 double play in the third to erase an opportunity off Comets' starter Grant Gale (3K, 3BB).
But when facing Comets' reliever Jeremy Miller in the fifth with teammate Chase Weik on first, Good (2-for-3, R, 2RBI) jumped all over the first pitch he saw.
"It was a big swing," Shelley said. "He put a nice swing on it and he had asked me before the at-bat, 'are we still taking first pitch?' and I said we were never taking first-pitch. It's situational."
For Good, it was an ideal situation to swing.
"I felt like I was seeing the ball well, thought I was swinging the bat well, so I just went up there looking for a fastball middle-in," Good said. "That's what he gave me; obviously I did something good with it."
Meanwhile, Lowery was taking care of business on the mound, scattering six hits and two walks with a trio of strikeouts as well as solid work from his defense.
"When you pitch with a lead you're so much more relaxed, you can pitch to contact," Lowery said. "Just let them hit it, you have your defense behind you. It just takes so much stress off your shoulders."
Penn Manor scored first on an RBI groundout from Gale scoring Collin Groff (3-for-4, R).
But the Mountaineers gained the lead on a pair of unearned runs when a walk, hit, and error loaded the bases in the fourth. Brian Wentz then grounded to third base, but the throw home from Groff came in low to catcher Anthony Knight for the second Comets' error of the inning.
The Comets would finish with five errors on the night, two more contributing to a 3-run sixth inning that iced the game for Ephrata, Nate Fassnacht driving in a pair with a single and Weik lofting a sacrifice fly to right.
Lowery went back out in the seventh, giving up a two-out RBI double to Knight (2-for-4, RBI) before a pop-up to short ended it.
"It's awesome," Lowery said. "It's like a dream come true, really, my senior year. I can't ask for anything better."
It's also what Ephrata was looking for after falling short in the quest for the section two title.
"We have high expectations here, and when we didn't win the section we took a step back, tried to regroup," Shelley said. "We took them out here at the practice and said well, we're not going to be able to put one of those banners out, but you still have a chance at a bigger one."
"We came into the playoffs, we knew we were a good team, we really had a good shot at winning leagues," Good said. "We came out here and really hit the ball well. Do it one game at a time, and I think we did that."
Decorating the home turf in the process.
Boys' High School Baseball
L-L League Final
Ephrata 7, Penn Manor 2
PM 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 - 2 6 5
EPH 0 0 0 2 2 3 x - 7 7 4
WP-A. Lowery; LP-G. Gale
K-BB-G. Gale (3+IP, 3K, 3BB), J. Miller (2.1IP, 1K, 0BB), C. Whiteside (0.2IP, 0K, 0BB) and A. Knight; A. Lowery (7IP, 3K, 2BB) and J. Carvell
2B-A. Knight (PM)
HR-D. Good (EPH)