Persistence paid off for the Littlestown baseball team on Friday in their season opener against Hanover, a 2-1 win in nine innings.
The Thunderbolts had numerous opportunities to end the game but were unable to take advantage of having runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings.
After getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth, Littlestown started the bottom of the inning off with a Kai Hess double down the left-field line.
"Every at-bat I try to have an aggressive approach," Hess said. "I look for a fastball down the middle and off the plate. If I don't get it I wait. That last at-bat I did not get it the first couple of pitches, but I knew I had to get on base some how and got the pitch I like and drove it."
Hanover then intentionally walked Todd Cook to put runners at first and second. Jacob Crawmer then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, and on a 2-1 count, Hess sprinted home on a passed ball to give the Thunderbolts a 2-1 season-opening win.
It appeared as though the Thunderbolts would score the game winner in the seventh inning after Hess led off with a single and then Todd Cook crushed a ball deep down the right-field line. Hanover's Logan Hamm fielded the ball perfectly and hit first baseman Ryan Bowman who then threw a laser to catcher Spencer Durika, who blocked the plate to tag out Hess and keep the Nighthawks in the game.
"Everyone knew we needed a play at the plate and everyone executed the play," Hanover coach Matt Baker said. "Spencer did a great job of blocking the plate and making the tag."
The Nighthawks took the lead in the first inning after Brady Goodfellow leadoff with a walk and eventually scored on a Ryan Bowman fielder's choice.
After the first inning, Littlestown starter Ryan Kehr settled in.
He went seven innings, striking out eight and walking three and giving up only two hits. Kehr struck out five of the six batters he faced in the fourth and fifth innings.
"Ryan always seems to struggle in the first inning," Littlestown assistant coach Doug Arnold said. "I don't know why. Once he gets settled in, I will take him over anybody in any division in the YAIAA."
After seven innings and 107 pitches, Kehr gave way to Adam Forsythe who came in and earned the win.
Even though he did not earn the win, Kehr was impressed with his performance considering the blustery conditions.
"It is definitely tough pitching in this kind of weather," Kehr said. "Late in the game I started throwing a lot of first-pitch fastballs and they started swinging at them.
"I started mixing some curveballs in and that was working very well today. For it being our first game and in this weather, I am happy to come out with the win."
Hanover's Jared Peterman earned the tough-luck loss going eight innings and striking out five.
"Jared threw really well," Baker said. "If that is what we get all season long form him, we will be successful."
As for the Thunderbolts, they never wavered in their confidence to win the game in extra innings.
"We all have confidence in our team," Hess said. "We knew it was going to happen sometime."
LITTLESTOWN 2, HANOVER 1
Hanover 100 000 0 -- 1 3 0
Littlestown 000 100 001 -- 2 9 2
Jared Peterman, Zac Sheaffer (9) and Spencer Durika; Ryan Kehr, Adam Forsythe (8) and Logan Mummert. SO-BB -- Peterman 5-1, Sheaffer 0-1; Kehr 8-3, Forsythe 2-1. W -- Forsythe. L -- Sheaffer. 2B -- Kai Hess 2, Ryan Strevig. 3B -- Todd Cook.