Littlestown’s Kai Hess bats against Kennard-Dale during the District 3 playoffs on Monday night at Littlestown High School.
Littlestown's Kai Hess bats against Kennard-Dale during the District 3 playoffs on Monday night at Littlestown High School. (THE EVENING SUN -- SHANE DUNLAP)

Prior to Monday night's District 3 playoff game against Kennard-Dale, Littlestown starting pitcher Ryan Kehr felt sick. He has been battling a sinus infection that attempted to damper the mood of the Thunderbolts playing a home district game.

Once the game started, though, Kehr dominated on the hill and at the plate, throwing a complete-game five-hitter, with four strikeouts and no walks. At the plate, he went 3-for-4 with two RBIs as Littlestown defeated Kennard-Dale, 5-0.

"Once my adrenaline started pumping, I was fine," Kehr said. "I just needed to stick through it, and our team always comes out strong."

Kehr, who threw 97 pitches -- 66 of them for strikes -- kept the Rams hitters off balance with an array of fastballs and curveballs constantly peppering the strike zone.

"My curve was definitely my go-to pitch tonight," he said. "They got a couple hanging ones for hits. I was working on my fastball, but my go-to pitch would get them out."

The Thunderbolts looked as though they were going to score in the bottom of the first after Kehr led off with a double and then two batters later, Logan Mummert walked and stole second. With runners on second and third and only one out, Littlestown looked primed to have a big inning. Kennard-Dale starter Matt Belt zeroed in and retired the next two batters to get out of the jam.

Littlestown also stranded a runner in the second and left 10 runners on base for the game.

"I never doubt my team," Kehr said. "I haven't doubted them this year. We just keep believing that it is going to come. Once we get a big play on defense, our bats will come."

The Thunderbolts got a stop defensively in the top of the third, and in the bottom half of the inning, their bats came alive.

With runners on second and third with one out, Littlestown's Kai Hess drove a ball deep to center that allowed Adam Forsythe to score and give the Thunderbolts a 1-0 lead. Todd Cook then drove a single up the middle for another run to make it 2-0.

"Everybody was nervous because they had a good pitcher," Cook said. "He kept throwing strikes. He laid a curveball for me and I was just able to get the run in."

Kehr helped his own cause in the bottom of the fourth when he punched a single into left-center to score Jacob Crawmer, who had led off the inning with a single.

"Being a leadoff hitter, I am just trying to get on base for our good hitters to hit me in," Kehr said. "Tonight it worked. I was reading the pitcher pretty well."

Littlestown’s pitcher Ryan Kehr throws against Kennard-Dale on Monday night at Littlestown in the District 3 playoffs. The Thunderbolts bested the
Littlestown's pitcher Ryan Kehr throws against Kennard-Dale on Monday night at Littlestown in the District 3 playoffs. The Thunderbolts bested the Rams, 5-0. (THE EVENING SUN -- SHANE DUNLAP)

Crawmer finished the game 3-for-3 with a double and provided Littlestown some much-needed offensive output from the bottom half of the lineup.

"Jacob had an absolutely huge night for us," Littlestown head coach Todd Gantz said. "All year long, we have preached that it has to come top-to-bottom. In big games like this, it has to be an entire effort. It cannot be just one guy. It has to be up and down the lineup."

Kehr finished the game with only four strikeouts, but got tremendous help from his defense, specifically, shortstop Todd Cook, who made big play after big play.

"Todd did a great job for us," Gantz said. "It seemed like any ball that was hit to him, he found a way to get it. On balls that took a bad hop, he never panicked and made good throws."

For the Rams, who had not played in seven days, it was a disappointing end to their season.

"I just thought we were tight," head coach Bill Yosca said. "We pressed. We kept swinging at the high fastball. We popped up six to eight times. I kept telling them to look for their pitch lower in the zone. During the season, we did that really well. Tonight, we just didn't."

For Littlestown, it is on to the District 3 quarterfinals where they will play Hamburg on Thursday at a location to be determined.

"The seniors have had goals since January of playing into June and have been working hard every day for this," Gantz said.

  
LITTLESTOWN 5, KENNARD-DALE 0
Kennard-Dale   000 000 0 -- 0 5 2
Littlestown   002 102 x -- 5 9 1
   KD, M. Belt, Zingone (4), Rossi (6) and Matt Miller; LT, Ryan Kehr and Logan Mummert. SO-BB -- Belt 3-3, Zingone 2-0, Rossi 1-1; Kehr 4-0. W -- Kehr. L -- Belt. 2B -- Lt, Kehr, Mummert, Crawmer.