Brett Smith is willing to sacrifice health for baseball success.
The Delone Catholic senior lowered where he pitches the ball from Friday afternoon in order to gain movement on his fastball. The change causes elbow pain, but he hopes it leads to success.
The plan worked in the Squires' 6-2 win against Tulpehocken in a District 3 Class AA baseball semifinal at Ephrata High School. Smith allowed two runs over six-plus innings, struck out four and allowed just four hits.
The Squires made the district championship for the first time since 2010.
"I rather have a hurt elbow and be going to the district championship," Smith said, "than not have a hurt elbow and be done."
The change, made for this game, started poorly as Smith struggled with his curveball command. He walked Trojans leadoff hitter Aaron Schneck and then allowed back-to-back doubles that scored a run.
"I hadn't been (throwing lower) all season," Smith said. "I haven't had much practice at it throwing the breaking stuff, the off-speed stuff. I was just feeling it and trying to throw it for a strike."
The Trojans (13-9) helped Smith in the first. Schneck was picked off, costing his team one run. Cleanup hitter Curtis Hershey also missed what would've been a two-run home run by a few feet.
Smith induced a pop out to second and then ended the inning with an easy groundout.
The Squires (17-4) responded with two first-inning runs.
Cleanup hitter Dalton Haymaker followed consecutive one-out singles with one of his own, driving home Sam Stephan to tie the score at one. Tanner Orndorff then grounded a ball Trojans shortstop Matt Martin made an error on, sending home Austin Buckley for a 2-1 lead.
The Squires added three runs in the second, the first on a single by Smith and the final two on an opposite field home run by Buckley.
"That's a big hit," Trojans coach Dave Voight said. "That's 5-1, 5-1 opposed to 3-1. The kid put a nice swing on it. It's a game of little breaks like that."
The lead would be enough for Smith, who, after the first inning, allowed just one hit apiece in the fifth and sixth innings. He was gaining command of his pitches and receiving movement on his fastball because of the arm angle.
"We chipped away at that guy, but we couldn't get him," Voight said. "You could see he was poised out there. He pounded the zone. He had nasty movement. We competed but not enough.
"I felt we would've had to play a really good game to beat them, and we didn't. We kind of played OK. We didn't make the key plays we had to. We made enough dumb mistakes to not win."
The Squires play Kutztown in next Wednesday's district championship at Sovereign Bank Stadium. Kutztown beat Camp Hill, 3-0.
Squires coach Alan Felix decided not to have his team watch the other semifinal, which was played after theirs.
"People ask who are you going to play," Felix said. "It doesn't matter. You're in the district playoffs. They're all going to be good teams. We're just looking for a good opponent."
firstname.lastname@example.org. 637-3736, ext. 139. Twitter: @DanielPaulling.
at Ephrata High School
DELONE CATHOLIC 6, TOLPEHOCKEN 2
Tolpehocken 100 001 0 -- 2 4 3
Delone Catholic 230 100 X -- 6 5 1
T -- Dan Louyiaux, Eric Hartranft (6) and Avery Bachman; DC -- Brett Smith, Jack Neitz (7) and Austin Roth; SO-BB -- Louyiaux 4-3, Hartranft 2-1; Smith 5-5, Neitz 2-1. W -- Smith; L -- Louyiaux. 2B -- Louyiaux, Hartranft. HR -- DC, Austin Buckley.