DISTRICT 5-A BASEBALL: Southern Fulton walks off in 8th inning to take title from Meyersdale
EVERETT >> Southern Fulton and Meyersdale's baseball teams both rode their strong pitching to the District 5 Class A final on Thursday, but it was the offenses that ultimately had the final say.
Southern Fulton rallied from a 4-2 deficit, and Zach Clark hit a walk-off single in the eighth inning to lift the Indians to a 5-4 win to take the District 5-A crown for the second year in a row and advance to the PIAA Tournament. Southern Fulton (22-2) will open play in states on Monday.
"All throughout the day, I wasn't really nervous," Southern Fulton coach Dustin Fischer said. "But then when the game started, I got nervous."
And for good reason. Meyersdale, which ends its season at 20-3, took a 4-2 lead in the top of the fifth inning, but the Indians rallied for two in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at four. Neither team scored until Southern Fulton used a pair of hits and an error to finish the game.
In the bottom of the eighth, Rider, who reached base all four times, hit a swinging bunt down the third-base line for a single. After a strikeout, Carl Potter moved pinch runner Dristin Mellott to second with a sacrifice bunt. Then Robbie McCusker hit a sharp ball up the middle. The shortstop got to the ball in time, but he couldn't make the play, putting runners on first and third with two outs for Clark.
He fell behind in the count 1-2, but battled back and put a 2-2 pitch right between first and second, scoring Mellott and crowning the Indians district champs.
"I went up to the plate with confidence. I wanted to go up there and win the game," Clark said. "I got a little nervous when I fell behind 1-2, but I just focused on putting the bat on the ball."
Fischer said, "I always put a good hitter at No. 9, and Zach has been batting around .400 all year. It's nice to know that a guy like him will make contact, and that's what he did to win the game."
The Raiders finished with three errors in the game, leading to three unearned runs for Southern Fulton.
Meyersdale coach Wayne Miller said, "This is definitely tough to swallow. I'm proud of how the offense battled. We knew that once it got to extras it would come down to the little things, and we didn't execute defensively."
Trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning, the Raiders, who left six runners on base in the first four innings, finally broke through against Rider.
Brady McKenzie drew a leadoff walk, and back-to-back singles by Trevor Thomas and Riley Christner brought home McKenzie to make it 2-1. Connor Christner then drew a walk to load the bases, and after a pop-out, Logan White scored a run with a groundout to second. The next batter, Zach Hotchkiss, found a hole in the infield to score Riley Christner, and an errant throw home allowed Connor Christner to score.
Rider said, "They definitely came in prepared and they put the bat on the ball. Good things happen when you do that."
Fischer said, "We really weren't expecting both teams to hit this well (they combined for 19 hits). We thought it would be more of a pitchers' duel, but both teams came to hit."
Rider pitched five innings for the Indians, giving up four runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He had just three walks on the season coming into the game. Litton got the win in relief, pitching three innings of one-hit ball with one walk and three strikeouts.
"Our plan was to get into their bullpen, and we accomplished that," Miller said. "We were aggressive because we knew (Rider) would be around the plate, and we were able to get to him."
Fischer said, "That's what Connor does, he cleans things up for us. He's so valuable to us at shortstop, but when we need him, we know he'll come in and pitch well."
Rider helped his own cause and tied the game right back up in the bottom of the fifth. After Tristan Douglas, who finished 2-for-3 and scored twice, and Litton (3-for-4) singled, Rider took the first pitch he saw to deep right-centerfield for a two-run double to tie the game at four.
The Indians scored two runs on just one hit in the third inning thanks to two errors. Clark reached base on a one-out error, and when Dylan Gordon laid down a sacrifice bunt, Clark got caught a run down between second and third. He raced for third, and the throw sailed high, allowing him to score. Then, with runners on second and third with two outs, Meyersdale starter Connor Christner balked, allowing Douglas to score.
"It's great to win districts for the second year in a row," Fischer said. "We had some guys that didn't play their best, so it will be interesting to see what we can do when everything clicks."
NOTES >> Riley Christner, White and Hotchkiss all finished 2-for-4 for the Raiders ... Meyersdale finished the game with 10 hits, compared to nine for the Indians ... According to Fischer, Southern Fulton was told its first game of states will likely be at McConnellsburg.
Southern Fulton 5 Meyersdale 4 (8 inn.)
MeyersdaleSouthern FultonabrhbabrhbMcKnzie ss3110Gordon 3b3000Thomas 2b3110Douglas 2b3220RChrstnr 1b4121Litton ss4130CChristnr p3100Lashley cf4000Ritchey cf4000Rider p2022White 3b4021Mellott cr0100Hotchkiss c4021Elbin c4010Hetz dh4010Lynch dh2000Minnick rf0000Potter 1b1000Krtchmn lf4010McCuskr lf4000Clark rf4111Totals334103Totals31593
E: Mey 3, SF 3, ; LOB: Mey 10, SF 8; 2B: RChristner, Douglas, Litton, Rider; SAC: Thomas, Gordon; SB: Litton, Mellott; CS: Mellott.
Southern Fulton pitching
Rider564424Litton (W, 4-1) 310013
WP: RChristner 2; HBP: By Rider (McKenzie).