Crusaders outduel Barons in battle of Section leaders
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
There is no arguing the impact that Andrew Bucher had on Manheim Central’s 10-1 start this season.
Entering Monday’s action, the junior pitcher was 4-0 with a 0.67 earned run average.
But the law of averages might have come into play a little bit on Monday.
Bucher endured his shortest outing of the season against Section Four co-leader Lancaster Catholic, lasting only three innings, as the Crusaders took an early 6-2 lead and never looked back on their way to an 8-2 win in Lancaster. Catholic finished with seven extra-base hits among their 12 knocks off of Bucher and reliever Blake Reiff, improving to 7-2 while keeping pace with Pequea Valley atop the Section standings.
"It happens — pitching’s been carrying us, so it’s going to certainly happen at times," Barons’ skipper Jason Thompson said.
Unfortunately for the Barons, their offense was quiet behind Bucher. Crusaders’ starting pitcher Joe Yourgal fired first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 21 batters he faced and allowed just five hits in five innings while recording the win.
"I thought (Yourgal) did a nice job just pounding the zone," Thompson said. "I don’t think he threw much off-speed, but we certainly weren’t nearly as aggressive at the plate as they were. I tried to tell the guys, ‘He’s grooving first-pitch fastball, second-pitch fastball. Before he has to get to the off-speed stuff, let’s get the fastball.’ We just didn’t get there today."
The Barons’ loss, combined with Donegal’s 14-0 win over Columbia, left the Indians (9-1 L-L) in sole possession of first place in Section Three, one game ahead of Manheim Central. (8-2 L-L, 10-2 overall). Still, Thompson knows that there is no reason to push the panic button with eight games left in the regular season. In the newly-released District Three Triple-A power ratings, the Barons were the number-one ranked team with a 10-1 record before Monday’s loss.
"I told these guys, ‘Everything is in their hands,’" Thompson said. "We came in here 10-1, so we lost a game … it happens. It’s going to happen over a high school season. I said, ‘The key is to not let it turn into a streak.’ We have a tough Pequea (Valley) game on Wednesday at home, so we’ll see. I know we can play better."
The Barons threatened in the second inning, getting two runners on base with two outs. But Yourgal pitched out of it and then Catholic put three on the board in the bottom of the inning. Steve Long stroked a two-run triple to deep right field and Tom Mattaini followed with an RBI single up the middle.
But there was still hope for Central after it answered with two runs in the top of the third. J.J. Sanchez legged out an infield single and Ben Bomberger walked to get things started.
Colin Fry then reached on a fielder’s choice, and Sanchez scored on a Catholic throwing error. Bucher followed with an infield single and then Blake Reiff (2-for-3) ripped an RBI double just inside the third-base bag, making it 3-2.
But three straight doubles by Catholic’s Bryan Haberstroh, William Burger (3-for-4) and Yourgal (3-for-3) in the bottom of the third inning plated two runs and then an RBI single by Mattaini (3-for-3, 3 RBI’s) pushed the Crusaders’ lead to 6-2.
"They can hit and when we can’t throw curve balls and change-ups and stuff off-speed, that’s going to happen," Thompson said. "Andrew fell behind a lot too, and when you fall behind, you have to groove a fastball and teams can hit fastballs."
Meanwhile, Manheim Central managed only two base runners — and no hits — after the third inning, and the Crusaders put it away on Haberstroh’s sac fly in the fourth and Mattaini’s RBI single in the sixth.
But Central planned to refocus as they geared up for the final eight games of the regular season, starting with Wednesday’s game vs. Pequea Valley.
"I talked to them and said, ‘I don’t want any of that stuff (about being ranked number one in the District) going to your heads at all. It doesn’t mean anything if we don’t finish the eight games right,’" Thompson said. "Hopefully this is a nice little wake-up call."
The Barons were also in action last Friday, as Ben Bomberger went 2-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI’s to help lead the Section Three co-leaders in a 5-3 victory over Lancaster Mennonite.
Central scored twice in the bottom of the first off of LMH pitcher Adam Harnish and never trailed. The Blazers climbed within 2-1 in the top of the third and 4-3 in the sixth. But the Barons added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning and Trey Eberly slammed the door for his fourth save.
Colin Fry (2-for-3) had his fourth straight multiple-hit game in support of winning pitcher Skyler Munoz, who yielded just one earned run on four hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked two.
Last Wednesday, April 17, the Barons pounded out 15 hits, including four doubles, in support of pitchers Colin Fry and Cole Bernhardt, leading Manheim Central to a 17-0 four-inning pummeling of Lebanon Catholic.
J.J. Sanchez, Ben Bomberger, Andrew Bucher, Kyle Winters and Fry all had two hits in the game, while Damon Crouse and Bucher each had a team-high three RBI’s in the onslaught. The Barons took command early with six runs in the first inning and seven more in the second to supply a big cushion for Fry and Bernhardt, who combined on a four-inning no-hitter. More BARONS, page B-10