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Crusaders survive test from Central
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
The Manheim Central baseball team felt like it had some momentum on its side after rallying from a 6-3 deficit to Lancaster Catholic in the top of the fourth inning on Tuesday night.
With the score tied 6-6, they were hoping to scratch across a run or two and celebrate a win in the L-L League playoff semi-finals.
Unfortunately for Central, it wasn’t to be.
The Crusaders’ Mac McCafferty snapped the stalemate with a sixth-inning RBI double off of Central reliever Blake Reiff and then Catholic added two more unearned runs on its way to a 9-6 victory at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.
With the win, Lancaster Catholic advances to play Hempfield – an 11-1 winner over Solanco in Tuesday’s other semi-final game – in the L-L finals, set for Thursday at Ephrata.
Manheim Central (15-6), the Section Three runner-up, will now prepare for its District Three Triple-A opener next Monday, May 20.
"(I told the players) just to keep their heads up," Barons’ skipper Jason Thompson said. "Even though this was one of our goals and we didn’t meet it, we have bigger things to achieve yet. The good thing is we’re not going home. We have Districts to prepare for Monday."
They were prepared to face the Crusaders on Tuesday after suffering an 8-2 to them in a Section Three-Four crossover on April 22. Andrew Bucher got the ball for the second time against Catholic, but probably didn’t have his best stuff while giving up six earned runs on six hits and three walks in 2!-E innings.
"(Andrew) struggled on the mound and maybe I should have went to Blake a little earlier, but I didn’t, knowing that we’ve got a possible game Thursday if we win this one," Thompson said. "So you’ve got to stretch guys, I guess, a little longer than you want to."
The Crusaders took an early 3-0 lead in the first as Bryan Haberstroh slugged a two-run homer to left and Willie Burger (2-for-4) went back-to-back with a solo shot.
"In the first inning, we got behind and then had to groove a pitch and they did what they needed to do," Thompson said. "Their 2-3-4 hitters are tough, really tough."
Central made some noise of its own in the top of the second inning off of Lancaster Catholic starter Joe Yourgal. Colin Fry led off with an infield single, Bucher (2-for-4) doubled to left, and one out later, Trey Eberly’s infield single loaded the bases. J.J. Sanchez followed with a sac fly and Damon Crouse delivered an RBI single to cut the score to 3-2.
Then Ben Bomberger’s (2-for-3, 2 RBI’s) solo blast in the third pulled the Barons even.
It was short-lived, however, as Catholic answered with three runs on just two hits in the bottom of the third. Tom Mattaini and Ben Gingrich had RBI singles and Chris Schreder chipped in with an RBI fielder’s choice.
Yourgal, who K’d three and yielded seven hits in six innings, ran into some control problems in the top of the fourth, issuing both of his walks in that frame. The Barons were opportunistic not only with those, but also with three Lancaster Catholic errors, and Dan Wiederrecht’s bases-loaded hit by pitch and Bomberger’s sac fly to left made it 6-6.
"After we tied it at 6 and then we held them and they didn’t score that next inning," Thompson said, "I certainly thought we could scratch one or two across, and who knows what will happen from there?"
They never found out.
In the bottom of the sixth, McCafferty drilled a two-out first-pitch double into the right field corner, plating Schreder, who singled.
"We held (McCafferty) down all game – at some point, he was going to get one," Thompson said.
After a throwing error allowed another run to score, Burger’s RBI single pushed the Crusaders’ lead to 9-6.
Bomberger’s leadoff double in the top of the seventh gave the Barons a glimmer of hope, but Catholic reliever Mattaini retired the next three batters he faced to send the Crusaders into the L-L finals.
The Barons advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals following an impressive 7-2 come-from-behind victory over Section Two champion Ephrata in Monday’s first round played at Manheim Township.
The Manheim Central bats were quiet through the first five innings, managing just three hits off Ephrata ace Brandon Miller, and trailed 2-0 heading to the top of the sixth.
But the Barons woke up offensively in the final two innings, scoring three in the sixth to take the lead before tacking on four key insurance runs in the seventh.
Andrew Bucher knocked in the tying and go-ahead runs in the sixth, and later added an RBI single in the seventh to key the comeback.
"First of all, (Miller) is a heck of a pitcher so I knew it was going to be tough today," Barons’ skipper Jason Thompson said. "I honestly didn’t think we’d put up seven but once we got the zero off the board I think our guys got confident. His pitch count was up so we knew he was going to tire at some point. And I give credit to our guys. They just stayed in there and battled."
Baron pitcher Trey Eberly was impressive as well, scattering six hits while striking out 11 and walking just one batter for the complete-game victory. The one walk was key because it kept runners off the bases and helped neutralized Ephrata’s bread-and-butter, which is it’s running game.
"Part of the reason I went with Trey is knowing that he doesn’t walk many guys," Thompson said. "We worked on their offensive stealing a ton in practice and were prepared for it. It’s a credit to these guys, prepping in practice, and getting ready for it. Trey is quick to the plate which helps out our catcher as well."
Ephrata (15-6) broke out on top 1-0 in the third when Paul Larusso laced a two-out triple to the gap in right center before Matt Herbener singled him home for the game’s first run.
The Mounts’ Miller then gave his team a 2-0 advantage with a lead-off home run to right to start the fourth.
But the Barons finally got to Miller in the sixth after Ben Bomberger reached on an error to start the inning. Blake Reiff’s bloop single to center placed runners at first and second with nobody out, and brought clean-up hitter Colin Fry to the plate.
Fry drilled a Miller offering off the top of the fence in left field for a double to bring Bomberger home with the first Manheim Central run, and Bucher, with runners at second and third, followed with a double to left-center to plate both runners and put the Barons ahead to stay.
After Eberly retired the Mounts in the sixth, the Barons then put it away, sending 10 men to the plate to tack on four extra runs.
The Barons chased Miller after Dan Wiederrecht was hit by a pitch with one out in the inning. With Ephrata reliever Seth Griffith now on the mound, Wiederrecht the stole second before moving to third on a wild pitch. He then scored on Bomberger’s bloop single over the drawn-in infield.
Bucher, pinch-hitter Chad Zunich, and Eberly all later delivered RBI singles to knock in the final runs for the Barons.
In the bottom of the seventh, Eberly did walk Ephrata pinch-hitter Nate Fassnacht with two outs. However, he was able to close out the game when he retired Larusso on a game-ending ground out to second.
Blake Reiff, Fry, Bucher and Eberly all had two hits each for the Barons, who collected 10 hits over the final two frames.
Larusso and catcher Colin Albright each had two hits to lead Ephrata’s offense.
Todd Ruth also contributed to this story.
More BARONS, page B-6