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Ephrata survives test from Manheim, 5-4
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
Nate Cummings didn’t have any easy job to do for the Ephrata Legion team last Thursday.
In his first at-bat after coming off the bench, Cummings came to the plate with the score tied 4-4 against Manheim in the bottom of the seventh inning.
His task was to find a way to get on base and set the table for the top of the batting order.
Cummings singled to right field leading off the inning and gave Ephrata the base runner it needed. Matt Herbener later scored the winning run on a wild pitch and the Post 429’ers walked off with a 5-4 victory over Manheim at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field in District 10 American Legion action.
"That was big for us just to get someone on base because it really opens the door for us," Ephrata skipper Derek Sipe said. "We can do some bunting, do some running and we did both of those in the last inning. It just puts a lot of pressure on the defense and you saw what it can lead to. But getting that leadoff guy on, it just really opens the playbook for us to do pretty much whatever we want."
The win improved Ephrata’s league record to 8-1 (11-2-1 overall), while Manheim slipped to 3-4 on the season.
Manheim overcame deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 to pull even on Josh Good’s two-out, two-run base hit to center field in the top of the seventh inning, but Ephrata spoiled its comeback bid.
"That’s not how you want to lose any ball game (on a wild pitch)," Manheim coach Tim Wilson said. "But it’s always good against those (Ephrata) guys. It’s always a good game, it really is. Hopefully we get to see them in the playoffs. That’s about all you can do."
Good, Ben Bomberger, Colin Fry and Brandon Guffey had two hits apiece off of Ephrata pitchers Seth Griffith and Brandon Miller to lead a Manheim club with only nine players. But although Manheim outhit the Post 429’ers 11-6, they batted just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and had a couple of runners thrown out on the bases.
"Our batting average with guys on base is horrible," Wilson said. "We just can’t get them in. We can get them on. (Eleven hits), that’s pretty common. We can hit the ball. Just getting them across the plate (is a struggle)."
Ephrata, though, capitalized in the bottom of the second inning off of Manheim starting pitcher Ryan Wilson. Colin Albright led off with a single, Josh Gehman walked and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Ethan Sipe then delivered a two-run single to right field and scored on an RBI ground out by his brother, Brady Sipe, making the score 3-0.
"We did a good job of getting people on and moving them around," Derek Sipe said. "We executed our bunts when we needed to and had some timely hitting with runners on base. That’s what you need to do in tight games like this. Both of these teams are solid clubs and both have good pitching. You knew it wasn’t going to be a high-scoring game, so when you have people on base, you have to really value that and take advantage of every chance you get."
Manheim managed only two hits through the first three innings off of Griffith. But in the top of the fourth, three straight hits by Andrew Bucher, Fry and Good leading off the inning put the visitors in business. Bucher scored on Trey Eberly’s one-out fielder’s choice, but then Griffith pitched out of further trouble with an inning-ending strikeout. Griffith struck out four and walked none.
"It seemed like every inning, (Manheim) had multiple guys on base and they had a lot of hits," Sipe said. "They were scattered a bit, but there were situations where they had runners on base with less than two outs and (Seth) was able to bear down and do a good job. He was able to grind it out when it mattered."
While Griffith minimized the damage, Ephrata stole some momentum back with a run in the bottom of the fourth. Designated hitter Ryan Schwark (2-for-2) doubled to left-center, advanced on Brady Sipe’s sacrifice and scored on Paul Larusso’ sac fly to center, restoring the Post 429’ers three-run lead, 4-1. In two of the three innings that Manheim scored, Ephrata answered right away in the bottom of the inning.
Manheim, though, didn’t go away. They loaded the bases in the top of the sixth on Fry’s infield single, Wilson’s bad-hop base hit to left and Eberly’s bunt single. Troy Reiff followed with an RBI fielder’s choice to make it 4-2, and then Ephrata center fielder Gehman robbed Guffey of his third hit of the night to keep it a two-run lead.
Meanwhile, Wilson retired eight of the final nine batters he faced to help give his team a chance. The tough righty had four K’s, walked three and gave up five hits in six innings.
Miller, who picked up the win in relief, took the ball for Ephrata in the top of the seventh. After Bomberger reached on an error and J.J. Sanchez flared a single to right, Miller got some light at the end of the tunnel with back-to-back strikeouts.
But Good came to the rescue, smashing a hard-hit two-run single to drive in Bomberger and Sanchez, tying the game at 4-all. Good was thrown out trying to advance to second base on the throw home, but he did his job.
"I had faith in (Josh)," Wilson remarked. "I don’t ever count us out. But we don’t play the small ball too much. We play big ball. That’s Manheim."
Ephrata had faith in Cummings in the bottom of the inning, and he rewarded that with a single to right. Larusso sacrificed him to second base, but then he was erased on Herbener’s fielder’s choice grounder. Herbener, however, stole second base, went to third on a throwing error and ended the game by scoring on a wild pitch. Bucher, who started the seventh, took the loss in relief for Manheim.
"(Manheim) battled and did a good job (in the seventh) – a couple of clutch guys getting on base and then a big hit," Sipe said. "But I think getting that guy out at second, that was a bit of a positive for us coming into the dugout and then when Nate was able to lead off and get on, I think we felt pretty confident that we were going to be able to take care of it right away."
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