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Keyser on a roll Sixth-inning homer boosts Warwick to District win
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
Ben Keyser was sitting on a fastball.
And when the Warwick junior got a 3-2 heater from South Western ace Parker Bean, he didn’t miss it.
Keyser snapped a scoreless tie by slugging his first career varsity home run over the left field fence in the bottom of the sixth inning on Monday afternoon, and the 4th-seeded Warriors went on to defeat the 13th-seeded Mustangs 5-0 in a PIAA District Three Quad-A first-round playoff game in Lititz.
"It felt great," said Keyser, still clutching the game ball. "Full count, (Bean) was getting a little wild and you knew the fastball was coming. He wasn’t going to walk me to get to Tyler (Morris)."
Thanks to the victory over South Western (12-9), Warwick (16-6) finds itself walking into the District quarter-finals, to be played today (Thursday) against 5th-seeded Lower Dauphin (16-5-1), a 3-2 winner over 12th-seeded Cumberland Valley in the first round. Besides advancing, the Warriors also put tough losses behind them to Hempfield in a playoff for the Section One crown and Lancaster Catholic in the L-L quarterfinals.
"Anybody who makes Districts has a good number one – that kid (Bean) was great," Warriors’ skipper Bob Locker remarked. "I feel a lot of elation for the kids. They’ve worked real hard and it’s been a tough last couple of games. It’s nice to get this done now."
Lefty ace Travis Reapsome certainly had a lot to do with Warwick getting the job done, outdueling Bean, a senior Liberty University recruit who will be teammates with Morris starting this fall. Reapsome threw first-pitch strikes to just 10 of the 25 batters he faced in his complete-game gem, but he walked just one and hit a batter, while striking out seven and scattering four hits on 106 total pitches.
"(Travis) worked behind in the count a lot, more than we’d like to see," Locker said. "But he came back. It was right around 100 (pitches that he finished with) and we weren’t going to let him go much further than that."
The Mustangs worked him for 64 pitches through the first four innings, but the Warriors were able to capitalize on base running mistakes by South Western in the first and fourth innings.
"I was a little too aggressive early in the game, we made a couple of silly base running mistakes and that’s my fault because I was sending guys," South Western skipper Mike Resetar said. "But again, offense has been our struggle all season so I’m trying to just make things happen and put pressure on the defense to make plays and then they made the plays and it cost us."
The Warriors, too, had a couple opportunities of their own, including the second inning when the had runners at the corners with one out. But Bean was able to wriggle out of trouble with a strikeout and inning-ending pop out.
"(Bean) is real good – we even thought about squeezing," Locker said. "When Travis pitches, if he’s on, we don’t expect to give up a lot of runs. We were thinking, ‘Would one be enough?,’ or as much as anything, try to get a lead and put a little pressure on them."
It was South Western who nearly took a lead in the top of the sixth inning with some sloppy defense by the Warriors. With two outs, Mustangs’ three-hole hitter Bishop Elder stroked a single to left-center and then was safe at second when Warwick dropped a throw from catcher Ian Hart on a stolen base attempt. They appeared to escape danger when cleanup hitter Bean bounced a grounder to shortstop, but Keyser’s throw across the diamond was mishandled at first, allowing Bean to reach. On the play, Elder rounded third and headed home, but Warriors’ first baseman Cody Kimmel fired a strike to Hart to nail him at the plate.
"Luck shined on us a little bit," Locker said. "We’ve had some tough breaks lately. I guess we had one coming to us … That play certainly picked us up mentally a little bit. That was a break, man. We messed up. It was good reaction after the fact."
"It’s a game of momentum," Resetar said. "There in the top of the sixth, we get thrown out at the plate, it’s big momentum swing and then you go into the bottom of the sixth and they swing the bats. So it is – it’s a game of momentum. Warwick swung the bats when they had to, they scored some runs when they needed to and we just couldn’t get them out there at the end. That’s the way it goes."
Keyser, of course, got it all started in Warwick’s half of the sixth. As a freshman and sophomore, he hit balls off the fence, but he picked the perfect time to smash his first varsity round-tripper.
"I kinda hit it high, I was hoping it would go over, but I thought it might get caught at the fence," said Keyser, who was batting .296 entering the game. "I was just rounding first (when I saw it go over)."
With the Warriors leading 1-0, Morris reached on a two-base throwing error by South Western third baseman Elder, and courtesy runner Tommy Garner scored when Reapsome (2-for-3) helped his own cause with an RBI single up the middle through a drawn-in Mustangs’ infield. One out later, Robert Gerofsky (2-for-3) stroked an RBI double to left-center field, chasing Bean, who finished with 96 pitches. Bean, who has touched 90 on the radar gun this spring, recorded five K’s and allowed four runs on six hits and one walk.
"The kids had worked extremely hard last week on their swings, shortening their swings up and trying to put the ball in play," Locker said. "We knew who we were getting, we knew what he was going to bring … We told them to be patient, that the goal was going to be that we hold them awhile with our ace, they may hold us for awhile with their ace. It’s just going to be who figures other guy and who makes plays down the stretch. (Ben’s homer) was a pick-me-up and I thought the kids did a great job of hanging in there and eventually figuring out how to hit that guy."
South Western reliever Louie Sauer retired the first batter he faced, but then courtesy runner Luke Hackman scored when Seth Earle’s hard-hit fly was dropped in right field, and Brady Weiler’s (2-for-3) RBI single to center field stretched the Warriors’ lead to 5-0.
Between innings, the Warriors had Morris warmed up and ready to go, but with the five-run cushion, Reapsome returned to the mound to try to finish what he started. South Western got a base runner on Brandon Utz’s (2-for-3) one-out single to left field, but Keyser caught Brandon Monahan’s line drive and doubled up Utz off the bag and that was the game.
"(Reapsome) pounds the zone, he keeps the ball down, he throws the ball well," Resetar said. "I mean, I’m really impressed with him. He has a little giddy-up on the ball. I like him and he obviously kept our batters off balance, kept our guys uncomfortable in the box, and when he had to he made quality pitches, and that’s what good pitchers do. We had guys on early in the game, in the middle of the game we had some runners on, we just couldn’t cash them because he bears down and made some quality pitches."
More KEYSER, page B-4