Pair of aces: Comets top Warwick in first-place showdown

By on May 3, 2017
Penn Manor lefty Jeff Taylor prepares to push off the pitching rubber while facing Warwick on Monday. Photo by Matt Libhart

Penn Manor lefty Jeff Taylor prepares to push off the pitching rubber while facing Warwick on Monday. Photo by Matt Libhart

Warwick  senior  Zach  Peters  focuses  on  catcher Ryan Aukamp’s mitt while mowing down the Penn Manor lineup in Monday’ game in Lititz. Photo by Matt Libhart

Warwick senior Zach Peters focuses on catcher Ryan Aukamp’s mitt while mowing down the Penn Manor lineup in Monday’ game in Lititz. Photo by Matt Libhart

Under normal circumstances, scoring two or three runs might not seem like a big deal.

But there was nothing routine about Monday’s Section One first-place clash in Lititz.

Not with a pair of aces — Warwick’s Zach Peters (6-0, 0.42) and Penn Manor’s Jeff Taylor (5-0, 0.56) — toeing the rubber.

“I’m sure for the fans it was a good game to watch … two really good high school pitchers,” Warwick coach Bob Locker said.

“They’re probably the best two pitchers in Section One,” Comet coach Jim Zander added.

Hence, scoring multiple runs against either pitcher was going to be a challenge.

“Our approach was, we figured we needed to score two or three runs to win,” Locker said, “because you can’t expect Peters to throw a shutout every time he takes the mound. So in all honesty, we were thinking, ‘Look, if we can find a way to score two, we’ll take our chances.’ And it would have worked out.”

Neither Peters nor Taylor budged an inch while working into the eighth inning in a 1-1 pitchers’ duel. Finally, the Comets (10-3 L-L, 12-4 overall) sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the ninth and scored five runs, then held on for a 6-1 victory to grab sole possession of the top spot in the Section standings.

With the game in the hands of the bullpens, Warwick’s Colby Martin suffered the loss, while Comet lefty Dalton Landis picked up the W.

For the Warriors, the defeat snapped their three-game win streak and dropped them to 9-4 L-L (11-4 overall) in second place, one game ahead of Hempfield (8-5 L-L) in the race for the L-L’s final playoff berth.

“Zach deserved a better fate than he got,” Locker said, “but baseball’s tough some days.”

It certainly was a grind for the offenses, as Penn Manor managed just five hits and one run off of Peters in 7 2/3 innings, and the Warriors picked up only one hit and one run off of Taylor in 7 1/3 innings. Both hurlers reached the 100-pitch limit in the eighth inning.

Peters, a Kutztown University recruit who K’d two and walked two, threw 65 strikes among his 100 pitches. But the Comets reached him for the game’s first run in the top of the fourth, as catcher Brett Beiler worked a five-pitch leadoff walk, Taylor sacrificed, and Dalton Landis (1-for-3, 2 BB) stroked an RBI single to right-center.

Taylor, a lefty heading to Penn State University, K’d 11 and walked two. He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 25 batters he faced — many of those on curve balls — and although Bryce Zimmerman reached on a first-inning error and Justin Byler was hit by a pitch in the second, the Warriors couldn’t capitalize.

“(Taylor was doing) the same thing that always makes him tough to hit — his slot, his movement, it all stays the same every pitch,” Locker said. “He doesn’t have any tells, you’ve got to read it out of his hand, and plus he spots his pitches amazingly well.”

Warwick, though, got the equalizer in the bottom of the fourth. After Nate Hess reached on a fielder’s choice, Byler belted an RBI double to deep right-center, tying the game 1-1.

“(Justin)’s a good hitter,” Locker said, “so any time he goes up to hit, we think there’s a good chance he’s going to get a base hit.”

It remained deadlocked until the top of the ninth inning, where Penn Manor’s Dylan Frey led off with a single to left against Martin, Tanner Simet, who had squared around to bunt, worked a six-pitch free pass, and Jeremy Burkholder beat out a bunt single up the third-base line.

“The walk was more harmful (than the leadoff hit),” Locker said. “We’d have traded an out for a guy on second and see where we’re at.”

On a 1-1 pitch, Matt Tulli delivered an RBI single to left, putting the Comets up 2-1. Later, Grant Gale (2-for-5) and Taylor each stroked a two-run single to stretch the Comets’ lead to 6-1.

“I’d like to think our hitting is starting to come around,” Zander said. “We struggled early in the year and we’ve just been working and working. We stress every day, ‘Just get a little bit better each day.’ We’re starting to hit the ball and that’s big for us because our pitching staff has just been marvelous.”

In the bottom of the ninth, Stephen Poliski got Warwick’s second hit of the day, a sharp two-out single to center off of Landis, but the Comets’ reliever induced a game-ending fielder’s choice grounder to seal it.

“We’ve got to chase now,” Locker said. “I hope tomorrow the kids come out and we understand that we’ve got to do some things.”

*****

Last Friday, Dagen Young was 2-for-4, Adam Ricketts scored a pair of runs and Ethan Norman pitched 6 1/3 innings for the win, as the Warriors knocked off Cedar Crest 5-2 in Cornwall.

Trailing 1-0, Warwick took a lead it never lost with two runs in the top of the third off of Falcon pitcher Chad Ryland. They added three insurance runs in the top of the seventh.

Norman struck out three and walked three while yielding two earned runs on just four hits. Colby Martin retired the final two batters in relief.

*****

The Warriors were also in action last Wednesday, snapping a 2-2 tie with a nine-run rally in the top of the sixth, leading them to an 11-5 win at Donegal in a Section One-Two crossover.

Brendan Martin went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs, while Nate Hess finished 2-for-4 with three runs scored to lead Warwick’s offense.

Byler also doubled and scored a pair of runs in support of starting pitcher Peters, who allowed one earned run on four hits in six innings. He K’d five and walked three before handing the ball to Colby Martin out of the ‘pen, who tossed the final frame in relief.

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