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Phils advance to NET finals
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
In Nick Breznak and Brock Fassnacht, the Warwick Phillies have a 1A and 1B.
Early this week, they both pitched like aces against two of the best Midget-Midget teams in Lancaster County.
Fassnacht, known to his team as ‘The Big Nasty’ for becoming an intimidating pitcher, started it on Monday night with a four-hit, seven-strikeout complete-game gem in a 4-2 conquest of the Manheim Township Streaks in the opening round of the double-elimination 68th New Era Tournament.
Twenty-four hours later, Breznak followed suit, registering 10 strikeouts and giving up just three hits, as the No. 2-seeded Phillies (38-5) knocked off the top-seeded Mountville Indians (43-5) by a 5-2 score at Kunkle Field to put Warwick in the tournament finals.
Things got a little scary for the Phillies when Mountville brought the potential tying run to the plate in the bottom of the sixth in clean-up hitter Ty Vaughn, who earlier hit a long home run to left. But with runners at second and third bases, Breznak ended the game with back-to-back K’s.
"I just wanted to get it done for our team," Breznak said, "so we could make it to the championship and only have to worry about winning once and not have to come back again."
The Phillies will get their chance to win the M-M gold for the second time in five years – and first since 2009 – when they meet the winner of Wednesday’s loser’s bracket game between Mountville and SWS (28-8) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Kunkle Field. If necessary, a winner-take-all game would be played next Monday, July 15 at 7 p.m. at Kunkle.
Of course, a rematch between the Phillies and Indians is certainly not out of the question. On Monday, Breznak certainly needed no introduction to Mountville, a team the Phils had split against in four earlier meetings. In a league match-up, Breznak pitched four shutout innings in relief in a game that Mountville eventually won on a walk-off homer. But Breznak’s performance in that game factored into how Warwick set up its rotation for the first two games of the NET.
"(Brock and Nick) are number ones on any other team – we have two number ones," Martin said. "Brock looked real good against Township and we were hoping to get the Brez matchup with Mountville … You know he wanted the ball against Mountville. This was his opening game. Those two guys share duties, I know they both wanted the ball the first game, but Nick understood this was a huge match-up and he was a bulldog."
So was Indians’ starting pitcher Vaughn, who notched five of his nine K’s in the first two innings. In between, Fassnacht collected the game’s first hit on a first-pitch bolt over the fence in center field to make it 1-0 in the top of the second inning.
But Vaughn took matters into his own hands to pull his team even, driving an 0-1 pitch from Breznak for a blast to left field in the bottom of the frame.
It didn’t remain tied for long, however. The Phils did a masterful job of being disciplined at the plate against Vaughn, who worked nine three-ball counts while throwing 99 pitches in 5@-E innings. And when Jeffrey Kline got a six-pitch walk leading off third and stole second, the Phils were in business. He scored on an RBI double to right-center by Colby Martin, who finished 2-for-3 with two RBI’s.
"I felt good at the plate and I just wanted to get some RBI’s so that we could get to the championship," Martin said. "We just wanted to have a short swing and put the ball in play."
Like a heavyweight bout, though, Mountville immediately countered. Ryan Moffatt led off the bottom of the frame by reaching on a throwing error and CJ Saylor singled. After Vaughn got on base on a fielder’s choice, he was erased on a pickoff throw, but Saylor moved up to third on the play and scored on Warwick’s second throwing error of the frame.
Finally, Warwick delivered what proved to be the knockout punch in the top of the fifth. With one out, Kline walked and Ethan Heller doubled to the right field corner. Caleb Heck’s ground out to second drove in Kline with the go-ahead run, then Martin smashed an RBI double to the gap to chase Vaughn, and Dagen Young greeted reliever Josiah Snyder with an RBI single to make it 5-2.
"They had a great approach," Martin said. "We came with the approach of, ‘Win inning by inning,’ and we tied the first two innings and I said, ‘OK, it’s a heavyweight bout. We’re going back-and-forth here. That’s fine. Win the majority of innings and we’ll take this game.’ That was their approach."
Although Breznak believed that he threw fastballs 60 to 70 percent of the time, he also worked in a tough changeup and curve, and the Indians went quietly in the sixth.
With only 73 pitches at that point, Breznak needed no negotiations with Martin to go back out for the seventh.
"(Coach Martin) said it was all me out there," Breznak said.
With one out in the seventh, Moffatt walked, Saylor (2-for-3) singled and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. That brought Vaughn to the plate. Remembering that the Indians’ cleanup hitter homered on a fastball down and in, Breznak fed him a steady diet of curves and whiffed him on three pitches. He then K’d Christian Shepperson to end it.
When it was all said and done, Monday’s effort ranked right up there some of Breznak’s all-time favorite outings.
"This game is probably number two on my list (behind) a tournament at Ripken (Stadium in Aberdeen, Md.)," he said. "But it’s pretty close because I really wanted to beat this (Mountville) team because everybody was thinking they were going to come in and win and I wanted to prove them wrong."
On Monday, Kline was 2-for-2 with a home run and two RBI’s and Fassnacht collected four of his seven K’s over the final two innings to help preserve the Phils’ 3-2 win over Manheim Township.
After returning from a family vacation, ‘The Big Nasty’ had a bullpen session with Martin last Saturday and it was there that he decided Fassnacht would start the opener.
"I had a bullpen session with him and he had a live arm," Martin said. "It was jumping."
The Phils’ bats weren’t exactly jumping, as they managed just three hits off of MT Bryce Behmer, but it turned out to be enough.
Martin had a first-inning infield single and scored on Kyle Gibble’s RBI ground out, and then Kline’s blast to left-center made it 2-0 in the second. Township got one back in the third on Ben Demarco’s RBI single, but the Phils answered when Young walked and scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the third to restore the two-run lead, 3-1.
Township again got as close as one on Behner singled and scored on an error in the top of the fourth. But Fassnacht helped his own cause in the bottom of the inning. He got a leadoff walk, stole second and scored a key insurance run on Kline’s one-out RBI hit.
"Defensively and pitching," Martin said, "it’s been there all year, where if we get a lead, we should be there for awhile."
More PHILLIES, page B-3