Rockets stun Warwick in District quarterfinals
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
The Warwick baseball team was just one out away from punching its ticket to the District Three Quad-A playoff semi-finals.
But when the Warriors finally got the third out in the top of the seventh inning last Friday, Spring Grove had erased its 5-0 deficit and taken a one-run lead.
From there, the 14th-seeded Rockets retired 11th-seeded Warwick in order in the bottom of the seventh and held on for a shocking 6-5 win in Hershey in a District quarterfinal game.
While Spring Grove (16-7) advanced to face Manheim Township (15-6) in the semi-finals, Warwick ended its season with a 17-8 record.
"It was just a heartbreaker," Warrior skipper Matt Gale said. "I’ve never seen six runs scored with two outs like that. It was just almost surreal watching it happen. It happened very quick."
Unfortunately, there was a lot of second-guessing in the aftermath of the loss. After six innings, with the Warriors seemingly holding a comfortable five-run lead and the Rockets having managed only four hits off of starter Jordan Donmoyer, Kris Cullen, who had a 2.25 ERA, entered the game in relief.
Gale’s thoughts were that since Donmoyer had also warmed up and pitched one inning on Thursday before the game was postponed due to inclement weather, he would save some pitches for his ace.
"We thought, ‘(Jordan) had a pretty low pitch count that day, but (he had) back-to-back days with all the long tossing and warming up and everything, so he’s thrown quite a bit, we have a five-run lead, and we had Kris Cullen available, who was sitting on a 2.25 ERA for the year,’" Gale said.
Although Jacob Hoover walked with one out and Allen Rohrbaugh doubled, it looked like the move wouldn’t hurt the Warriors when Troxel popped out to third for the second out of the inning. But then two runs scored when nine-hole hitter Cortlin Dell reached on an error, and then Ben Reigart stroked a double to left to put runners at second and third.
After Dell scored on a wild pitch, Levi Krause hit a two-run homer over the left field foul pole to tie the game 5-all.
"Obviously, the timing of our decisions were wrong," Gale said. "I definitely feel awful that it ended up the way it ended up. Hindsight is 20-20 and looking back, we would have done things differently, obviously. But we felt like we were making the best decision for our team moving forward. It was just a heartbreaker."
Donmoyer then re-entered the game and Lukas Rohrbaugh greeted him with a double. Next, Paul Smith delivered an RBI double and Derrick Schnetzka walked before Jacob Hoover finally grounded out to third for the final out of the inning.
"Typically, I wouldn’t bring a starter back in that was removed from the game," Gale said, "but the circumstances being that he was only out for seven batters and a short period of time, I didn’t feel like it was a long time for his arm to get tight or anything and I just felt like he gave us the best chance to come back and win once it was 5-5. It was a bad spot to put him in and it certainly wasn’t something you want to ask a kid to do. I felt awful asking us to get us out of that jam and it wasn’t fair to him, but I felt like it was our best chance."
In the bottom of the seventh, reliever Krause pitched a perfect inning to preserve the Rockets’ one-run win. Krause picked up the win with 2 2/3 innings in relief of starter Allen Rohrbaugh, while Donmoyer suffered the tough-luck loss. Donmoyer struck out nine and walked four.
Earlier, the Warriors pounded out 12 hits off of Rohrbaugh and Krause to open a 5-0 lead.
Derrick Shields’ two-out RBI double drove in Donmoyer, who also doubled, to give Warwick a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Then Brian Eshleman and D.J. connected for solo home runs in the fourth to make it 3-0.
Eshleman finished 3-for-4 with three RBI’s, while Shields also went 3-for-4 and Johnson was 2-for-4 to lead Warwick’s attack.
In the fifth, Shields doubled, stole third and scored on Eshleman’s RBI double. The Warriors scored their final run in the sixth inning, as Donmoyer reached on an error, Tyler Morris singled and Eshleman laced another RBI double.
Although the game got away from Warwick in the seventh, the 2011 season was still a successful one for the Warriors, who placed second in Section One and advanced to the L-L League championship game.
"We talked about how it was just a really discouraging loss and it’s going to hurt for awhile, but somewhere down the line, they’re going to have to take pride in the fact that they were one of only two L-L teams still playing on Friday," Gale said. "They won 17 games and had an impressive run and in the end, only one team can win it. It’s just not the way you want to go out … We had a great group of seniors, probably one of the best group of seniors I’ve ever dealt with and just their attitude, their effort, their ability to play and to play in pressure situations was just impressive and it was a pleasure to coach them. We couldn’t have made a run like this without having that group of seniors. I definitely think they exceeded expectations. They should definitely be proud of that." More WARRIORS, page B-2