Indians take two-game lead on Barons
The strategy by Manheim Central seemed like a sound one.
Tied 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth with Peter Breit at third base, the idea was to execute a safety squeeze.
Give pitcher Andrew Bucher a one-run lead and then hope that their ace can shut down Donegal the rest of the way.
Unfortunately for the Barons, it didn’t work.
The Indians nailed Breit on the base path, then snapped the tie themselves on Justin Amspacher’s two-out RBI double in the bottom of the sixth and held on for a 7-4 win in a Section Three first-place showdown in Manheim on Monday.
Amspacher, Austin Martinez and Conner Bowers had two hits apiece to lead Donegal’s attack. In the seventh inning, Martinez stroked a run-scoring single – his fourth RBI of the day – and Bowers added a two-run double, as the Indians tacked on three key insurance runs.
“I thought it was gutsy,” Barons’ coach Matt Huber said of his team’s performance. “It stings coming up short to Donegal for the second time this year. I thought we played well and we just came up short.”
With four league games left, Donegal’s win puts them two games in front of the Barons, who are now tied with Lampeter-Strasburg for the second and final L-L berth in Section Three.
“Now we have to win out and hope for help,” Huber remarked. “Keep our fingers crossed.”
Manheim Central certainly had its fingers crossed after taking a 1-0 lead on Ney in the bottom of the first as Ben Bomberger reached on an error, stole second, advanced to third on Colin Fry’s single and scored on Blake Reiff’s sac fly.
Meanwhile, Bucher retired the first seven batters he faced before Ney got on board on an MC fielding error with one out in the top of the third. With two outs, Austin Mellinger walked, Ryan Myers was hit by a pitch and Martinez cleared the bases, lacing a 2-2 pitch from Bucher to left field for a three-run double.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of that inning, the Barons answered for two tying runs. With one out, Bomberger was hit by a pitch, aggressively advanced to third on Reiff’s single to center and scored on a Donegal throwing error. Damon Crouse’s RBI single to left plated Reiff to make it 3-3.
Although Ney didn’t record a strikeout, the righty threw his curve for strikes and effectively mixed his pitches, holding the Barons to just five hits through the first six frames. Ney, who walked just one and hit a batter while throwing 102 pitches, also got the decision in the Indians’ 3-2 win over Manheim Central on April 2.
“(Ney) pitched well,” Huber said. “He limited our hits again and held us to very few runs.”
One of the hits that the Barons got was Breit’s single leading off the fifth, and he advanced to second on a throwing error. When he stole third, the Barons appeared to be in business. But with one out and Huber signaling for the safety squeeze, Ney’s hook got through to catcher Bowers, who tug out Breit in the base line.
“It was a low-hitting affair. With the score the way it was,” Huber said, “I thought we could bunt a run in and Buch would be able to shut the door. It didn’t work out the way we had practiced it.”
Bucher seemed poised to get out of a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth, registering back-to-back K’s for two of his five strikeouts. But then Amspacher ripped an RBI double to left on a full count, putting Donegal in front.
Like Ney, Bucher also threw 102 pitches while allowing just two earned runs on seven hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings.
“I thought Andrew pitched well. They have a lot of good hitters on their team, so give credit to them,” Huber said.
Three insurance runs for Donegal off of Bucher and reliever Reiff made the Barons’ task a little steeper in their final at-bats. Still, Manheim Central got one back on Josh Flanagan’s single to right and JJ Sanchez’s RBI fielder’s choice and then brought the tying run to the plate after Bomberger stroked a base hit to left. Ney, however, put it in the books.
“I was pleased that we brought the tying run to the plate and didn’t give up,” Huber said. “But obviously coming back from four runs compared to one was a big difference.”
Last Saturday in non-league action, Breit and Bomberger had three hits apiece, and JJ Sanchez was 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI’s as the Barons defeated back-yard rival Warwick 11-1 in five innings.
Leading just 3-1 through three innings, Central broke it open with four runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to invoke the mercy rule. Dan Wiederrecht earned a complete-game victory, striking out three, walking three and giving up four hits.
Last Friday, Damon Crouse and Bomberger each went 2-for-2 and Bucher slammed a home run and had four RBI’s in an 8-3 five-inning win over ELCO.
The Barons were also in action last Wednesday, as junior Chad Zunich went 2-for-4 with four RBI’s in a 13-5 drubbing of Pequea Valley.