Barons bow to PM in L-L quarterfinals

By on May 18, 2016
Manheim Central’s Tyler Lyons dives safely back into first base ahead of a tag on a pickoff attempt. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Manheim Central’s Tyler Lyons dives safely back into first base ahead of a tag on a pickoff attempt. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Only once in its previous five outings had Manheim Central’s baseball team scored more than two runs in a game.

So when Penn Manor took a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning on Monday night, the odds weren’t in the Barons’ favor.

To MC’s credit, they battled against Comets’ workhorse Jacob Herr, putting runners on base in the first five frames.

But it wasn’t to be.

Herr protected the early advantage with a complete-game decision, helping Section One runner-up Penn Manor pull off a 3-1 win over newly-minted Section Three champ Manheim Central in the L-L League playoff quarterfinals at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.

“I was so proud of our team defensively and pitching-wise to keep them to three runs,” Manheim Central coach Matt Huber said. “Our Achilles heel this season has been offense and it was tough getting one run and leaving runners on base. but I know our guys did their best and I’m proud of them.”

Penn Manor’s (18-3) win sent them to Tuesday’s L-L semi-finals, where they faced Section Two champ Ephrata, a 3-0 winner over Annville-Cleona.

The Barons, meanwhile, ended their season with a 12-10 record. Although MC recovered nicely from an 0-5 start to the campaign, it likely fell short of qualifying for the District Three Triple-A playoffs. Ahead of Wednesday’s deadline to determine the 16-team field, they were ranked 22nd in the latest District rankings.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” an emotional Huber said. “I wish we’d be playing (in the L-L semi-finals) and I wish we’d be making Districts, but keeping things in perspective from where we went to where we finished, the growth of this team has been amazing. They grew both as men and players and you saw by the emotion on the field tonight, man, it’s tough to say good-bye to seniors.”

In the end, the Comets’ two-run, two-out rally in the top of the first was the difference. Collin Whiteside singled and scored when Grant Gale stung an RBI triple to left-center. Then when Jeremy Burkholder stroked a 1-0 pitch from MC starter Chad Neely for an RBI single, it was 2-0.

From there, however, Neely settled in, tossing four straight shutout innings to keep Central close. For the game, he scattered 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking one on 86 pitches.

“I think it was just nerves,” Huber said of Neely’s 31-pitch first inning. “He started to locate, threw more strikes and just seemed more comfortable.”

In the home half of the first, when Tyler Lutz singled on an 11-pitch at-bat, the Barons had runners at the the corners. But Herr got out of it, fielding Drew Mummau’s comebacker with his bare hand and throwing to first.

Then in the third, Neely beat out an infield single, Bryce Eberly reached on catcher’s INT, and Lutz was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. But the Barons managed just one run on Mummau’s sac fly, cutting Penn Manor’s lead to 2-1.

For the game, the Barons had eight hits off of Herr, who K’d four and hit one batter. But they were just 1-of-6 with runners in scoring position.

“(Herr) pounded the zone and I thought even a couple of our players that didn’t get on base had great at-bats, fouled off several pitches to give themselves a chance, to up his pitch count, and even though they didn’t get on, they had quality at-bats,” Huber remarked.

In the sixth, Penn Manor added an insurance run, as catcher Eric Snyder doubled off the left-field fence and scored on Dan Wolf’s RBI single to center, extending their advantage to 3-1.

Eberly came out of the ‘pen and tossed 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

But a two-run lead was enough for Herr, who retired the final eight batters he faced, reaching 87 mph in the seventh while finishing off his 113-pitch effort.

“(Credit to Chad) to throw a couple of shutout innings and to continue to extend the game,” Huber said, “and as every inning went by, we knew we had a chance. But we just couldn’t push runs across.”

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