Ephrata strikes early, stuns Warwick 6-4

By on April 16, 2014
Warwick base runner Ashley Royer (right) slides safely into third base with a first-inning triple ahead of the tag of Ephrata's Danika Weaver in their game Monday afternoon.

Warwick base runner Ashley Royer (right) slides safely into third base with a first-inning triple ahead of the tag of Ephrata’s Danika Weaver in their game Monday afternoon.

The blows that Ephrata delivered early on Monday weren’t knockouts, but they were effective.

They put Warwick on its heels.

In the end, the Warriors were never able to fully recover, as Ephrata capitalized on a pair of three-run rallies to go in front 6-1 after two innings and then pulled off a stunner, winning 6-4 in a Section One-Two crossover in Lititz.

Haley Warden, Jenna Yarger and Danika Weaver had two hits apiece to lead the Mounts, who bounced back from losses to Cocalico (11-8) and ManheimTownship (14-0) at the end of last week. The fact that they did it against a Warwick team that recently defeated reigning L-L League champ Hempfield 8-3 was a huge feather in the cap for the young Ephrata girls (3-3 L-L, 3-4 overall).

“This one is huge,” said Ephrata coach Meredith Dombach of her team, which had three freshman in the starting lineup. “This definitely was a total team effort and we had to call on lots of different people to really step up and hold them back so that we could get the win today.”

For the Warriors (4-2 L-L, 5-3 overall), they were left to scratch their heads about the defensive lapses and 10 runners left on base which proved costly. Warwick boss Mark Hough couldn’t hide his disappointment while talking to a visitor in the dugout at game’s end.

“I just told the girls to look at Ephrata out there celebrating on our field,” Hough recalled, “and I said, ‘They deserve that victory. They played it, they wanted it more.’ A lot of credit to them. Really, there wasn’t much to say. I think the girls knew what I was thinking and I just looked at them and said, ‘It’s up to my senior leadership to figure out what we can do to light a fire.’”

A two-out break kept Ephrata’s fire burning in the top of the first inning. Warwick starter Lacey Lefever seemed destined to get out of trouble when Yarger lofted a pop fly into shallow left-center field. But the ball fell for a Texas League RBI single and Brittany Ritter scored the game’s first run.

“I think we just got knocked on our heels in that first inning,” Hough said. “You see a couple of flares that go right over your defense and then you have a fly ball that should be a routine catch. I think both short and center were thinking one was going to get it over the other, but we just weren’t calling it out. It’s kinda hard to fault either … we’ve just got to do a better job of playing defense.”

The next batter, Weaver, delivered a two-run single to right field to put the Mounts in front 3-0. By the end of the inning, Lefever had thrown a total of 26 pitches.

“That was huge,” Dombach said of Weaver’s hit. “(Danika) definitely came through for us in a big spot.”

Warwick answered in the bottom of that inning on Ashley Royer’s leadoff triple and Victoria Byler’s RBI ground out to cut Ephrata’s lead to 3-1.

But Alexis Lovell’s sac fly and Warden’s RBI single to left field extended the Mounts’ advantage and then Ritter scored on a Warwick throwing error to make it 6-1. Ephrata leadoff batter Lexi Hershberger was on base all four times with three walks and a base hit, while scoring a run.

“We try to get them to be patient and look for their pitch and not strike too early,” Dombach said.

In the bottom of the third, Warwick started a comeback, with Lefever reaching on an error and then scoring on Nikole Rottkamp’s two-out triple to right field. Rottkamp scored moments later on a wild pitch to make it 6-3, and the Warriors threatened for more when Vanessa Strohm singled to center and Jenny George walked. But Yarger, who scattered eight hits and four walks over 4@-E innings while getting the win, pitched out of trouble. She struck out just one, but got eight ground ball outs.

“I think at times we tried to do too much with the hitting,” Hough said. “I think that we may have tried to make the big hit where a base hit extends the inning, maybe gets a run in here and there, as opposed to trying to lift the ball thinking that with the wind blowing out, you might get the big hit.”

After leaving two more runners in scoring position in the fourth, Warwick inched a little bit closer as Strohm worked a one-out walk in the fifth and scored on an Ephrata fielding error on George’s ground ball, cutting the deficit to 6-4. They went on to load the bases with two outs and Allison Smith was summoned in relief. The strategy worked for the Mounts, when the junior pitcher induced an inning-ending pop out to second from Warwick’s hottest hitter Royer.

“I thought if we could throw her off-balance that we had a chance,” Dombach said.

Eckman, who pitched 5!-E innings in relief of Lefever, had Ephrata off-balance, allowing just three base runners after the second inning.

“We definitely were holding on,” Dombach said. “That’s when we count on our defense to pull through for us.”

Still trailing by two in their final at-bats, Warwick went down in order against Smith to end the game.

“This was probably the toughest loss this year,” Hough said. “I’m just disappointed in so many facets of the way we played today.”

The Lady Warriors were also in action last Friday, pounding out 16 hits and capitalizing on six Lebanon errors in a 19-0 drubbing of the Cedars.

Freshman Nicole Mengel was 3-for-3 with two doubles, a grand slam and five RBI’s and Ashley Royer (2-for-4) slugger her first homer of the season to lead six players with multiple hits. Victoria Byler (2-for-4), Mack Russell (3-for-3, 3 runs, 2 RBI’s), Tessa Eckman (2-for-3) and Vanessa Strohm (2-for-4, 3 RBI’s, 2 runs) also contributed for the Lady Warriors, who scored nine runs in the first and third innings.

Last Thursday, April 10, the Warwick girls suffered their first league loss of the season, dropping a 2-1 nail-biter to Section One rival ManheimTownship in Neffsville.

Kiersten Ketcham’s RBI ground out snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the sixth and then the Lady Blue Streaks held on behind pitcher Reilly Gearhart.

Through three innings, Gearhart and Warwick’s Eckman were locked in a scoreless pitcher’s dual. But MT went up 1-0 in the fourth as Carolyn Kitsock’s RBI single drove in Katie Zogorski, who doubled to center field.

In the top of the fifth inning, after Nikole Rottkamp got on base thanks to a Township error, Strohm reached on a fielder’s choice. Strohm stole second and third, then scored the tying run when MT catcher Alyssa Perkins’ throw sailed into left field.

It remained that way until Ketcham knocked in the winning run in the sixth. Eckman suffered the tough-luck loss, scattering five hits over six innings. She struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.

Last Wednesday, April 9, Warwick got the upper hand on Section One rival Hempfield, riding a 2-for-3 game from Rottkamp to an 8-3 win in Landisville.

The Warwick senior hit a home run and finished with three RBI’s in support of pitchers Eckman and Lacey Lefever. Eckman pitched four innings for the win and Strohm chipped in with two RBI’s, as the Lady Warriors snapped a 2-2 tie with four runs in the top of the fourth inning.

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