In battle of Section leaders, Warriors outduel Ephrata

By on April 20, 2016

 

Warwick senior Tyler Martin gets pumped up as he crosses the plate on a two-run single by Zach Peters in the third inning on Monday, helping the Warriors beat Ephrata 4-1 in a key crossover game. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Warwick senior Tyler Martin gets pumped up as he crosses the plate on a two-run single by Zach Peters in the third inning on Monday, helping the Warriors beat Ephrata 4-1 in a key crossover game. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

From Warwick’s view, Ephrata base runners Adam Schwartz and Chase Weik were out on bang-bang plays at the plate in the fifth and sixth innings.

In the Mounts’ dugout, they thought Schwartz at least got a hand on the plate ahead of the tag from Warrior catcher Justin Smith.

In both cases, the calls went Warwick’s way.

And with Ephrata trying to overcome a three-run deficit in a key Section One-Two crossover, those plays loomed large in the big picture. Weik was also caught in a rundown between third and home in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Ultimately, junior Zach Peters tossed a complete-game four-hitter and the Warriors capitalized on two-out runs, as they claimed their sixth straight victory by defeating the Mounts 4-1 in a battle of Section leaders at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field on Monday under the lights.

Senior Dillon Good, who finished with 120 pitches, suffered the tough-luck complete-game loss for Ephrata, striking out four, walking one and scattering 10 hits over seven innings.

Afterward, much of the talk centered on Smith’s putouts at the plate. On the second of those, Weik was ejected for shoving the WHS catcher.

“From my point of view, (Schwartz) missed completely,” Warrior coach Bob Locker said. “The other one, (Smith) blocked and rolled (Weik) off the plate. That’s still legal to do if that’s there on time. He didn’t do anything illegal. He’s just a real good catcher and he’s an aggressive kid.”

“Close plays … close plays,” Mount’s skipper Adrian Shelley said. “They’re not Major League umpires. Sometimes you get the calls, sometimes you don’t. I’m more disappointed in the outcome of the little donnybrook at home plate. That’s something that just can’t happen. We addressed it.”

The victory for the Warriors (6-1 L-L, 9-1 overall) kept them tied with Penn Manor and Hempfield atop the Section One standings. For Ephrata, its seven-game win streak was snapped, but the Mounts (6-1 L-L, 8-2 overall) still maintain a two-game lead in the loss column over Conestoga Valley (4-3) and Solanco (3-3) in Section Two.

“I try not to put too much into it, but we talk to the kids about crossover games being crucial in a Section race,” Locker said. “You don’t say, ‘Look, here’s what we have to do,’ but you don’t want to lose ground, and (Ephrata)’s a really good baseball team. When they play Hempfield or Penn Manor, that’s going to be two more good baseball games, and who knows, maybe we catch a break somewhere. To get the first two crossover games out of the way with wins is pretty good. So we’ve just got to keep going now.”

Monday’s affair started out as a pitchers duel, with Good and Peters both throwing fastballs in the low-80s, in addition to biting breaking pitches. Good worked out of a first-and-third, two-out jam, while Peters retired the first eight batters he faced, keeping the game scoreless through two.

“We felt (Dillon) grew stronger as the game went on,” Shelley said, “which was nice to see because up until this point, none of our starters had thrown complete-games. So I was glad to see the fire and intensity.”

Warwick’s bats found some two-out fire in the top of the third. After getting back-to-back fly outs, Good plunked Matt Cover with a pitch, Tyler Martin laced a double to left-center and both scored on Peters’ two-run single. Next, Smith roped a 2-0 pitch from Good for an RBI base hit to center to make it 3-0.

Martin and Smith each finished with two hits, while Justin Byler was 3-for-4 to lead the offense.

“Justin Smith’s been raking since we’ve hit league games,” Locker said. “Going into tonight, he’s been hitting somewhere around .700 in league games. T-Mar is coming around, we got contributions from other people. (Nate) Hess is doing a good job in the nine-hole. And (Luke) Mariano, he’s hitting close to .500. So we’ve got some kids who are starting to rake the ball. And that’s a good high school pitcher.”

They added an insurance run in the fourth, again with two outs, when Martin worked a seven-pitch bases-loaded free pass, pushing the lead to 4-0.

“Our kids were patient,” Locker said.

Peters, who K’d five and walked two while throwing 90 pitches in the complete-game win, hit some trouble in the fourth after encountering some trouble with his off-speed stuff. Leadoff batter Nate Fassnacht walked, Weik singled to left, Justin Carvell dropped a perfect bunt single, and Fassnacht came around to score on Peters’ overthrow at first base. Left fielder Jake Weachter’s throw held Weik at third on Evan Frees’ fly out, but then the Mounts’ senior tested Elliott’s arm in right on Patrick Gallagher’s fly ball. Elliott threw a strike and Weik was eventually tug out on a 9-2-5-1 play.

“(Peters) threw to contact a lot,” Shelley said. “They minimized the amount of base runners we got. We were going to have to earn it. And in those second and third, nobody out, one-out situations when we needed to earn it, he pitched to contact and their defense came up with the plays.”

“We know he’s got a cannon,” Locker said of Elliott, “and he made a nice throw and Justin’s a pretty good catcher.”

The Mounts seemed poised to do serious damage in the fifth. Schwartz led off with a single, Good walked, and both runners moved up on Mitchell Storb’s sacrifice bunt. Nick Auker then grounded to first, and Warwick’s Tim Griest fired to Smith, who put the tag on a head-first diving Schwartz.

“We thought we got a hand in obviously, the umpire saw things differently, and the play turned out to not go in our favor,” Shelley said.

Peters then got out of the inning by getting Fassnacht to fly out to right field.

In the sixth, Weik, who reached on an error, was at first base and tried to score on Frees’ one-out double to the left-center field gap, but Warwick’s relay got him at the plate.

“We send that guy 10 out of 10 times,” Shelley said. “That’s just what we do. I’m sure there’s people in the stands and people in the (Blue Ridge Cable) TV audience that would like to second-guess that. But we play aggressive like that.”

With closer Elliott having pitched in three games last week, Peters &tstr; who threw just 80 pitches through six &tstr; went back out for the seventh and retired the Mounts in order to seal the deal.

“(Zach) kept them off-balance,” Locker said. “In the middle innings, he had a little bit of trouble with his off-speed stuff … but I was impressed with the way he came back.”

Shelley, meanwhile, will be looking for his team to come back strong on Wednesday at Cedar Crest.

“(Warwick) earned it,” he said. “Whether those calls are debatable or not, they’re only two runs. They’re a really good baseball team. My hat goes off to them. They got it done. And this isn’t an easy place to play either. We don’t cough too many of those games up, but tonight was one of them.”

In other action, Warwick rallied from a 5-2 fifth-inning deficit and beat Lampeter-Strasburg 7-5 in a Section One-Two crossover in Lititz last Friday.

Matt Cover was 2-for-3, including an RBI single in the Warriors’ two-run sixth-inning rally which snapped a 5-5 tie. He finished with three RBI’s.

Justin Smith had a two-run triple and Tyler Martin (2-for-3) added an RBI single in Warwick’s three-run fifth-inning outburst off of L-S pitcher Todd Shelley to pull even. Luke Mariano went 2-for-2 with two run scored in the game.

Earlier, Cover’s gave Warwick a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-run base hit and then the Pioneers answered with four in the top of the third inning. Bear Shank had a two-run single and the Warriors had three errors in the frame.

Ethan Norman worked six innings for the win, while Thomas Elliott struck out the side in the seventh to earn the save.

The Warriors were also in action last Wednesday, April 13, handing Hempfield its first loss of the season with a 6-1 decision in a Section One game in Lititz.

Thomas Elliott was 3-for-4 with two RBI’s to lead the Warriors’ 13-hit attack in support of starting pitcher Tim, who worked five innings for the win. He struck out four, walked four, and surrendered just two hits.

Warwick took a 6-1 lead through two innings. Justin Smith doubled, tripled and had two RBI’s, and Justin Byler and Zach Peters each chipped in with two base knocks.

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