Section Three champs! Barons win title for second time in three years

By on May 9, 2018

 

Manheim Central third baseman David Cruz focuses on fielding a grounder up the line as a Cocalico base runner slides into the bag. Photo by Alan Johnson

Manheim Central third baseman David Cruz focuses on fielding a grounder up the line as a Cocalico base runner slides into the bag. Photo by Alan Johnson

Manheim Central knew exactly what was at stake Tuesday afternoon.

Win or face the possibility of a one-game playoff for the Section Three title.

The Barons are no strangers to a Section tiebreaker. In each of the past three seasons, they have gone that route, losing to Donegal in 2015, then beating ELCO in 2016, before falling to Garden Spot last year.

This time, they avoided the need for one, as Bryce Eberly, Taylor Rohrer, Tyler Simon and Drew Mummau all smacked home runs, leading Manheim Central to its second Section Three championship in three years with an 11-0 five-inning drubbing of Lancaster Mennonite in Manheim.

Mummau also tossed a complete-game three-hit gem for the Barons, who improved to 13-3 L-L (14-4 overall), one game ahead of second-place Cocalico (11-4, 13-4). Besides striking out four and walking just one with an efficient 55 pitches, Mummau’s walk-off fifth-inning two-run homer also invoked the 10-run mercy rule.

“It’s just nice not to have to play that (tiebreaker) game,” said Baron coach Matt Huber, whose squad will play Section One runner-up Warwick in the L-L League playoff quarterfinals this Saturday at Ephrata at 4 p.m. “We were just hoping we’d win and if we had to do it, we would. But I was glad they took care of business today.”

The Barons wasted little time reaching LMH (5-10 Section Four, 6-11 overall) starter Justin Gibble for two runs in the bottom of the first.

They added two more in the third on back-to-back long balls by Rohrer (2-for-3) and Eberly (3-for-3, 3 RBIs) to make it 4-0.

“I’m ecstatic for our effort today,” Huber said. “We just got two-hit (Monday in a 4-0 setback to Cocalico), came off a disappointing loss and to respond the way the team did today with 12 hits and 11 runs and just multiple offensive performances, it was a big game.”

Leading 6-0 through four, Mummau was in total command on the hill.

“Drew pounded the zone tonight and was very efficient,” Huber said. “He got ahead of hitters and our defense played very well behind him and made some nice plays.”

In the fifth inning, the Barons put it away behind a five-run rally off of Blazers’ reliever Nelson Habacivich. Simon (3-for-3, 2 RBIs) slugged a solo home run and then Mummau ended it with his two-run round-tripper.

“I’m very proud of their efforts,” Huber said.

*****

On Monday, Cocalico’s Kyle Rhoads was back on the mound after getting the decision in a 6-3 win over the Barons back on April 11.

Once again, the right-hander stepped up, locating his fastball and curve while spinning a two-hit shutout to lift Cocalico to a 4-0 victory in Manheim.

“I guess I get extra focus when I play them,” said Rhoads, who struck out just two, but coaxed a lot of lazy fly ball outs from Manheim Central’s hitters.

The Eagles’ (11-4 L-L, 13-4 overall) win brought them within one game of the Barons (12-3, 13-4) and kept MC’s magic number to clinch at one. Both teams have qualified for the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, which get underway Saturday.

“I think (the players have their heads up),” Baron skipper Matt Huber said, “because every win matters for the Section, it matters for League playoffs, it matters for Districts — it matters for everything. Baseball can be a tough sport and you just have to wipe it away and come back the next day. That’s sometimes a challenge to do, but with so many games in such a limited amount of time, you have to do it.”

While Rhoads was the star on the mound, Cocalico’s Nick Lucky stole the show at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a pair of intentional walks and three RBI, including a two-run homer in the first inning to open the scoring.

With Seamus Finnegan on base on a Manheim Central fielding error, Lucky — a Coastal Carolina recruit — worked the count full against Baron pitcher Tyler Simon, then hit an inside fastball over the right field fence.

“I didn’t get it all, to be honest, because I felt like I hit it off the end of the bat,” Lucky said, “but I had a good feeling about it (being a home run).”

Clean-up hitter Gio Genova followed with an infield base hit and later scored on a wild pitch to stretch the Eagles’ lead to 3-0.

“It was deflating,” Huber said of Cocalico’s three-run first, “but at the same time, we scored multiple runs last year, and you never think three runs is going to do it, or even four, and we just couldn’t get anything on the board today.”

The Barons had two runners on board with two outs in the first inning when Drew Mummau and Taylor Rohrer were hit with back-to-back pitches. But Rhoads escaped trouble with a fielder’s choice ground out.

Then in the second, Dawson Good led off and hit a slow roller to short for an infield hit, then advanced to second on an errant throw. Garrett Bruckhart sacrificed him to third, but the next two batters struck out, and the Eagles still led 3-0.

“Through 14 innings, I think (Rhoads) has held us to one earned run,” Huber said. “He’s pitched well against us and for whatever reason, we didn’t figure him out, we didn’t adjust, but give credit to him.”

Throwing first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 26 batters he faced, Rhoads went on to retire six straight — and nine of 10 — following Good’s base hit.

“We’re a seasoned lineup and typically the production comes a little easier,” Huber said. “And for whatever reason, we’ve found ourselves in some spurts this year where it’s been a struggle to get hits. Today, even if we play well defensively, it’s hard to win a game with zero runs and two hits and there’s just not a lot we can do.”

Rhoads admitted that pitching with the lead made his job on the mound easier.

“I could throw more curve balls earlier in the counts and try to make them swing earlier,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cocalico added an insurance run in the top of the fifth to push its lead to 4-0. Rhoads helped his own cause by working a five-pitch leadoff walk, then went to second on a wild pitch.

After Finnegan greeted MC reliever Hunter Hess with a ground out, Rhoads scored on Lucky’s RBI single to right-center.

In four-plus innings, Simon surrendered four runs on three hits and two walks, while striking out four.

“When you have a guy like Nick, sometimes you just need a guy like Nick,” Bertolino said. “It’s nice to have a hoss like that in the lineup who in big spots is going to be productive. He’s been doing that his whole career. It’s nothing new.”

The Barons got their second hit on Cody Gibble’s leadoff Texas League single in the top of the fifth, but Rhoads, who threw just 78 pitches in his complete-game outing, retired the final nine batters he faced to close the door.

At game’s end, several Baron players remained at the field to take extra batting practice from Huber.

“It’s the first time I’ve done this in my career,” MC’s skipper said, “but sometimes you need to go to extra lengths to try something different to help the team. And if these guys want extra swings, that’s what we’re here for.”

*****

Last Friday, the Barons rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat ELCO 14-6 for their seventh win in a row in a Section Three battle in Myerstown.

MC erupted for six runs in the top of the fourth off of Raider losing pitcher Ryan Miller, grabbing a lead they never relinquished. Although the Barons committed four errors defensively, they collected 18 hits off of Miller and ELCO reilever Joseph Ginder.

Lefty Bryce Eberly went the distance to get the win for MC, striking out two and walking none.

*****

The Barons were also in action last Thursday, when they scored four runs in the first inning behind starter Isaiah Reiner and cruised to an 8-3 victory over Lebanon in a Section Three game in Manheim.

*****

Last Tuesday, May 1, the Barons took a 6-0 lead through three innings and beat Columbia 8-3. Matt Wiederrecht started and earned the win for Manheim Central, recording five K’s and walking none.

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