Three-way stalemate in Section One race

By on May 4, 2016
Warrior first baseman Tim Griest looks a pickoff throw from pitcher Zach Peters into his glove in Warwick’s game against Penn Manor last Friday. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Warrior first baseman Tim Griest looks a pickoff throw from pitcher Zach Peters into his glove in Warwick’s game against Penn Manor last Friday. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

In his 21 years of coaching baseball, Penn Manor skipper Jim Zander was hard-pressed to recall many games like last Friday’s first-place showdown against Warwick.

“There’s very few games that I’ve been associated with that have been as well-played and as exciting as that game was right there,” Zander said.

Trailing the Warriors by one game with just five left, the Comets faced an uphill battle if they didn’t find a way to win. And when Warwick righty Zach Peters, returning to the hill on three days rest, twirled a perfecto through four innings, things didn’t look great for Penn Manor early on.

Eventually, though, the nail-biter was tied 1-1 and proceeded into extra innings, where Collin Whitesides’ RBI fielder’s choice in the top of the 11th stood up as the game-winner, lifting the Comets to a 2-1 victory in Lititz.

The outcome, combined with Hempfield’s 10-2 conquest of Cedar Crest, forged a three-way tie atop the Section One standings.

On Monday, the Warriors (14-2 overall) bounced back for an 8-2 victory over Cedar Crest, keeping them tied in first with Penn Manor, a 3-1 winner over Manheim Township, both with 11-2 Section records. Hempfield’s game against McCaskey was postponed until Thursday due to rain.

The elements held off on Friday, when Peters started on the hill for the second time in three days.

“Peters came back on short rest … that’s not something we really wanted to do,” Warwick coach Bob Locker acknowledged, “but we walked in here thinking we had a chance to put (Penn Manor) two games behind us, and you’ve got to take opportunities every once in awhile.”

Missed scoring opportunities marked the biggest Achilles heel for Warwick (13-2 overall) against Comet pitchers Matt Tulli, Jeff Taylor, and Jeremy Miller. For the game, Warwick was 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s what we talked to the kids about,” Locker said. “Too many opportunities we let slip. We’re a very good baseball team and so are they. We had our chances, we put people in scoring position, we just failed to capitalize when we had opportunities.”

Miller picked up the decision with two innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one hit, while striking out two and walking none. Junior Ethan Norman took the loss, yielding one run on two hits, two walks and a hit batsman in three innings.

Throwing 11 first-pitch strikes, Peters needed just 44 pitches while retiring the first 12 batters he faced.

But then PM clean-up hitter Grant Gale led off the top of the fifth with a single to center, Jeremy Brubaker sacrificed and catcher Eric Snyder (3-for-4) delivered a two-out RBI base hit to make it 1-0.

With a two-out rally in the bottom half, Warwick finally reached Tulli. Peters worked a six-pitch free pass, then courtesy runner Patrick Quinn moved to second on a wild pick off throw and scored when catcher Justin Smith served an RBI single to left-center field, tying the score 1-all.

Peters ended up going eight innings, but left with a no-decision after striking out six and surrendering only one run on four hits and no walks.

“(Zach) threw a tremendous ball game,” Locker said. “He gave up two hits in that one inning. And Norman came in and did a good job. It’s just that their pitchers also did a good job.”

Tulli went six-plus innings, giving way to ace lefty Taylor out of the ‘pen after plunking Luke Mariano to lead off the seventh. Matt Cover’s sacrifice sent Mariano to second, but Taylor retired the next two.

“I thought (Taylor) would come in sooner,” Locker admitted. “They were in a situation where they pretty much had to win today.”

In the bottom of the eighth, Warwick seemed to be in business against Taylor, as Nate Hess and Thomas Elliott earned back-to-back one-out walks. Again, however, Taylor escaped the pickle, this time with a pair of K’s. Taylor, who tossed a complete-game shutout against L-S just three days earlier, ended up working three scoreless frames.

Meanwhile, Peters and Norman got some help from their defense, as Smith picked off Snyder after an eighth-inning leadoff single, and then right fielder Tyler Hess nailed PM’s Ryan Witmer trying to go to third in the 10th inning.

“We do a lot of things well, we play good fundamental baseball, we’re a good defensive baseball team and normally we’re a timely-hitting team,” Locker said. “Some of that is it’s just one of those days, but some of it is the fact that their starter (Tulli) did a really nice job, Taylor’s a phenomenal pitcher and it goes back to you’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities.”

With the game approaching three hours in length, PM finally snapped the tie in the 11th. Dan Wolfe was hit by an 0-1 pitch leading off, Nate Brown sacrificed, and then after Taylor walked, Whiteside chopped a high bouncer to Mariano at shortstop.

Mariano flipped to Tyler Martin at second for the force out, but they couldn’t turn the double-play, and Wolfe scored the go-ahead run.

“When it bounced so high, I thought, ‘We’ve got a shot here,’” Zander said. “(Whiteside) is not the fastest guy, but he’s a good base runner.”

From there, Miller retired the Warriors in order in the bottom of the 11th and that was the game.

“The bottom line is at the end of the day, the kids are going to take a little bit to regroup and so will I because we had a chance to put some distance and we didn’t,” Locker said. “Tomorrow morning when we wake up, we’re still going to be tied for first place. So it’s not the end of the world, but we’ve just got to take care of business and see where we wind up at the end of the whole thing.”

On Monday, Warwick scored three first-inning runs, then broke it open with a four-run fifth in support of winning pitcher Tim Griest in their 8-2 victory over Cedar Crest.

Mariano and Nate Hess each scored twice, while Griest pitched five scoreless innings for the win. He scattered three hits, struck out five and walked one. Cover pitched the final two innings in relief.

Last Wednesday, Cover was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and Peters batted 2-for-4 with three RBI’s, as Warwick pounded out 15 hits in a 9-2 win over Garden Spot in New Holland.

Jake Weachter, Nate Hess, Smith, Martin and Mariano added two hits apiece, and Tim Griest pitched five innings for the win. He struck out six, walked five, and surrendered five hits.

 

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