Warrior bats explode, hand Ephrata first league loss

By on April 18, 2012

By: TODD RUTH Record Staff truth.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

It was all about the approach.

In his pre-game speech Monday, Warwick Baseball Coach Matt Gale emphasized the importance of getting into good hitting counts against Ephrata senior pitcher Andre Hoover, a tall lefty with a good live fastball and a devastating breaking pitch.

"We talked about just staying back, because (Hoover) has really good off-speed stuff, and to look for the fastball. You don’t want to get behind against a guy like that."

Message received.

Warwick pounded out 11 hits over the first three innings against Hoover, who had not given up an earned run all season and was 3-0 coming into the game. Warwick led 9-2 when Hoover was finally lifted with two outs in the third, and the Warriors cruised from there en route to an eventual 9-3 victory at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.

Derrick Shields went 4-for-5 with two RBI while Korey Johnson added a big two-run double to pace the Warriors, now winners of four straight. Even starting pitcher Zack Hurst got into the act with a 2-for-3, three RBI performance with the bat. Hurst, a "sub-marine pitcher," was equally impressive on the mound, scattering five Ephrata hits while striking out seven to earn the complete-game victory.

"I would venture to say that (Hoover) wasn’t as sharp as he normally is, and that played in our favor," Gale said. "But we really just got some clutch hits early, and that just took a lot of pressure off our pitcher and our defense. It was just the approach that we took and guys just coming up big, getting good swings in good counts with the right pitches against them."

Ephrata (6-1 Section Two, 8-3 overall), which suffered its first league loss of the season, used four pitchers on the night, committed two key first inning errors and was off balance at the plate all night long against Hurst.

It was just one of those nights for the Mounts.

"Guys have off nights," Ephrata Coach Adrian Shelley said. "That’s just how this game works. We did enough early in the game to put us in a situation where we backed ourselves into a corner. You can look at it that way, but I’ll still say (the Warriors) have to go up there with a bat in their hands and stroke out 11 hits in three innings.

"They strung together some quality at bats and made some really good defensive plays. Some times instead of trying to figure out what went wrong you have to tip your hat to them. Warwick came out and played a good brand of baseball tonight."

It started from the opening pitch as the Warriors sent eight men to the plate in the top of the first as they grabbed a quick 3-0 lead on the Mounts.

Shields got it started with a one-out single before Tyler Morris and Brian Eshleman each followed with hits. The latter brought Shields home with the first run of the game. Then, after an Ephrata throwing error loaded the bases, Hurst ripped a two-run double to the gap in right-center to complete the three-run frame.

Ephrata did come right back and plate two runs of its own in the bottom of the first, but it could have been much more than that as the first six batters reached base. However, Tim Murray was picked off at first and Paul Larusso was thrown out at the plate for two huge outs. Hoover’s infield single did plate the Ephrata runs, scoring both Parke Martin and Ryan Schwark.

Warwick got one run back in the second when Johnson drew a lead-off walk and eventually came around to score on an RBI single to right by Shields. Then in the third, the Warriors broke it open with a five-run inning.

After Hoover struck out Robert Gerofsky to start the inning, the Ephrata ace didn’t record another out as Warwick strung together six-straight hits to chase him from the ballgame. Braidy Weiler, Chris Wentzel and Morris all delivered RBI singles while Johnson clubbed his big two-run double.

Hoover struck out four and walked one in suffering his first loss of the season.

"Andre’s outing may be the headline, but we were also frustrated offensively tonight," Shelley said. "When we (came to bat) in the first inning it looked like we were just going to jump right back in the game. But when they matched it that kind of took out some steam. Their pitcher did a nice job tonight with his funky delivery. And when we got behind it kind of muted our run game a bit."

After their first inning, the Mounts never threatened again offensively until the seventh as Hurst cruised. Ephrata did score one run in its final at bats as Murray singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch. But Hurst, who was pitching with a hairline fracture on his right pitching hand, was able to get Ephrata DH Parke Martin to ground out to end the game.

"Zack has thrown really well for us this year," Gale said. "I initially thought he was done for the year (because of the injury) after having two good games for us to start the season. He said he felt he could do it, and that was even more impressive to me that he was able to go out and do what he did tonight."

With their four-straight wins, the Warriors suddenly find themselves back in the Section One race at 4-3 (5-6 overall). They’ll go for five in-a-row Wednesday in Lititz (4:15 p.m.) when they face another strong Section Two foe in Solanco.

Gale said he hopes his team continues to ride the wave of momentum heading into the second half of the year.

"The last week we really started getting on a roll," Gale said. "Baseball is just a game of momentum, and when guys are feeling good, feeling confident, seeing grapefruits at the plate, then it all comes together. That’s kind of what’s going on right now and we just hope it continues."

"It was a big win for us," he continued. "We are aware of how good (Ephrata) is. I don’t doubt that that team can definitely continue to beat good teams. We are aware of what they are capable of so it was nice to get a big win tonight."

The Warriors were also in action last Friday, as Brian Eshleman, Tyler Morris and Chris Wentzel had two hits apiece in a 12-2 five-inning victory over Lebanon.

With the score tied 2-2, Warwick broke it open with four in the third, two in the fourth and four in the fifth. Braidy Weiler allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out three for the win.

Last Wednesday, April 11, Tyler Morris went 3-for-4 with three RBI’s and tossed a complete-game five-hitter, leading Warwick (2-3 L-L, 3-6 overall) to a 6-5 Section One win over Hempfield in Lititz.

The junior right-hander struck out four and walked three to notch his first win of the year, while Chris Wentzel added two hits and scored two runs in the attack.

Warwick overcame an early 2-0 deficit to take a 5-2 lead in the fourth. Then after Hempfield rallied to tie it, the Warriors scored the game-winner in the bottom of the sixth. More WARRIORS, page B-6

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