BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – They did a little manufacturing. Then they turned pressure into opportunities. All the while sharing the load and performing as a team.
But first, they had to flush it.
On Sunday afternoon at Earl Wenger Memorial Field – some 18 hours after dropping its opener in the Region Four baseball tourney it’s hosting – Fredericksburg turned to a balanced offense to bounce back and beat Ephrata 8-5, in the event’s second elimination game. Before plating the three decisive runs in the top of the eighth inning, Post 915 relinquished three different leads.
The outcome pushed Fredericksburg to 21-7 overall and into Monday’s second round of the loser’s bracket in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament, against Dallastown at noon. Not only did F-burg avoid going two-and-out, it also assured itself of a finish in the event’s top six.
Ephrata, the Lancaster County champion, was eliminated with a 21-5 mark.
“One of our biggest motivations was that I’ve got guys, and I didn’t want it to be their last game,” said Fredericksburg head coach Tim Schaeffer. “I want them to keep playing, and I told them that. They’re my kids.
“Honestly, I thought we played fantastic,” continued Schaeffer. “Every time something happened, we came right back. It helps when you start hitting the ball.”
“We really wanted to get a win in the first game,” said Fredericksburg’s closer and second baseman, Hayden Johnson. “It just didn’t happen. But we had that fire today. We didn’t want to be the first team out.
“We came out and realized we needed to win,” added Johnson. “It was a do-or-die situation. It could be some of these guys’ last year of playing baseball.”
With the score knotted at five entering the top of the eight, Fredericksburg’s Austin Barry went first-to-third on teammate Noah Gingrich’s one-out single. Barry scored the eventual winning run on an Ephrata throwing error, before Michigan Daub and Seth Walmer cracked back-to-back, two-out RBI-doubles.
“We all know how the game is,” said Schaeffer. “When we hit we’re a very tough team. If we play solid defense, that scoreboard isn’t ever going to change. If we put up five runs, we should win every game.
“My goal coming in was to win this thing,” Schaeffer continued. “If it wasn’t I might as well stay at home. If you don’t have that mindset for the kids, you shouldn’t be here.”
“It’s been a seesaw,” said Johnson of the Fredericksburg offense. “We’ll have games where we come out and crush the ball. When the small ball is on for us, that’s when we score runs.
“I thought we played really well,” added Johnson. “We battled back.”
The game was deadlocked at three before Post 915 pushed across single runs in the tops of the sixth and seventh innings. Both times Fredericksburg scored without the benefit of a hit.
In the sixth, walks to Bailey Keefer and Zach Seltzer preceded Austin Barry’s sacrifice fly. An inning later, Daub walked, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, ahead of a sac fly from Will Rivera.
“We never gave up the lead,” said Schaeffer. “That was important. We never left them get on top. When we made a mistake, we came right back. We didn’t linger.”
“That’s how we play,” said Johnson. “We go out there and fight. That’s when we play our best, when we play small ball and play for each other.”
Johnson’s suicide squeeze bunt in the top of the fifth had given Fredericksburg a 3-2 edge. It scored Daub, who had singled.
F-burg opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the third inning. The runs resulted from an Ephrata throwing error and sharp base running by Noah Gingrich and Isaac Wengert.
“He just makes sure he gets the ball down,” said Schaeffer of Johnson’s suicide. “Hayden put things behind him. We manufactured a couple of runs. When we see a little better pitching, we hit better.”
“It’s just getting the job done,” said Johnson. “You’ve got to get that bunt down. That’s your job. I’ve always been pretty decent at bunting.”
Johnson also earned a save in relief of starter Walmer. Walmer worked the first eight innings, struck out one and walked two in a very workmanlike performance.
“All year long he’s done what he’s had to do. No less,” said Schaeffer. “He puts the ball in play. He makes everybody play better. It was important that the guys were behind him.”
” ‘Flush it’ means it doesn’t matter what happened previously,” said Johnson. “You just have to get the job done. There’s always that fire. We lost last night, but we’ve got to turn it around. Whether it be my error or something else, you’ve got to flush it and move on.”
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