On Thursday, Penn Manor pitchers couldn’t solve St. Leo and Garden Spot’s bats couldn’t be stopped.
Go figure that come Friday, Garden Spot had trouble at the plate as the Comets’ Jeff Taylor threw seven strong innings and Austin Roberts had three hits and drove in three runs to lift Penn Manor to a 5-1 victory at Kunkle Field. The win sends the Comets (29-5) to Monday’s championship game back at Kunkle, where they’ll face St. Leo at 7 p.m.
Garden Spot (18-5) picked up where it left off Thursday as Brock Kauffman lifted a home run down the left-field line to give Spot a 1-0 lead. It was Kauffman’s third home run of the tournament as he took advantage of one of the few mistakes Taylor would make on the night.
“Garden Spot is a really great team and it’s hard to fight against Brock,” Taylor said. “I just left a curveball hanging up for him.”
Penn Manor responded right away in the bottom half of the inning as Jeremy Burkholder and Roberts singled and Taylor loaded the bases, reaching on a throwing error by Kauffman. After Grant Gale struck out, Ryan Witmer drew a walk to score Burkholder. Two batters later, Tanner Simet (2-for-3) singled to score Roberts and give the Comets a 2-1 lead.
The Comets would add another run in the second when, after a Burkholder double, Roberts singled to center before getting caught in a rundown. Taylor followed with a double, but courtesy runner Brandon Sensenich was picked off by Kauffman to end the threat.
By then, Taylor was settling into a groove. After surrendering a leadoff single to Ryan Smith in the second, the left-hander set down the next 13 batters he faced, including the first four after returning to the mound after a 75-minute lightning delay.
Garden Spot’s Kauffman wouldn’t be so lucky and didn’t return to the mound after the delay, which occurred with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and runners on first and third. Kauffman was relieved by Cameron Heilman, who struck out Gale to end the inning.The Comets would tack on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, when Roberts hit a two-run home run to right, scoring Drew Greenawalt.
“I was waiting for the right pitch,” Roberts said. “I got one that was close earlier in the game. That was the one —I caught it and it came off the barrel nicely.”
Roberts is now 8 for 11 in the tournament and reached base in all four of his plate appearances Friday, finishing with two singles and a walk in addition to the home run. He credited Taylor for setting the Comets’ hitters at ease.
“He was throwing really nice; his curveball was on tonight,” Roberts said. “He was throwing hard, we all made plays and it made us a lot more relaxed when we were hitting.”
Taylor struck out eight and allowed just two hits.
“Coach was calling great spots for Brandon (Sensenich) to set up on,” Taylor said. “I was just hitting the spots.”