New Era Correspondent
Coming out of his third at-bat of the night, Nick Zito thought he detected a pattern in the way Hempfield Black’s John Brubaker was pitching to him.
“I struck out, (but) I saw that the first pitch was coming low and it was always a curveball,” Zito said.
So when he came to the plate in the top of the sixth inning – with he and his Donegal teammates trailing by a run, but with runners at second and third with one out – Zito was locked in.
He got what he was looking for, turned on it and scalded it into the right-field corner for a two-run triple that sent Donegal to a 7-6 victory.
The win, in the second game of a quarterfinal doubleheader Wednesday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium, advances Donegal (13-4) to Monday’s New Era Tournament semifinals.
Donegal will return to the Clip to play Manheim VFW, a 9-6 winner over Lancaster Mennonite in Wednesday’s first game. The first pitch Monday is scheduled for 5:15 p.m.
“I needed to come up big there,” Zito said. “I saw it go right past first base and I knew it was slick back there (in the right-field bullpen), so I knew I was going to get at least a double.”
Zito never stopped as he rounded second and flopped headfirst into third without a throw.
From his vantage point in the third base coaches’ box, Donegal coach Ryan Hamilton couldn’t tell what happened.
“My initial thought was it was foul,” he said, “and we’re (still) down two runs. That’s just the way things are going for us.”
Hempfield (14-5) changed pitchers following the hit, and Hamilton rolled the dice with designated hitter Nick Herbert. Herbert worked a 2-1 count on reliever Mike Schusko and Hamilton put on the suicide squeeze.
Schusko threw a high-and-away pitch and Herbert bunted at it, lining it towards Ream, who was charging from first. Ream made a great diving catch, got up and out-raced Zito back to third base for an unassisted double play.
Hamilton feared Hempfield would ride the momentum swing of that play, but winning pitcher
Taylor Rettew set Black down in order for the last six outs, triggering the celebration.
“We got 10-runned by them last time, 10-0, at the Manheim Tournament,” said Herbert, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, falling a home run short of the cycle.
“I don’t want to say it’s the biggest win for Donegal at this level,” Hamilton offered. “We won the New Era a couple years ago. But we were supposed to then.”
Donegal jumped on Ream, Black’s starting pitcher, with a walk and two straight hits in the first inning. The second hit was a two-run double that Herbert pulled into the left-field bullpen.
After Zito was hit by a pitch to start the third inning, Herbert tripled over Derek Dornes’ head in left field, chasing Ream from the mound.
“I think he shut out our varsity baseball team, so I was pretty surprised that we hit him that good,” said Herbert, who then scored on Nate Witwer’s groundout to short.
But before Donegal could get comfortable with its 5-0 lead, Hempfield roared to life. Held to one hit over the first three innings by Darryn Giberson, Black exploded for six runs on six hits in the fourth inning, knocking Giberson out of the game.
Jon Moser singled home the first run and Mark Merrifield’s infield single to short brought in the second.
Aaron Moul doubled to the warning track in left-center field, plating two, then chugged home from second on Bill Pennington’s single up the middle.
The throw from T.J. Houseal to catcher Nate Witwer beat Moul, but he accidentally spiked Witwer on his wrist, causing Witwer to drop the ball.
After Witwer’s wound was treated, play resumed and Brubaker tripled to right center, scoring Pennington with the go-ahead run.
“Those six runs are on me,” said Hamilton, taking responsibility for not coming to get Giberson sooner. “He ran out of gas. He’s a 16-year old kid playing at Clipper. He’s not going to say, ‘I’m done.’ No one is.”
Rettew took over to start the fifth inning and retired nine of 10, allowing only Moser’s infield single.