BY DAVE BYRNE
Two swings of the bat turned Donegal’s Dawson Magar from a losing pitcher to the winning pitcher.
So, you say. Not that unusual.
Except, Magar left the game on the hook for the loss with two outs in the first inning.
He positioned himself for the win when he re-entered the game and got the final two outs of the top of the seventh.
Then Kyle Hess and Richard Velez completed the circle — Hess with a solo home run leading off the bottom of the seventh that tied the game, Velez with a single off the fence in right that plated Dale Houser from third with the game-winner.
Donegal 4, Lititz VFW 3: game, set and match for the LNP Tournament Junior-Midget championship.
It was the second come-from-behind-and-walk-off victory of the tournament for Donegal (47-11), a team not entirely familiar with the necessity of pulling a rabbit from the hat.
“All season, we’ve scored a lot of runs,” Donegal coach Jackson Edwards said. “We’re used to getting up on teams, and we’ve played a lot of good teams.
“We didn’t hit the way we wanted (tonight),” he continued, “but we’re not a one-dimensional team.”
Coming off a loss Friday against Donegal, where he lasted two innings and allowed three earned runs, VFW’s Patrick Quinn cranked up a beauty Monday night.
He carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and left the game with a 3-2 lead with two out in the sixth inning.
“You’ve got to give (Quinn) credit,” said Edwards. “He located his pitches, and he kept everything down.”
“He pitched a heck of a game,” said VFW coach Dana Clark. “He had his good stuff tonight and he held them in check.”
Justin Byler relieved Quinn and got the final out of the sixth, but ran into trouble in the home seventh.
Hess, whose double in the fifth snapped an 0 for 7 for the tournament, deposited Byler’s first pitch of the seventh over the fence in dead center, tying the game at 3-3.
Byler got Seiler Edwards on a groundout, yielded a single to Houser and yielded the ball to reliever Reed Martin.
Martin retired Brady Steinmann on strikes, looking, on a big curveball, but walked Kobe Bistline on a wild pitch ball four, with Houser, who had stolen second, moving to third.
Martin got ahead of Velez 0-2. Then, expecting a curve, Velez got a fastball. He smashed it off the fence in right, nearly clearing the fence, and Houser trotted home.
“He threw me fast,” Velez said. “I swung, and I saw it go.”
Magar was wild with his breaking stuff in the first inning, walking two and hitting two others.
A double play saved Magar from big trouble in the inning. After a 48-minute rain delay Houser came on in relief of Magar and walked Evan Clark, forcing in the first run of the game.
Clark increased VFW’s advantage with a solo homer out to right in the third inning — his third round-tripper of the tournament.
Donegal got a run back on Magar’s RBI hit in the fourth, but Lititz (27-14-1) answered on Byler’s RBI groundout in the fifth.
But by then VFW had stranded nine baserunners — they would finish with 14 LOB.
“Some small plays we didn’t execute,” Clark said. “We left too many men on base and, as it always does, seemed to get us.”
“We dodged a lot of bullets there,” Edwards said. “But, hey, we made a lot of good defensive plays to get ourselves out of jams.”
Back-to-back doubles from Hess and Edwards made it a 3-2 game, and VFW right fielder Nick Fucci kept it there, gunning down Steinmann at first base for the final out of the inning as Edwards tried to score the equalizer.
That seemed to deflate Donegal, along with the positive momentum for VFW, and it looked like the two teams were headed for a winner-take-all tonight.
Velez, and his teammates had other ideas.
“The bottom line is, we got it done in the end,” Edwards said.
“This same core group of kids have been together since 10U. They’ve been close a couple of times and it finally happened for us.”