Penn Manor eliminated from J-M chase in back-to-back losses
By Dave Byrne
For four days Dan Eshleman waited to get his pitch.
For four days the Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox waited to get back to where they once belonged.
Eshleman got what he wanted, insuring his Sox teammates got what they wanted, and SWS advanced to the championship round of the New Era Junior-Midget Tournament while eliminating the Penn Manor Comets, Sunday afternoon at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field.
Carrying a tournament-total 1 for 10 into a sixth-inning bases-loaded situation, Eshleman bashed a grand slam homer to left center, turning a 7-2 Sox advantage into an 11-2 final.
“It was about belt high,” said Eshleman, who gets the starting assignment tonight against Elizabethtown Navy. “I put a good swing on it and good things happened.
“We’re happy to be in the championship,” he added, acknowledging the tournament hasn’t gone quite as the Sox planned. “We’re looking for two more big wins.”
SWS will meet Elizabethtown Navy tonight at 7 at Kunkle, needing a victory to force a winner-take-all game Tuesday.
A victory tonight by Navy delivers E-town’s first NET J-M title.
E-town punched its ticket to the championship round with a 3-2 victory over the Comets earlier Sunday afternoon.
Logan Yohn hit his second of two RBI sac flies with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Santino Buonamici with the winning run.
The hangover from that loss carried over to the start of the SWS game for the Comets, who committed four first-inning errors, leading to three runs for the Sox (28-6) — two unearned.
“You lose a heartbreaker like that,” contemplated Comets’ coach Brian Snyder, ” … we just ran out of steam.”
Ben Rhoades (1 for 3, 2 runs) squeezed home a run in the second and plated another with a bases-loaded fielder’s choice in the fourth.
Then Devon Weiant delivered his second run of the afternoon with a ground out.
It was one of five runs SWS scored on an out, the fifth coming when Ben Sandberg scampered all the way from second on winning pitcher Garrett Groshong’s ground out to short.
“We make use of what the other team gives us,” said Groshong, SWS’s No. 3 starter who, given the task of keeping SWS on course to sweep the playback bracket, went 42-e innings allowing two runs — one earned.
After pitching out of a second-inning jam, he got stronger as he went, yielding to Bear Shank for the final seven outs.
“I just tried my hardest and pushed through,” said Groshong, who spotted his fastball along with curve and a knuckler he allowed was, “decent.”
Will Forrey singled in the first run for the Comets (14-9) in the second inning, an inning made easier by SWS’s second double play in as many innings.
Doinked on the helmet by Shank with the bases loaded in the fifth, Collin Whiteside forced home the Comets’ second run.
Whiteside got the ball in game one and gave himself a 2-0 lead, homering off the base of the scoreboard in the first inning.
The homer shattered the bulb that denoted the second out. Replacing that bulb blew out the first-out bulb, a situation that wasn’t rectified until after the game.
Whiteside kept Navy at bay through four innings, but E-town got a major lift when Justin Shelly gunned down Connor Bitts in the fifth as he tried to score on Nate Brown’s single to left.
“We get that, you never know,” Snyder sighed.
Buonamici drove Whiteside’s second pitch of the fifth over left field, halving the Comets’ advantage and Yohn, who struck out in his first two at-bats, delivered his first sac fly.
“I hate striking out,” he declared. “My dad came over, it’s kind of his thing to give me little speeches. He told me what I was doing wrong.”
When Whiteside walked Buonamici leading off the seventh, he was relieved by Austin Roberts.
Roberts got a strikeout, then induced Dillon Marsh to ground to second, for an error. Then Jeremy Newswanger was walked intentionally, bringing Yohn to the plate.
“It kind of pumped me up,” Yohn said. “But they should’ve walked him. ‘Noose’ is one of the clutchest kids.”
On this day, not as clutch as Yohn.