BY DAVE BYRNE
The LNP Tournament can often turn history on its ear, upsetting the assumed order of things.
Such was the case Friday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field, as one night after ousting No. 2-seeded Lititz VFW, E-town Navy eliminated the top-seeded Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox with a resounding 9-1 victory.
Cole Patrick pitched a gem for the win, holding the Sox (20-3) to a run on five hits in six innings’ work. He walked two and struck out five.
“My curveball was working, my fastball,” Patrick said, “and I just got good location on my pitches.”
“He was very much in charge, and we needed him to be,” said Navy coach Tim Livingston. “We were down to, basically, him and then we were going to be one pitcher an inning. That was all we had left at that point.”
It never got to that point as Patrick avoided the pitch-count bugaboo, needing just 93 to get his six innings in. He had just two 20-pitch innings of the six.
“We told him to stay down in the zone and get them to hit pitches early in the count,” Livingston said.
“If you get the ball ‘up’ here, all four of these teams have the ability to hit the ball out of the park.”
Ironically, with seven homers between them for the tournament, neither team went yard Friday. But, 24 hours after banging out 15 hits, Navy (17-6) kept at it, mounting a 13-hit attack.
“Our team’s coming on right now and everybody’s hitting the crap out of the ball,” said Patrick, appreciating the support.
“It’s picked up well,” Livingston said. “Our guys are going up there with a much better approach than they did the first game (a five-hit effort).”
E-town, the No. 4 seed, reached Sox starter Connor Blantz for a pair of runs in the third inning. With one out, Cole Livingston (2 for 4) went first-to-third on Justin Gibble’s single, Gibble taking second on the throw.
Nick Kreider hit a grounder to third baseman Patrick Holmes, who threw home, but catcher Dylan Byler dropped the ball, allowing Livingston to score. Hunter Murry (3 for 5) then singled in Gibble.
In the bottom of the inning Patrick pitched out of his biggest jam, second-and-third with no outs, by striking out Austin Lauver and Derek Eckman and retiring Holmes on a sharp liner to left.
After Navy posted five runs in the fifth, they added a pair in the sixth to stretch their advantage to 9-1.
The Sox broke Patrick’s shutout in the bottom of the fifth on Eckman’s RBI double.
Turning point: Navy’s five-run fifth opened when Blantz hit Nick Kreider. With one out, Murry singled and Patrick singled to shallow center, loading the bases. Could’ve easily been first-and-third with two out, but Lauver failed to cover second for what should’ve been a forceout. Devyn Clair drew an RBI walk, Tre Sharpe singled in a run and Evan Schneider walked to plate the third run of the inning. Livingston hit an RBI forceout and Sharpe stole home on the back end of a double steal.
Star of the game: Patrick. Also, second baseman Evan Schneider, who made five good plays in the field including knocking down Joseph Meck’s seventh-inning ground ball and throwing him out from his knees.
Key statistic: SWS beat up on E-town in the regular season, 15-1, and opened the LNP tourney with a 5-2 victory Wednesday night. None of that mattered Friday.
Quotable: “We had a good season,” said Sox coach Cliff Blantz. “We just didn’t make the plays when we needed to make the plays. We had strong defense all year, we gave up the fewest amount of runs (29). This was one third of the runs we gave up all year.”