Ephrata Pride, Bears Blue advance to semifinals

Tyler Clark throws for Bears.

By Dave Byrne
Sports Staff

Packing the equipment for their New Era Tournament Midget Division first-round matchup, the members of Bears Blue brought everything a team needed for a baseball game.

Bats? Check.

Gloves? Check.

Shaving cream for “pie” to prank teammate doing post-game interview after victory?

Check!

Dutifully making his way through a chat with a reporter, Andy Breault was ambushed with said cream pie (shaving cream in a towel).

Shaving cream in the eyes. Hurt so good.

Breault pitched three innings of no-hit relief and got the win as Bears Blue extinguished Comet Blue, 13-4, Sunday evening in the second game of a quarterfinal doubleheader at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

Earlier, the Ephrata Pride was stung momentarily but recovered to arrest the Ephrata Bandits, 15-5, in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule.

The Pride and Bears Blue will meet in the first game of a semifinal doubleheader, Tuesday night at the Clip. Game time is set for 5:15 p.m.

Bears Blue (14-3) broke open a close game with a four-run third inning and never let up, scoring seven unanswered runs over the next three innings.

A typical night?

“Really, it is,” noted Bears coach Herb Miller. “We’ve scored an average of ten runs a game. They hit the ball and they just keep coming.”

The Bears started the fourth inning with singles by Dalton Adams and Andy Good and a walk to Nate Miller to load the bases before Kirby Turner walked to force in a run.

After a forceout at home, Miller scored on a wild pitch by Comet starter Bryan Hess.

Then Brett Vuxta drove in a run on an infield out and, after a pitching change, Christian Becker singled in the fourth run of the inning.

The Bears added two in the fourth on a three-base error and an infield out, plus two in the fifth on Becker’s double and a comedy of errors on a sacrifice bunt by Breault.

“We were just aggressive on the bases,” said Breault. “Just taking advantage of their errors, and stuff.”

In fact, the Comets (11-6) had more errors (five) than runs, and some of the “stuff” included eight free passes to the bases from Comet pitching.

Two first-inning errors set the stage for what kind of night it would be for the Comets.

Andy Good walked and Tyler Good, running for Andy Good, reached third when shortstop Zach Rayha threw away Nate Miller’s fielder’s choice.

Tyler Good scored when Hess tried to pick off Miller at first, Miller taking third before scoring on Tyler Clark’s sac fly to left.

Comet Blue got those back on Tanner Kennedy’s RBI hit and an infield out by Tyler Beckley, and narrowed the deficit in the third on Bryan Hess’s bases-loaded walk and Cody Straub’s infield single.

Then the roof fell in.

“I feel like we gave it away. We got what we deserved tonight,” said Comet coach Tom Fish. “We just didn’t play well.”

By the time the dust settled, Miller had added another RBI on an infield out and Clark singled in a pair of runs to cap the outburst.

While all this was going on, Breault got the ball from Clark and proceeded to keep the Comets at bay.

“I was just pumped up and ready to pitch,” said Breault.

He wasn’t perfect, walking four, but he struck out three and got the big out when he needed it.

“The last couple games he’s been awesome,” said Herb Miller. “Two games ago he had a (five-inning) no-hitter. Last game he threw three innings and gave up one hit.”

The first game of the evening pitted Ephrata’s varsity — the Pride — against the Mounts’ jayvee — the Bandits (14-5).

And it was the Bandits — the first Community League team to make it to the New Era’s field of eight — that drew first blood.

After walking the Bandits’ Shawn Rutt with one out, winning pitcher Dustin Rutt watched his first offering to Matt Leaman leave the Clip on a line and in a hurry.

Leaman’s two-run blast went over the Sleepys sign in right field and through the retaining fence of the picnic area.

“I was happy for Matt, to be honest,” Pride manager Jason Franks said, feeling no mixed emotion at all.

“That was pretty cool. Looking at it from a team’s perspective, well, but it was good.”

It wasn’t the last highlight of the night for the Bandits, who got three in the fifth. Shawn Rutt tripled in two, then scored on an overthrow at third.

But in between those moments of pride, the Pride (15-2) laid a beat down.

Sparked by Tim Murray (2-for-3, 2 runs, 2 RBI), Branden Rutt (2-for-3, 2 runs, 2 RBI) and Evan Weaver (1-for-2, 3 runs, RBI), the Pride scored two in the first, one in the second and two in the third, then batted around to score five in the fourth inning.

Answering the Bandits’ rally, the Pride batted around once more in the fifth as Rutt knocked in a run and Madison Zimmerman ended the afternoon with a bases-loaded double to deep left.

Despite all that, Franks saw potential for improvement.

“I don’t think we played all that well,” observed the Pride’s boss. “We hit well, but our pitching just wasn’t where it’s been all year. We struggled (tonight).”

But it gets tougher from here, as both Franks and Miller will tell you.

Ehrata Pride’s Tim Murray dives safely into first as Bandits’ first baseman Shawn Rutt blocks the low throw.

Pride’s Dustin Rutt barely beats a throw to Bandits’ Matt Herbener.

Pride’s Parke Martin slides home.

Andy Breault watches his hit.

Pride’s Brooks Carr slides in safely with a steal.

Bears’ Tyler Good slides home safely.

Shawn Rutt throws for the Bandits.

Dustin Rutt delivers for the Pride.