BY DAVE BYRNE
With a little adjustment, Matt McGillan battled through adversity while his offense ran the gamut. Likewise, Alec Miller overcame early unpleasantness and finished strong.
McGillan and Miller pitched their respective teams, Ephrata Pride and Hempfield Black, into the semifinals of the LNP Midget Tournament on Thursday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
Ephrata used two big innings, a five-run fourth and six-run sixth, to defeat Bears Blue 12-6 in the nightcap of Thursday’s contests.
Earlier, Hempfield chipped away at a 2-0 deficit and bested St. Leo 5-2.
Pride and Black will meet Friday night in the second game of a scheduled doubleheader, 20 minutes after the conclusion of the SWS-Garden Spot opener.
McGillan fell behind 5-0 after two innings as Blue reached him for six hits and two walks.
“It was a little rocky start,” McGillan admitted. “I was able to settle down after we got the lead.”
Settling was a process of adjustment as McGillan and catcher Justin Carvell went away from what wasn’t working, working the outer edge of the plate, to an inside-oriented attack.
“We weren’t getting anything outside,” McGillan said. “We tried (inside) and got a couple calls.”
Meanwhile, Bears starter Nick Stoner took a two-hitter into the fourth inning. There Pride struck for four hits which, if laid end-to-end, would not have made up one good single.
Evan Frees walked, Dillon Good reached on an infield single, Adam Schwartz slapped a hit past first to load the bases and McGillan walked to force a run home.
Nate Fassnacht reached on an RBI infield hit, Nick Auker plated a run on an infield out and Carvell drove in another on yet another infield safety. Fassnacht scoring on an error on the play.
“It’s all about small ball,” said McGillan, who ended up with two RBIs on bases-loaded walks. “Whatever you can get is what you get.”
What they got was a 5-5 tie, but Pride was far from through.
With Logan Yohn on the mound for Blue, Fassnacht tripled to open the sixth inning and, with one out, Carvell hit a fly ball to right that Braydon Clair misplayed for a three-base error. Jeremy Sabathne relieved Yohn, but found no relief, airmailing Frees’ sacrifice bunt. After intentionally walking Good to load the bases, Sabathne walked three batters in a row before Auker singled in the sixth run of the inning.
Good’s RBI triple made it a 12-5 game in the seventh inning and McGillan allowed an RBI groundout to Jeremy Newswanger before closing out the win.
In the first game, St. Leo posted a pair of second-inning runs on Bryan Downey’s RBI groundout and Mitch Eck’s single, giving starter Henry Womble the lead.
He gave it back in the third as Tim Gailor scored on a wild pitch and Greg Gambler singled in Jon Peterson.
Bayley Jamanis replaced Womble to begin the fourth inning and Black greeted him with a Reilly Workman single and Jeremy Noel’s RBI double.
Meanwhile, Miller found his groove, eventually retiring 11 in a row and, with a 3-2 lead, Black gave him breathing room.
“After those first two innings, I settled down,” he said. “(My) fastball was good and the changeup came around. Then I threw a splitter in the later innings and got a couple strikeouts with that.”
Jamanis walked Jon Peterson to open the fifth inning and Andrew Corso reached on an error on a fielder’s choice. With runners on second and third, Jamanis got the next two batters on a strikeout and a grounder to third with the infield up.
Able to see his way out of trouble, Jamanis got a strike on Workman. Then Workman struck.
“I’d faced him before,” Workman said, “and I knew he had a pretty good breaking ball. I was just trying to sit back and see it up and drive it.”
He saw it up in spades, ripping a hanger to deep center for a two-run double and a 5-2 lead. “I was just trying to get the job done, trying to advance the runners,” he allowed.
He advanced all right — advanced Hempfield to the semifinals.