Knockout punches: Safe Harbor outslugs Ephrata, Warwick decisions Reamstown

Pitcher, slugger Jarred Texter.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

As Safe Harbor’s Phil Texter stepped in to lead off the sixth inning, he got an encouraging word from coach Bruce Perry in the third base box.

“Lay off this stuff,” he said, showing the area to be disdained. “Get your pitch to hit and rip it.”

Texter fouled off a pitch and took ball one from the Ephrata Phillies’ Nick Clingan, then got his pitch. He redirected the sweet fastball to the gap in right and well over the fence for what would ultimately be the winning run as the Safe Harbor Lions (36-1) outlasted Ephrata, 11-10.

“When I saw it go over the fence, I was excited,” Texter said.

His excitement was shared by his teammates, who will move on to play the Warwick White Sox (25-4), who won the opening game of a New Era Tournament Junior-Midget quarterfinal doubleheader at Kunkle Field in Mt. Joy, narrowly decisioning Reamstown Black, 3-2.

Tuesday’s winners will comprise the second game of a semifinal doubleheader at Kunkle next Monday. Following the Strasburg/Willow Street Pioneers-Manheim Lions contest at 6:15 p.m., Warwick and Safe Harbor will meet at 8 p.m.

When Jarred Texter got Ryan Bramble for his 13th strikeout, and the last out of the game, you almost expected him to wander off the mound and shout, “Yo, Adrienne!”

For if there was ever a baseball game that was a heavyweight prizefight, this was it. One third of the games’ 17 total hits were the baseball equivalent of a knockdown — home runs.

Rocky, er, the Lions, held leads of 3-1, 4-1, 9-4, 10-4 and 10-9. None were safe. After an early 1-0 lead, the Phillies (23-10), battled to tie at 4-4 and 10-10, but could never get back in front.

Each time one team knocked the other down — metaphorically speaking — that team would pick itself off the canvas and land a haymaker of its own.

Speaking of owning… Ephrata’s Shaun Hagey owned the usually untouchable Texter on Tuesday night. The Phillies’ shortstop was 4-for-4 out of the leadoff spot with four RBIs and four runs scored. He pounded Texter’s fifth pitch of the game over the right field fence for a solo homer. He later cleared the wall in center for a 3-run shot in the third.

He ripped a single in the fifth to spark a five-run rally culminated by Matt Morris’ towering grand slam to center, and scored the Phillies’ last run of the game in the sixth. After grounding a two-out single, Hagey moved up on a passed ball and scored after a pair of errors.

“He swung the bat real well,” Texter observed. “He just saw the ball and hit it good.”

The Lions were dialing up a little Dr. Longball of their own. Jarred Texter quickly erased his first gopher ball to Hagey with a 3-run shot in the bottom of the first inning.

Dan Kauffman’s two-run blast, well out of Kunkle via left field, capped a five-run outburst in the third that broke a 4-4 tie and chased Philies’ starter Jason Franks.

Clingan relieved Franks and established there was a new sheriff in town, striking out Phil Texter to end the inning and getting the first two outs of the fourth on strikeouts.

He buried the next batter, Tyler Duschl, on a pair of called strikes, but Duschl lifted the next pitch to right, where it clanged off the glove of Chad Busser for a two-base error.

Duschl pulled into second lame, but had enough in his tank to take third on wild pitch and score on Kyle Caruthers’ infield hit off Clingan’s glove. That gave Harbor a 10-4 lead, but the significance of that run would not become apparent until Morris’ homer reduced the Lions’ comfort level.

“Tonight was a total team effort,” Jarred Texter said. “Whenever we needed a guy to get a hit or get on base, it happened.”     “My kids gave it their best, they showed a lot of heart,” said Phillies’ coach John Snyder. “We made a couple mistakes, and in a game like this, if you give a team like Safe Harbor too many outs, they’re going to hurt you.”

It’s not often a team can commit six errors — as Safe Harbor did in the nightcap — and come out on the winning side of the ledger. In the opener, Reamstown Black made that sad discovery, although for them, the unlucky number was four.

Sportswriters love to quote Donegal coaching legend Al Brooks whenever a team plays kick-the-can on defense. Brooks was fond of observing that — more often than not — baseball games are lost rather than won.

To take nothing away from Warwick, Reamstown (28-2) lost this game. They lost it in the third inning when four errors allowed the White Sox to push across two unearned runs.

And they lost it in the sixth inning when they had a runner doubled off third base on a liner to short with nobody out. The next two hitters followed with singles, scoring one run.

“That line drive killed us,” said Black coach Ken Rathman. “That was our inning. We were ready to go. Two throwing errors took us out of the game. If that pickoff play would’ve worked, it could’ve been a different ball game.”

The Sox Evan Scheffey led off the third inning and couldn’t dance out of the way of a low offering from left-hander Mike Brown.

Brown, who deserved a better fate, allowed three hits, struck out 11 and walked two and demonstrated he had a better than average pickoff move to first.

He caught Scheffey flatfooted, but overthrew firstbaseman Dave Kershner. Right fielder Ralph Kreider backed the play and, trying to get Scheffey at second, threw the ball into the left-field corner, allowing Scheffey to score.

When the dust settled, winning pitcher Tyler Garner hit a ball that eluded both shortstop Shane Martin and left fielder Cory Zimmerman. Garner took third on a groundout, then scored on a wild pitch to give Warwick a 3-1 lead.

It stayed that way until the sixth, when Martin knocked a double to left and was balked to third. Todd Carvell hit a trolley-wire that Chris Ciccarone snared at short. Ciccarone squeezed the ball and quickly tossed to Rich Berkey at third to double off Martin.

Kershner then singled and Adam Dundore singled sharply to right to drive in Kershner, but Garner got Brown on a grounder to first to end the game.

“They got the breaks, but they played a good game,” Rathman said. “I won’t take anything away from that team.”

“You win and lose ballgames on defense,” said Sox coach Larry Wagner. “Fortunately, we were on the receiving end of those two runs. (Brown) pitched good enough to win.”

NOTES: Warwick and Reamstown traded solo homers in the early going. Ralph Kreider led off Reamstown’s third with a blast a half-inning after the White Sox Steve Sellner stroked one under bizzare circumstances.

Due to a lineup snafu, Mike Esseff came out to bat in the second inning where Sellner should’ve hit. Esseff took a ball before the mistake was discovered, was removed and Sellner substituted in his proper place.

Sellner drilled the first pitch he saw out of the park to right-center, sparking a rhubarb. While umpires and coaches tried to sort things out, Esseff offered a classic non-sequitur when, by way of explanation, said, “I’ve been on vacation.”

While they are teammates, Phil and Jarred Texter are no relation to each other. Jarred is a cousin to Kyle Texter, who pitches for the Penn Manor High School and Legion team. Jack Texter, Kyle’s father and coach of NET Midget semifinalist Comet Blue, is Jarred’s uncle…. This was the fourth meeting this year between the Philles and Harbor. All have been won by the Lions, but after taking a 10-run verdict in the Mountville Tournament , the Lions have claimed one-run wins, 5-4, 8-7, and now 11-10.

Warwick’s Tyler Garner beats Mike Brown’s tag.

Safe Harbor’s Jared Texter is all smiles after his 3-run homer.