Baseball is a game of redemption and second chances.
Which, for St. Leo’s catcher Tyler Peters, is a very good thing.
A half-inning after committing an error that allowed Garden Spot to tie the game, Peters stroked a grand slam home run, driving the Lions to a 9-5 victory Wednesday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
The win, coming in the second game of an opening-round Lancaster Newspapers New Era Tournament Junior-Midget doubleheader, propelled St. Leo into tonight’s winners bracket semifinal opposite the Penn Manor Comets.
The Comets rode a seven-run outburst to a 7-4 victory over Lititz VFW in Wednesday’s first game.
Lititz and Garden Spot will play in a 5:30 p.m. elimination game. St. Leo and Penn Manor follow, 20 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
St. Leo (21-5) opened a 3-1 lead on Mitch Eck’s first-inning RBI ground out and Dillon Marsh’s two-run homer to dead center in the third.
Garden Spot (17-4) pecked away on Seth Thomas’ sac fly in the first and Brock Kauffman’s solo homer in the third and had one on with two out in the fourth when Freddie Urena hit a ground ball to third.
R.J. Vantash’s throw to first was in the dirt and Ryan Smith kept coming from second as Urena crossed first.
First baseman Brendan Knarr’s throw was more than in time and Smith was out.
Except, Peters failed to secure the ball, which trickled away as Smith covered the plate with his body.
“I took my hand off the glove,” he said. “I wasn’t really focused on it.”
Pitching behind Kauffman, who started, Seth Thomas hit Kenny Huhn and Bryan Downey with pitches and, with one out, intentionally walked Marsh.
Focused, for sure, Peters stepped in and, down 1-2 in the count, pulled his slam tight down the left-field line.
“He jammed me inside with a curveball,” Peters said. “It started tailing at the end. I was hoping it would stay fair, and it did. I got enough on it to get it out.” That gave the Lions a 7-3 lead and while the Spot scored on Zach Skinner’s RBI single in the fifth and Conner Finkey’s RBI hit in the sixth, St. Leo put the game away with a pair of unearned runs in their half of the sixth.
In the opener, the top-seeded Comets (28-4) batted around plus one in the second, scoring seven runs.
Just one run in the inning — Dalton Landis’ home run — was earned as Lititz (24-4) committed six of the seven errors VFW was charged with in that bloody inning.
Landis’ two-run shot opened the gates and the Comets added Austin Roberts’ RBI single and Grant Gale’s two-run single.
“As soon as he threw me a belt-high fastball, I knew I was going to turn on it and get, at least, a decent hit,” said Landis, who picked up the win in relief of Roberts. “It went a little further than I thought.
“It really got our energy level up,” he added.
Energy level or no, the Comets would not score again as relievers Ethan Norman and Ethan Price shut down the Comets on one hit and four walks.
VFW got on the board in the fourth inning on Norman’s RBI single and Nate Hess’ sac fly, picked up an unearned run in the fifth, then closed out on Zach Peters’ RBI groundout.