Comets’ Herr outduels White Sox’s Eshleman for 3-1 victory
By Dave Byrne
Back in their heyday, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton went mano-a-mano in some classic pitching duels worthy of their Hall-of-Fame pedigrees.
Most of which went Seaver’s way, through no fault of Carlton.
For five innings Thursday night, Strasburg-Willow Street’s Dan Eshleman and Penn Manor’s Jacob Herr wakened the echoes of those bygone days.
Eshleman threw 5 2-3 innings of no-hit baseball.
Herr threw six. And was three outs away from losing the game.
Connor Bitts’ eighth-inning RBI squeeze bunt scored the game-winner and Justin Henson added an RBI ground out to lead the Penn Manor Comets to a 3-1, extra-inning victory over the Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox in the opening game of the New Era Tournament’s Junior-Midget Division.
Thursday’s second game, Lititz VFW vs. Elizabethtown Navy, was suspended by weather with two out in the top of the first inning.
That game will be completed — weather permitting — tonight at 7. It will be the only game of the day.
Assuming the completion of tonight’s game, there will be three games Saturday.
SWS will play the Lititz-E-town loser at 10 a.m. Penn Manor will play the Lititz-E-town winner at 1 p.m.
The winner of the 10 a.m. game plays the loser of the 1 p.m. contest at 4 p.m., with the tournament back on schedule for a Monday night title tilt.
If tonight’s game falls victim to inclement weather, then Lititz and E-town will play at 2 p.m. Saturday while SWS will play the Lititz-E-town loser at 5 p.m.
On Sunday, Penn Manor will play the Lititz-E-town winner at 2 p.m. At 5 p.m., the remaining teams in the playback bracket will face off in an elimination game.
Back to Thursday.
Herr went the distance, finishing with a two-hitter. He walked six — and threw four wild pitches — but struck out 12 to nail down the ninth win in the last 10 games for the Comets (14-7).
“We’ve really been playing well the last couple of games,” the rising freshman shared. “The pitching has been very good.”
No-hitter or no, he wasn’t sure victory was in the cards.
“That went through my mind a couple times,” he said.
The Sox (26-6) grabbed a 1-0 lead in their half of the fifth inning as Bear Shank walked, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch.
The Comets’ Andrew Hoke got the first hit of the game, singling with two out in the top of the sixth. He was promptly erased trying to steal second.
Nate Brown, who had a 3-0 count when Hoke was retired, led off the seventh with a double and took third on a one-out wild pitch.
He scored the tying run when Collin Whiteside pulled a sharp single past third-baseman Colin Eckman.
Whiteside took third on a pair of wild pitches as Herr worked a walk. Grant Gale appeared to have given the Comets the lead as he lifted a fly ball to right field.
As Garrett Groshong settled under ball, Whiteside tagged and scored.
Straying far off first, Herr was tagged out on a heads up throw from catcher Devon Weiant to Chase Nelle at first.
It was ruled on the field that a double play had been executed and Whiteside’s run did not count.
(Actually, it was, in fact, not a force out and the run should have counted.)
But at the time, Herr, was mentally kicking himself.
“I wasn’t too happy about that,” he said.
He was happier pitching out of a two-on, one-out jam in the bottom of the seventh, then watched his teammates win the game for him in the top of the inning.
Eric Snyder walked to lead off the inning and Will Forrey reached on a two-base error.
Shank relieved Eshleman, who finished with three hits allowed, four walks and 10 strikeouts.
Bitts took a strike from Shank, then dropped a squeeze bunt up the first base line as Snyder pounded home.
Forrey pulled into third and Bitts claimed first as Nelle missed the bag. Henson grounded the first pitch to second-baseman Caleb Danehower, scoring Forrey.
Herr was not out of the woods. Ben Sandberg forced Eckman — who had singled with one out — but Herr walked Groshong, then wild-pitched both runners up a base.
He went 3-0 to Danehower, then busted two strikes on the inside corner. Danehower fouled off Herr’s first full-count offering, but never caught up to the next one. Strikeout. Game.