There’s no pressure coming in as a quarterback candidate on the defending Class AA state football champion, right?
No pressure being a candidate to fill the hightops of the state record holder for touchdowns, yardage, etc., right?
And there’s no pressure standing in with the bases loaded, extra innings, infield up and nobody out, right?
St. Leo’s Mac MacCafferty found himself in just such a position Tuesday night in the first game of a Midget Division quarterfinal doubleheader at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
The rising sophomore catcher stroked a bases-clearing single through the shortstop’s position and St. Leo’s defeated Donegal 11-6 in eight innings to advance to tonight’s semifinals of the 65th New Era Tournament.
St. Leo will play Hempfield Black in tonight’s second game, 20 minutes after the completion of the Manheim VFW-SWS Blue contest.
Hempfield Black (14-4-1) 10-runned defending champion Ephrata Pride, 13-3 in a game shortened to six innings by the 10-run rule, behind the five-hit pitching of Derek Totaro and an offense that banged out 14 hits.
St. Leo’s rally in extras capped an evening that saw St. Leo give back all of a 5-0 lead, fall behind 6-5, then claw back to tie the game.
“We started out real good, then just lost it in one inning,” MacCafferty said. “We battled back, got some big hits.”
“They’ve played like this all year, actually,” coach Chris Gibbons allowed. “They don’t know what quit means, which is what you have to do at this time of the year.”
Brian Haberstroh picked up the victory with 4 1/3 innings of relief behind starter Ian Bentley. Losing pitcher Adam Frey was touched for four hits and three walks as St. Leo batted around plus one in the eighth.
Haberstroh singled in the go-ahead run ahead of MacCafferty’s hit and survived a two-on, one-out rally by Donegal in the bottom of the eighth.
“We thought we could play with Donegal,” Gibbons said. “The first time we played them (a 3-1 loss in the league quarterfinals) was a good game.”
It started out like a great game for St. Leo, which stole two runs in the first inning on a wild pitch and a bases-loaded walk.
They increased their edge on Sean Gibbon’s RBI double in the second and MacCafferty’s RBI single in the fourth, along with an error.
With Bentley cruising on a one-hitter through three, things were going St. Leo’s way.
Donegal threw a wrench into that with a bat-around of its own in the bottom of the fourth, tying the game at 5-5.
Michael Houseal’s sacrifice fly opened the door for Justin Prescott’s bases-loaded walk, Dylan Houseal’s RBI single and Michael Robinson’s run-scoring groundout. The tying run came across on a wild pitch.
Donegal took the lead the next inning as Michael Houseal singled in Matt Kolp, but St. Leo tied it up in the sixth as Haberstroh tripled in Bentley.
And that’s how it stood when Jake Rider led off the top of the eighth with a single. Bentley and Gibbons both walked to load the bases. Haberstroh rifled his hit past the drawn-in infield, scoring pinch runner Jose Rodriguez and bringing MacCafferty to the plate.
Not only did Donegal have the infield up, Prescott at third base was playing tight to the line, holding the runner on.
One pressbox wag observed you could jackknife an 18-wheeler between short and third.
Not that MacCafferty was shooting for that gap.
“I just wanted to make up for what I did last time, when I struck out,” he said. “I had to do something.”
And he did.
“That last inning everybody contributed,” said Gibbons. “And that’s why this team is still playing.”
Leading the Hempfield hit parade was first baseman Nick Yarnall, who walked twice, singled and unloaded a monster three-run home run well over the canopy covering the right field picnic area.
Ephrata (8-8) plated three runs in their half of the third inning, on a sac fly from Tim Murray, Parke Martin’s RBI single and a pickoff error by Totaro.
Designated hitter Austin Young doubled in a pair of runs in the first inning for Black and Hempfield added four runs over the second and third innings as Ephrata’s wheels fell off defensively.
Yarnall’s blast made it a 10-3 game after four innings and RBI singles from Colton King and Austin Rice closed out the game.
Notes: MacCafferty quarterbacked the Catholic High freshmen to an undefeated season last fall. He will battle Sean Gibbons for the QB job. Gibbons got meaningful playing time when Kyle Smith was injured early last year.