SWS and Ephrata open with wins

SWS pitcher Chris Shehan.

By Kevin M. Benedict
New Era Staff Writer

Like The Hulk on a liberal dose of angst, Chris Shehan only got stronger.

The Strasburg/Willow Street Storm pitcher struck out the Comet Blue side in the top of the seventh inning to safeguard an offensive outpouring from his teammates and a stellar performance of his own Thursday evening.

A three-run burst in the sixth inning helped secure a 4-2 SWS win at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field in the second of two midget quarterfinals in the New Era Tournament.

Ephrata Pride trounced Maytown/Marietta Gray 12-1 in the first game.

Following the SWS win, Shehan pointed to the effectiveness of his off-speed pitches, but in seven innings of solid pitching, it seemed like everything was clicking.

“It was mostly drama, especially after we got the lead,” Shehan said, deflecting credit to teammates Charlie Haley, Chris Pratt and Dominic Lombardo.

With one out in the top of the sixth and his team down by a run, Lombardo singled, then stole second with Haley at the plate. Haley then drove Lombardo in with a single of his own, notching his second of two RBIs for the night. With the score tied at 2, Mark Zubrick followed with a double, putting players on second and third.

Pratt stepped up to the plate, got behind in the count on a failed bunt attempt, then lofted a ball to center field. Haley tagged up and raced home from third, surging ahead of the throw from Comet centerfielder Kyle Caruthers to put SWS ahead 3-2.

“We’re just trying to get him to swing the bat,” coach Gerry Shehan said of the decision to let Pratt take a whack at it, “because when he does, he can hit the ball.”

Following Pratt’s sacrifice, a single from Jeff Bianchi allowed Zubrick to cross home plate, ending the scoring. A Shehan strikeout ended the inning, but the damage had been done.

“The team kept rallying around each other,” said Haley, who led the team in batting, going 3-for-3. “When guys went up to the plate, there were guys there picking them up.”

And when Comet batters marched to the plate, Shehan bolstered the defense by fanning nine, seven of them in the final three innings.

“He’s just getting stronger, just by throwing,” said coach Shehan, who is Chris’ father.

Shehan pitched a nine-inning game last weekend and is still building endurance for longer games, Shehan’s dad said. Thursday night when Comet reliever Sheldon Witmer faded, Shehan blazed ahead.

Shehan, noted teammate Tyler Gansner, was given a well-deserved game ball at the end of his stellar performance.

By having a respectable outing of his own, Ephrata’s Jeff Oberholtzer got his wish. The Pride will face SWS in Monday’s semifinal, with a chance to avenge last year’s semifinal loss against the Storm.

Ephrata jumped to an early lead in the bottom of the first, scoring seven runs with the help of three beaned batters and one walk. The barrage apparently left May-town/Marietta deflated, because it failed to score again.

With heavy hitting and solid pitching, Ephrata cruised to victory with relative ease. The game was called after the top of the fifth inning in accordance with the 10-run rule.

“My curve ball was a little shaky,” Oberholtzer said of Thursday’s performance, “but it came around when it needed to.”

“He persevered,” Ephrata coach Craig Kliewer said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but when he needed to, he came in with his strikes.”

Maytown/Marietta coach Andy Lloyd said he’s also seen better pitching. His concern centered on the team’s poor batting.

“We weren’t swinging tonight,” Lloyd said.

When they did, it wasn’t at good stuff. If Maytown had brought it’s “A-game” it might have been a different story, Lloyd said.

“These guys just came ready to play,” he said of Ephrata.

Ephrata pitcher Jeff Oberholtzer.

Ephrata’s Derek Sipe scores ahead of the tag from Maytown/Marietta’s Ryan Hershey.

Ephrata’s Derek Sipe tags out Ryan Hershey.

Ryan Visneski of SWS gets around the tag by Comet’s Sheldon Witmer.

Comet pitcher Sheldon Witmer.

Penn Manor pitcher Joshua Squatrito.

Maytown/Marietta pitcher Ryan Hershey.

SWS’s Mark Zurbrick and Dominic Lombardo have something to celebrate.

Ryan Eshleman and Joshua Squatrito of Comet share a high-five.

Ephrata’s Zach Harbold eludes the tag of Maytown/Marietta’s Jordy Valle.

Ephrata coach Craig Kliewer and team prepare strategy.