Jacoby leads baseball team to 6-4 victory as it works to re-enter playoff picture
On crisp, cool Friday nights at the Pioneer sports complex, Bear Shank hits things. Usually, it's open receivers, but in this case, football coach John Manion was sitting in the press box as a volunteer scorekeeper. Instead, Shank broke out of an epic slump by hitting a hard single to right field to drive in two runs and give L-S a lead to start the game.
|Bear Shank broke out of his slump with a first inning two-RBI single|
After the first inning, the Pioneers had opened a 3-0 lead that one could have mistaken for an offensive explosion given the team's anemic bats of late. Now on a two-game winning streak that succeeds a stretch where the team lost seven of eight and averaged just 2.5 runs per game, the team has gained some much needed momentum entering the home stretch of the season.
Meanwhile, the team is developing some new pitchers.
Todd Shelley got the start for the Pioneers and threw the first 3⅓ innings during which he scattered three runs. He got into a jam in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and no outs; he struck out the Spartans' nine-hole hitter before surrendering a two-run single. Then, coach Keith Martin made a call to the bullpen.
Enter: Aaron Jacoby, a left-handed sophomore with no varsity experience, but a supreme desire to succeed. It showed.
He struck out the remaining two batters in the inning to preserve the tie.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Pioneer offense struck back by batting around.
|Game box score generated via Scorefinger|
Chase Nelle launched his second of three hits to the outfield and after Garrett Groshong walked, Andrew Hay laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move two runners into scoring position that scored when Kris Pirozzi hit a single to left field. Later in the inning, Colin Eckman, who emerged from a slump of his own with a three-for-three performance, hit a single through the hole to score another run and give the Pioneers a 6-3 lead.
Jacoby returned to the hill and struck out two more in the fifth before striking out the side in the sixth all without surrendering a run to close his line by throwing 2⅔ innings with seven strikeouts.
Kris Pirozzi entered in the seventh inning to close out the save, and although he allowed a run, he retired the side when Bear Shank snared a humpback line drive to end the game, giving the Pioneers a 6-4 victory.
The offense's breakout was important, but it was Jacoby's night.
"I was told yesterday (that he would pitch in today's game)," he says.
Of course, he probably would have envisioned entering his first varsity game under different circumstances, certainly not with two men on base and a tie game, but he gained some valuable experience.
"I was extremely pumped with adrenaline," he says of his first start. "I learned you've got to hit your spots and not just throw hard."
Now 7-9, the Pioneers travel to Ephrata and Conestoga Valley next week before returning home to face Solanco for senior night and a rescheduled fundraiser for the A Week Away Foundation that was postponed due to inclement weather.
The team continues to work to muster its way back into the District Three playoff picture.
--Benjamin Pontz, LSNews.org Editor-In-Chief