Pioneers Defeat Eagles, Advance to League Semifinals
On Saturday morning, the baseball team took on the Cocalico Eagles in an L-L League quarterfinal matchup. The Pioneers entered the game with a 15-5 record, ending the regular season on a 7-game win streak. The Eagles qualified for the playoffs as the Section 3 runner-up, with a 13-3-1 record prior to the game. The two teams were somewhat familiar with each other, as the Pioneers hosted the Eagles for a scrimmage prior to the start of the regular season. The game was going to be a battle of the aces, with Caleb Guyer and Tristan Current starting on the hill for their respective teams.
The Pioneers scored two runs in the first inning to start the game off. A single from Gio Malatesta plated Braedon Karpathios, who had doubled earlier in the inning. With two outs in the frame, Isaiah Parido was able to beat out a ground ball hit to shortstop Gerald DeBalko to score Jake Long. From there, the game stalled as both pitchers found their groove.
The Eagles finally found their way onto the scoreboard in the 6th inning when Caleb Sturtevant crushed a fastball from Guyer over the left-field fence for a two-run home-run, tying the game up. Later on in the inning, the Eagles had runners on the corners with 2 outs. The Eagles aggressively stole early from first base, with the hope of distracting the Pioneers for long enough to score the runner on third base. The Pioneers weren't fooled, as Owen Fikkert fired the ball to home plate where Andrew Whitehead swiftly applied the tag to record the 3rd out.
The deadlock didn't last for long. In the bottom half of the inning, singles from Alex Knapp and Karpathios along with an intentional walk to Jake Long loaded the bases up with no outs. After a strikeout, Owen Fikkert lined a single into center-field to score Knapp and regain the lead. Long would later sprint home on a wild pitch to extend the lead to two.
The top of the 7th inning brought a familiar sight for the Pioneers. Gehrig Harsh, nicknamed "The Sheriff" by coaches and teammates, entered the game in relief. It was 7th time on the season Harsh had been used in a relief role. With one out in the inning, Joshua Hostetter weakly hit a fly-ball to right field, which was caught by Jake Long. However, the runner on first base misread the ball and was halfway to second base. Excited by the chance to end the game, Long made an errant throw and the Eagles stayed alive. An error on the next play gave the Eagles two runners on with Caleb Sturtevant at the plate, the same hitter who crushed a home run in his previous at-bat. The danger came out to nothing, as Sturtevant grounded out to the second baseman to end the game. The Pioneers won 4-2.
The Pioneers advance to the L-L League semifinals, where they will face Section 4 champion Lancaster Catholic. The Crusaders defeated Warwick 4-2 to advance to the semifinals. The game will be played Tuesday afternoon at Ephrata's War Memorial Field. The winner of that matchup will face the winner of Manheim Central/Manheim Township in the title game on Thursday. The Eagles will receive a week of rest prior to the district playoffs, where they are currently seeded 4th.
By Logan Moyer, LS News reporter