Monday, January 22, 2018
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Hempfield Handles Ephrata

Before battling Ephrata Friday in his first mound start this spring, Hempfield right-hander Andrew Corso acknowledged he battled some inner butterflies.

“It was nerve-wracking,” he said after going four solid innings and earning the win in a 9-4 final in sun-splashed Landisville. “Once I settled down I started throwing strikes.”

He estimated that was in the second inning, when he was already trailing 3-0 due to his throwing error that cleared the bases in the first.

The thing about Corso, and by extension these Black Knights, is their confidence that they’re never out of a game. It’s not false bravado. They’ve won nine of their last 10 and have rallied to beat L-L Section One rivals Penn Manor and Manheim Township, and now Section Two contender Ephrata.

The latter comeback completed a sweep this week of Section Two powers Garden Spot, Lampeter-Strasburg and Ephrata.

“We’re playing some very good teams,” Black Knight boss Jeremy Morrison said. “We’re encouraged by seeing how this team responds to a bad call, a miscue. We’ve been positive and moved on.”

Firing fastballs and breaking pitches Corso fanned five in four innings. A telling stat: He was ahead in the count against 15 of the 20 hitters he faced.

Corso not only delivered on the mound but at the plate as well. Batting .188 going in he singled and scored amid a game-turning six-run rally in the second and tripled home two runs in a three-run third.

“He has a great swing,” said Morrison. “It’s a matter of him having confidence in himself.”

Corso agreed.

“I feel like I’m starting to get into (a hitting grove) a little more,” the soft-spoken junior said. “I feel more confident.”

Ben Lukawski doubled in a run and Derek Manning and Grant Oberholtzer ripped run-scoring singles as Hempfield improved to 8-1 in the L-L and 10-2 overall.

Wyatt Miller and Alec Miller – no relation – combined to pitch scoreless ball the final three innings for the Knights.

“We saw a lot of arms today,” Mountaineers coach Adrian Shelley said. “They got hold of the lead and never looked back.”

It was something he had hoped to see from his Mounts (5-4, 7-4), who had won four of five and assumed a three-run lead in the first.

“Unfortunately there were six innings remaining,” Shelley added.

Senior right-hander Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish (2-1) started and absorbed his first loss this season.

“Credit to them, they made mistake pitches mistakes,” Shelley said of the Knights’ offense.

Hempfield banged out nine hits – one more than Ephrata – and did damage on two-strike counts.

“I’m sure he’d like to have that opportunity back,” Shelley said of Fogarty-Harnish.

Brandon Schwark had two hits and a run scored for Ephrata, and he and Nate Fassnacht each made a sterling defensive play from their positions at first base and shortstop, respectively.

Hempfield first baseman Reilly Workman had a web gem as well when he stretched to rob Justin Carvell of an infield hit to start the fifth.

The Mounts had added a run in the fourth and put runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh. Pitching and defense helped Hempfield hold Ephrata without a run in the late innings.

“It was tough,” Corso said of the gauntlet run by the Knights on Friday and throughout this week. “We just have to have the mentality to keep fighting.”

Be it against opponents or those inner butterflies.