Monday, January 22, 2018
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Fassnacht fuels Mounts past Pioneers

Six hit batsmen. Five errors.

Wednesday’s wind-whipped L-L Section Two matchup between reigning league champion Ephrata and defending section king Lampeter-Strasburg was anything but your typical game between two of the area’s top teams.

But the early-season showdown was typical of these perennial powers in at least one respect.

“We asked our guys at the beginning of the game to compete from the first pitch to the last pitch,” Pioneers skipper Keith Martin said. “And they did that.”

So, too, did the Mountaineers.

Nate Fassnacht slammed a three-run home run through 22 mile per hour gusts that dropped the wind chill temperature to 41 degrees, and Adam Schwartz worked three innings in relief for the win in a 9-6 final at L-S.

“We’re glad to get that first section win against them,” said Fassnacht, who closed out the victory with strong relief in the seventh.

Fassnacht got Ephrata (2-0 L-L, 3-1 overall) going in the first inning. Drawing a leadoff walk from Kris Pirozzi, Fassnacht stole second, went to third on Chase Weik’s shallow single and scored on Justin Carvell’s double-play grounder.

The bottom of the Mounts’ order ignited a two-run rally in the third. Mitchel Storb singled, Nick Auker reached on a fielder’s choice and raced home on an outfield error on Fassnacht’s drive. Fassnacht made it 3-0 when he scored on L-S’s second error in the inning.

The Pioneers (1-1, 2-2) tied it in the bottom of the third. Ben Rhoades came around to score after being hit by a pitch and Bear Shank and Devon Weiant both doubled and scored.

Ephrata rallied to regain the lead in the fourth when Schwartz doubled and scored and Fassnacht blasted a three-run homer through the whipping wind.

“Difficult,” the senior said of the weather conditions. “But bearable.”

L-S counterpunched again, pushing across three runs in the bottom of the inning. Chase Nelle, Pirozzi and Connor Brown reached on starter Matt McGillan and eventually scored on Shank’s bases-loaded walk and a Mounts’ error.

Ephrata continued the barrage of runs by answering with two more in its next at-bat. Carvell led off with a triple to right and Dillon Good drew a walk off reliever Dan Eshleman, who is making a mound comeback following Tommy John surgery. Schwartz’s single scored the final run.

Ephrata has produced a combined 20 runs in its league games this week at Solanco and L-S, and Mounts skipper Adrian Shelley credited the offensive outbreak to a “less is more" philosophy.

Tired of too many strikeouts in consecutive three-run outings in their first two games, Shelley promised his hitters less pregame conditioning if they made more contact at the plate.

“We needed to cut down on strikeouts and put the ball in play more,” said Shelley. “We’ve been talking about grinding out at-bats.”

The Mounts have done that. Fassnacht’s decisive blast was, in fact, struck off a 2-2 pitch.

“Glad to see it,” Shelley said.

On the other hand, L-S’s three errors led to six unearned runs.

“In the game of high school baseball, more games are lost than won,” Martin opined. “We shot ourselves in the foot today.”