BML semifinals go to fifth games
Both Blue Mountain League semifinal playoff series have gone to a fifth and deciding game with the championship series set to begin later this week. Here’s a look at both series.
The Hellertown Royals took the first two games of their BML semifinal series game against the Iron Financial Orioles, putting them in a commanding position in the best-of-five series.
Before game three, Hellertown manager Bob Zerfass talked about a playoff series years ago when he was part of a team down 2-0 that knew it needed just one win to catapult it to a win in the series, and told his team to stay ready because the Orioles would be looking for a catapult of their own, and found it with a 7-6 win in game three.
The Orioles gave themselves a nice lift, scoring three runs in each of the first two innings to take a 6-1 lead over the Royals. Mike Tenaglia, a 2010 Parkland grad, delivered a two-run single in the first that capped the scoring for the Orioles.
“Just looking to get the bat on the ball, because I had two strikes,” said Tenaglia. “I just wanted to hit the ball hard and put it in play.”
Hellertown got its run in the first when Parkland product Zach Merkle was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a base hit from Elias Gross, later scoring on a throwing error.
If the O’s thought they could coast with a five-run lead, they were wrong. The Royals turned it up a notch against starting pitcher Justin Jachowicz.
The Royals put up a three-spot of their own in the fourth, with three singles and a walk to start the inning. One out later, Ian Burley delivered a two-run single, cutting the lead to 6-4. The next inning, Hellertown agains played small-ball with two singles and a double, getting an RBI groundout from Dan Blugis and an RBI single from Mike Mittl to chase Jachowicz, and tie the game.
Paul Roth, who relieved Royals starter Brandon Kulp in the second inning, settled in after giving up a walk and a two-run single to the first two hitters that he faced, allowing two inherited runners to score.
Roth bent but didn’t break, even loading the bases in the fourth, but getting defensive help when the Orioles Ryan Bonshak was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
The game went to the seventh inning with the two teams knotted in a 6-6 tie. Ryuta Amnike, who went 4-for-8 with a double, a home run and four RBI in the first two games of the series for the Orioles led off the seventh with a blast to dead center field for what would prove to be the game’s winning run.
Buck Schwab, who came on in relief of Jachowicz in the fifth, got the win, finishing out the game by retiring seven of the eight batters he faced.
“Great pitching performances and good defense were big for us today,” said Tenaglia. “Ryuta has been lights out in the batter’s box, so a tip of the cap to him, because he’s been huge in the playoffs. Everybody is motivated to take the rest of the games, and I think it’s going to be the Orioles in five.”
Tenaglia may be right, and Zerfass may find himself on the opposite end of his pregame story, because the Orioles took game four of the series back on their home field in Egypt to tie the series and force game five tonight in Hellertown.
You won’t find many people who are surprised that the series between the Martins Creek Creekers and Limeport Bulls is going to a deciding fifth game. The two teams are pretty evenly matched, and while the Creekers finished atop the Blue Mountain League standings, the Bulls are two-time defending champions and aren’t ready to relinquish their title.
Limeport got the series off to a good start when it beat Martins Creek on its home field last Thursday to take a 1-0 lead in the series. The biggest part of the 5-1 win was that the Bulls beat pitcher CJ Saveri, widely considered one of the best in the league.
Saveri and Adam Maini engaged in a pitching duel, with both pitchers throwing complete games.
“He was keeping everything low and away, for the most part and keeping them off balance,” said Limeport catcher and 2013 Parkland grad Damin Muth of Maini’s outing. “He mixed his pitches well.”
The Bulls had the opportunity to take a commanding lead as the series shifted back to Limeport for game two, but pitcher Matt Smith had a differing viewpoint on how the game should go and this time, it was the Creekers pitcher who dominated the game.
Smith, also a Parkland grad, threw a complete game, facing just 23 batters in a 6-1 Martins Creek win. The Bulls weren’t helped by the fact that they committed three errors that led to four unearned runs for the Creekers.
“I was waiting on this day since we first knew we made playoffs,” said Smith. “We have CJ game one and I knew I had game two, so I was ready and had the right mindset. I only had the fastball today, but got the win.
“We definitely didn’t want to go down 2-0 to these guys. You have to give them credit, they beat us at home and now we had to come here and make it a new series.”
The Bulls came into the game having scored 24 runs in their last three games and looked to use that momentum. Running into Smith in his complete-game performance slowed the offense.
“We’ve been hitting well, but Matt’s a really good pitcher and unfortunately, we just weren’t able to put anything together today,” said Muth, who recently graduated from Bloomsburg University.
While the two teams exchanged wins as the away team in the first two games, home field advantage held for games three and four. The Creekers won game three at home 9-3, but Limeport rebounded nicely with a 5-3 win at historic Limeport Stadium Tuesday night to send the series to a decisive game five.
“To be honest, the biggest momentum was getting that first win, especially against CJ,” said Muth. “He’s been dominant for a number of years and he’s a great pitcher, so being able to squeeze one out was huge for us to get that first win in the series.”