GREENCASTLE — Greencastle-Antrim coach Eric Shaner showed some guts to intentionally walk a batter to load the bases with two outs in a game the Blue Devils led 3-2 in the top of the seventh inning.
But he trusted his pitcher, Landon Huth, and Huth returned that confidence by striking out the final batter on a 2-2 fastball. That enabled G-A to advance to the quarterfinals of the District 3 Class 5A baseball tournament with a 3-2 first-round win over Daniel Boone on Friday afternoon at home.
Greencastle (15-4) will play No. 5 Lampeter-Strasburg (15-6), a 2-1 winner over Spring Grove, in a home game Monday at 4:30. Daniel Boone exits with a 12-9 record.
“On that last strike, there was a big roar from our dugout,” Shaner said. “I’m glad the move worked.”
Here was the scenario: G-A scored in the bottom of the sixth to take the 3-2 lead, but Anthony Cismarik singled off Huth to lead off the seventh and was bunted to second by Dylan Schueler. Cismarik took third on an infield hit by Christian Eckstein, who promptly stole second base.
Huth got the second out on a soft liner to second base, which brought up Mason Walter, who had a single and double to that point. So Shaner decided to walk him.
“You take a chance by loading the bases, because you have to get ahead of the next batter,” Shaner said.
Huth’s first pitch was a ball, and so was the second, although Ethan Rissmiller helped him out by swinging at it. Another strike and ball made it 2-2, then Huth buried a fastball in catcher Ethan Ford’s glove and Rissmiller fanned on it to end the game.
Huth said, “All I’m thinking is I’ve got to throw strikes. I know my fastball is good enough. I wasn’t sure where they were in their lineup, but I knew after their No. 3 hitter (Walter), their averages weren’t that good.”
Jace Szaflarski started for the Blue Devils and went 5.2 innings before giving way to Huth. He allowed only five hits, striking out four and walking one, but both runs scored in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Walter doubled, then Szaflarski got a strikeout.
But Conner McGough lofted a high fly ball down the right field line that was blown back into play by a sturdy wind and the ball fell about a foot inside the line for an RBI triple. Huth relieved at that point, but Eli Rhoads poked a single to center to bring in the tying run.
“Jace was pitching fine, then the wind blew that one back and they were seeing him for the third time,” Shaner said. “I though seeing someone different would help.”
Greencastle scored in the first inning when Briggs Remenick led off with a booming triple to right-center and scored on a base hit by Carter Reid.
In the second inning, Darren Kline picked on Schueler’s first pitch and hit a fly ball to center that just kept going with the wind until it cleared the fence for a home run.
“I thought it was just a routine fly ball,” Kline said. “Then I saw their guy running back and I thought maybe it would hit the fence. I saw it bounce, but I didn’t know it was a home run until I saw Shaner (coaching at third base) jumping up.”
The Blue Devils struck for the winning run in the sixth, right after the Blazers had tied the game. Kline singled with one out and Cole Barnhart came in to run for him. After an out, Ryan Farrow drilled a line drive into left-center.
It might have been a tough decision for Shaner on whether or not to send Barnhart home, but it became a moot point when the ball skipped past the centerfielder, allowing Barnhart to score and Farrow to reach third.
Greencastle needed a little drama in the top of the seventh before closing out the win, but in the playoffs, a win is a win.
“I feel like any playoff game is going to be close,” Huth said, “and that’s good as long as you win.”
Kline said, “We have a lot of guys with experience in the playoffs the last two years, so we know the hardships that you can have. It’s been up and down for us and we know you have to battle.”
And they get a chance to do it all over again Monday.
NOTES: The Blue Devils are on a 10-game win streak … Daniel Boone put the leadoff man on base four times and each time the next batter hit a successful sacrifice bunt on the first pitch … Schueler picked off runners at first base in each of the first two innings … “That kid had a dirty move to first base,” Shaner said.