NEW BRIDGEVILLE -- This is Kerry Clark's first season with Conrads, but he said it feels like the Susquehanna League baseball team has been together forever.
Maybe the winning atmosphere that has surrounded the New Bridgeville club this summer has a lot to do with that.
The former Jacobus standout needed a change of scenery and joined Chad Kennell's club this past offseason, along with friend and ex-Jackal Anthony Ferrell. After getting off to a rocky 3-5 start to the season, Kennell's gang has been nearly unbeatable since.
Conrads has been on a tear, winning 21 of the past 22 contests to grab first place at 24-6. That spurt includes a 12-game winning streak after Monday's 3-0 victory vs. second-place Red Lion.
Just as they've done throughout the past six-plus weeks, Kennell's club stuck to a successful formula -- solid pitching and timely hitting.
Clark allowed just two hits and three walks over five solid innings, while teammates Travis Hake (3-for-3) and Justin Berkstresser (single, two RBIs) led Conrads to the win.
"It just feels like I've been playing with these guys for years," said Clark, who battled the heat and a stomach ailment much of the night. "Now I grew up with the guys at Jacobus and I liked playing with them, but I want to play with these guys just as long."
The feeling is mutual, according to a conversation that Kennell and Clark had in the offseason.
"(Anthony) knew right (after last year) that he was coming to Conrads," Clark said. "He told me that I had to come and play, but I didn't want to step on anybody's toes. So I said 'give me Chad's number' and I asked him how he'd feel about me coming down here. And he was like, 'You're a great ballplayer and if you want to play for us, I'd love to have you.' So I said, 'hey, let's switch it up.'"
Joining Kennell's outfit wasn't a stretch for Ferrell and Clark. Those two had played for Conrads during previous Early Bird Tournaments, in addition to playing with them last year in the season-ending Colonial York Tournament.
"It's not like we came here to a bunch of people that we didn't know," Clark said. "We fit in and felt comfortable. We came in and both had starting spots and we're both comfortable with everybody. We're all friends."
Clark got some immediate help from his teammates in the bottom of the first against Red Lion starter Shawn Hedrick. With two outs, Hake started the rally with a hard-hit single up the middle. Kevin Keesey followed with another single that moved Hake to third before Keesey took second on an uncontested steal. Berkstresser followed with the big hit, blooping a flare into right that plated both runners for a 2-0 lead.
"We got guys into scoring position and that helped us get two runs," Kennell said. "We're just being aggressive and playing our game. We play everyone the same."
The visitors, on the other hand, were victimized by some poor base-running, including a golden opportunity in the top of the sixth.
Clark walked John Wilt to start the inning, which precipitated his departure. Reliever Brandon Miller came in and yielded a single to Darren Hake, which brought the tying run to plate in Jason Enoch.
Enoch ripped the first pitch he saw off the fence to center, but Wilt remained a few paces off the bag at second to make sure the ball was not caught. When the ball bounced off the fence, Wilt attempted to score despite not getting a great jump and he was gunned down at the plate.
Miller cleaned things up by getting a flyout and a groundout to end the inning without any damage.
"That (out) couldn't have been any better for us," Clark said. "That was just a great play right there."
In addition to Hake's three hits, Keesey and catcher Cole Heffner each collected two hits in the victory. Nick Root drove in the team's third run in the fourth inning with a fielder's choice groundout.
Hedrick, who's been one of the best pitchers in the area for more than a decade, pitched well in the defeat. The right-hander went the distance on just 86 pitches, but allowed 10 hits -- all singles. Hedrick fanned seven and walked one.
Red Lion, which fell to 19-7, managed just four singles. The defending champs are now 21/2 games back.
OTHER SUSQUEHANNA LEAGUE GAME
WINDSOR 5, EAST PROSPECT 4: At East Prospect, Windsor rallied for four runs in the top of the sixth to wipe out a 3-1 deficit.
The Cardinals packaged singles by Matt Robinson, Chris Liggitt and Jared Stump with four walks in the deciding inning. Robinson had three hits, including two doubles, for the winners, and Stump drove in two runs. Angel Matias, Dan Wecker, Clay Chaney and Chad Moyer each had two hits for East Prospect.
Roy Walker pitched the first 52/3 innings to earn the victory. He was charged with all four Pistons runs, striking out six and walking three. Chris Stoudt worked the final 11/3 innings for Windsor. Stoudt recorded two strikeouts and one walk.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.