RED LION -- Neither Mother Nature nor a controversial call could stop Red Lion Tuesday night.
But that doesn't mean it wasn't a little stressful for Red Lion manager Jim Dennes.
A rainstorm in the distance slowly began to descend on Nitchkey Field before the first pitch of the Susquehanna League Playoff Championship Series opener vs. York Township.
By the time the rain started to fall, the home team held a two-run lead in the top of the fifth. The rain, however, didn't last long enough to interrupt the contest. About the same time that starter Austin Hinkle retired Township to close out the inning, the precipitation ended as well.
Fortunately for Hinkle, teammate Jason Aspito helped
Dennes' team, which finished second in the regular season behind Conrads, leads the best-of-5 series, 1-0. Game 2 will be played at McWilliams Field in Spry at 5:45 p.m. Thursday.
"That was pretty stressful," Dennes said.
A lot of that stress goes back to Aspito's at-bat with two outs in the fifth. After Shaun Corso singled and stole second, the left-handed-hitting slugger smacked a Casey Markey offering toward the fence in right center.
With the former York Revolution standout trotting around the base paths, the base umpired signaled that Aspito's ball carried over the wall for a two-run homer. That's when things got a little crazy.
Township right fielder Mike Wokulich immediately threw his hands over his head, an indicator that the ball bounced over the fence. The home plate umpire conferred with his colleague and eventually ruled that the ball bounced over the chain-link fence for a ground-rule double.
That set off Dennes, who was coaching at third base.
"From my angle, where I'm looking at, it looks to me like it went over and bounced," he said. "In this field, being that it's a chain-link fence, if the ump doesn't get out there ..."
Dennes was also upset with the wording the plate umpire used in explained the call to him.
"For him to say that 'I think I had a pretty good shot of it' ... if you're not definite of it, there's my biggest problem with it," Dennes said.
Markey retired the final batter of the inning on a grounder to third to keep the Red Lion advantage at 3-0.
Wokulich did everything he could to carry his team on his back in the sixth. After Hinkle failed to cover the base on a ball hit to first baseman Todd Grove, which allowed Mark Shoff to reach, the right-hander grooved a fastball on his first pitch to Wokulich.
That proved to be a potentially costly mistake. Township's left-handed slugger rocketed the ball over several cars in the parking lot in right center.
"I just left it over the plate too much," Hinkle said. "He's a good hitter and he did what good hitters do. You make a mistake and they make you pay for them."
Hinkle, who stuck out six, settled down and retired the final five batters of the contest in order to close out the triumph.
Red Lion took the early lead in the first off Markey. Leadoff hitter John Wilt reached on a fielding error, was sacrificed to second on a bunt and scored on Corso's single.
Wilt scored the second run in the third after leading off with a triple. Two batters, later the Red Lion shortstop scored on Eric McNeil's double.
Showdown set for Game 2: While the home team sweated out a victory, the sledding doesn't appear to get any easier Thursday.
Former major leaguer Mark Hendrickson, who has yielded just seven hits over 16 innings in three playoff outings (two wins, one save), figures to get the ball. Hendrickson played a big part in Township's three victories over Red Lion in the regular season.
Dennes will counter with hard-throwing right-hander Jason Enoch in what figures to be a pitcher's duel.
Wokulich and Joel Buchko (two doubles) collected all four of Township's hits.
In addition to Corso's three hits (two singles, double), John Wilt (single, triple), Aspito (single, double) and Andy Taylor (two doubles) rapped multiple hits in leading Red Lion's 10-hit attack.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.