DALLASTOWN -- Wednesday's baseball showdown between Dallastown and Spring Grove was a contest that Rocket coach Eric Zeigler dubbed as a "must-win" for his team.
With Zeigler's club battling for the York-Adams League Division I title against Red Lion and Dallastown, the Rockets needed a victory over the Wildcats to control their own destiny.
Thanks to an outstanding pitching performance from Nick Spangler, the Rockets jumped over a huge hurdle by downing Dallastown, 4-1.
Spring Grove improved to 11-6 overall and 8-3 in the division. Red Lion (10-3 overall), which was idle on Thursday, leads the division at 9-3. The Wildcats (9-6 overall) fell a full game back with the setback, dropping to 8-4 in divisional play.
"Division I right now this year is the best, top to bottom, that it has been in a while," Zeigler said. "Today we had our backs against the wall. This was an absolute must-win for us. And our kids knew it coming in and they stepped up."
Spangler dazzled on the mound en route to a complete-game five-hitter. He struck out nine and kept the Wildcats off balance with a variety of curves, fastballs and off-speed pitches.
"He threw a real nice game," said Dallastown pitching coach Casey Markey. "He changed speeds and he got us in his counts and he got us to swing at his pitches."
The right-hander received all the run support he would need in the second inning when No. 9 hitter Colby Murphy ripped a two-out, two-run double off Dallastown starter Tyler Butcher.
"Whenever we put up runs, I feel a lot more confident," said Spangler, who also reached base safely in three of his four plate appearances. "It just gives me a more comfortable feeling."
Levi Krause and Will Maughlin led a seven-hit attack for the Rockets with a pair of hits apiece. One of Krause's hits was a big one, when the Spring Grove third baseman led off the third inning with a triple and scored on Trevor Troxel's single to make the score 3-0.
As good as the Rockets felt after downing the Wildcats, they know there is no time to celebrate. Spring Grove plays host to South Western on Thursday, another must-win, if they want to make Monday's regular-season finale against Red Lion a meaningful one. That game is set for 7 p.m. under the lights at Horn Field.
Spangler, for one, is hoping that is the case. He was on the mound when the Lions scored a 6-1 victory over the Rockets a few weeks ago.
While it will be up to Zeigler to decide who gets the ball to start that contest, Spangler isn't shying away from adding his two cents.
"I pitched 82/3 innings that game," Spangler said. "It went into extras and I think it was tied 1-1 the whole game and they ended up beating us 6-1. I don't know (who will pitch). Whatever coach decides, I'll go with. But, yeah, I definitely want the ball."
Rob Catchings led the Wildcats with two hits. Catchings also scored his team's only run in the sixth inning off a sacrifice fly by Zach Luman.
NORTHEASTERN 11, CENTRAL YORK 0: At Central, Jesse Sargen pitched a three-hit shutout, striking out seven and walking none. He also had three hits, including a double, and scored twice. Jordan Ely and Nick Yinger each added two hits for the winners. One of Ely's hits was a double. Zach Valentine also doubled for the Bobcats. Jordan Chicanias doubled for Central. Northeastern improved to 10-6 overall and 5-6 in York-Adams Division II. The Bobcats moved within a half game of first-place West York (6-6).
YORK SUBURBAN 8, DOVER 2: At Dover, AJ Hammond led the Trojans, going 3-for-5, including a homer, and scored two runs. Lewis Myers went 3-for-4 for the winners with three RBIs, while Griffin Vinarski went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Trojans pitcher Ryan Myers pitched a complete game, striking out four and walking two. For the Eagles, Grant Hoover went 2-for-3 with one RBI.
SHIPPENSBURG 6, RED LION 2: At Shippensburg, Greyhounds pitcher Travis Ott threw a no-hitter, striking out 14 and walking three, in a non-league contest. Both Red Lion runs were unearned. Red Lion fell to 10-4 overall. Shippensburg is 8-8.
SOUTH WESTERN 7, CARLISLE 2: At Hanover, Brandon Utz slugged a two-run homer and Parker Bean delivered a two-run single in the Mustangs' win. South Western starter Chris Mills allowed four hits over five innings to get the win.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.