DOVER -- Stoverstown manager Tim Thoman knew it might be a good night when he discovered that Dover would be without ace pitcher Shane Melhorn for Thursday's Central League showdown.
To add to Thoman's good fortune, second baseman Zach Schuler is starting to show signs of breaking out of his recent slump.
Schuler collected three hits, including a solo homer in the sixth inning, while starting pitcher Jake Hockensmith held the home team to three hits over 42/3 innings.
The resulting 11-7 victory improved the Tigers to a league-best 19-10 record with six contests remaining. Dover dropped to 15-13. Stoverstown has a two-game lead over both Manchester (16-11) and Glen Rock (17-12).
"It was nice to come out and see that Melhorn wasn't throwing tonight," Thoman said. "With him being on vacation that made it a little bit easier on us because he's had our number this year. Shane's had a tremendous year and any time you can avoid that you feel fortunate."
Thoman was plenty impressed with Schuler's discipline at the plate. Schuler reached base in four of his five plate appearances and scored two runs.
"Zach finally broke out of it," Thoman said. "He had a big game. It was nice to see him break out of it as he's been struggling a bit lately."
Schuler made an adjustment about a week ago that helped produce a couple of hits this past Saturday. He's hoping his new approach will continue to yield positive results.
"This season has been a roller-coaster ride," Schuler said. "Saturday I got it going with a couple hits and hit the ball hard and found some holes. So I'm going to try to stay calm and go the other way and that's what I did on that home run to right field."
The right-handed standout took full advantage of Dover's short porch in right. Still the ball easily cleared the fence and traveled around 340 feet.
"I just had a good approach at the plate tonight," he said. "And that's what I plan to do the rest of the season."
The Tigers took advantage of some miscues by Dover to race out to an 7-0 lead after four innings.
Dover pitcher Kevin Decker had Stoverstown's J.W. Besore in a rundown at third base in the second inning but botched a throw back to third. Besore immediately turned toward home but was held up by Decker, who was called for interference on the play, allowing Besore to score.
The home team committed four errors for the contest, which hurt its chances at a comeback late. Dover scored all seven of its runs over the final three innings and managed to get the tying run on-deck before the final out was recorded.
"We just didn't play good," Dover manager Kevin Raber said. "My guess is that only two or three runs were earned and the rest of them we gave to them."
Raber could only wonder "what-if" Melhorn, who's 5-0 with three saves on the season with an ERA of just 0.74, could've pitched.
"If Shane were here tonight he would have been pitching," Raber said. "But he's not coming back until Saturday at some time."
In addition to Schuler's three hits, four other Stoverstown batters (Kurt Krout, Austin Botts, Jessen Bishard and Hockensmith) each collected two hits apiece as part of a 15-hit attack.
Cody Glass and Seth Weber each collected two hits for Dover, while designated hitter Patrick Moriarty and catcher Dustin Kuhn, who hit a two-run homer in the seventh, each drove in two runs apiece.
OTHER CENTRAL LEAGUE GAMES
GLEN ROCK 4, JEF FERSON 2: The home team scored two in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth inning to get the win.
Glen Rock's final two runs came across the plate on an RBI single from Mason Heyne and groundout RBI from Brad McCullough. On the mound, McCullough picked up the win by holding Jefferson to one run on four hits with four strikeouts and one walk in 61/3 innings. Teammate Josh Houser picked up the save. Glen Rock's Sam Miller (2-for-3) was the only player in the game with two or more hits.
Glen Rock improved to 17-12, while Jefferson fell to 14-11.
MOUNT WOLF 6, PLEA SUREVILLE 4: At Pleasureville, Kevin Kurilla belted two doubles, drove in three runs and scored a run to lead the Wolves.
Dan Dierdorff added three hits, two runs scored and an RBI for the winners, while Mark Burnside added two hits and an RBI. Burnside was also the winning pitcher with a complete-game, seven-hit effort. He struck out eight and walked six.
Matt Meyer doubled and drove in three runs for Pleasureville, while Dustin Keckler added three hits and a run scored. Tim Shaffer chipped in two hits, including a double, with an RBI and a run scored. Tyler Paige also went the distance in absorbing the loss.
Mount Wolf improved to 15-12.
MANCHESTER 3, SHILOH 1: The visiting team scored on a two-run single from Levi Rentzel in the second inning and an RBI single from Logan Allison (2-for-4) in the sixth inning to get the victory.
Pitcher Jason Kelly picked up the win, holding Shiloh to one run on six hits with four strikeouts and no walks in seven innings.
Manchester improved to 16-11.