MANCHESTER — Thursday night's Central League semifinal playoff series opener, pitting Manchester against Glen Rock, could probably be summed up by one simple question: What if?
What if the Manchester defense made a couple of plays for starter Jason Kelly in the first inning?
What if Justin Anderson would have tried to score on Casey Hood's single in that first inning?
What if Glen Rock pitcher Randy Bond was able to make it to the game on time?
And finally, what if Bond didn't throw that one bad pitch to Austin Allison in the fifth inning?
The game may have been a lot different.
Fortunately for Kelly and his teammates, things turned out OK for them. Kelly survived a three-run first when a couple of Manchester errors allowed the visitors to jump out to an early advantage. The right-hander settled down after that, allowing two hits over the final six innings.
His teammates picked him up in the bottom of the first when a two-run single by Jeremy Pagano and a throwing error tied the game against emergency starter Brandon Jones. Despite Bond's solid performance when he finally arrived, the Indians were able to punch across the game-winning run when Allison belted a fastball over the fence.
The resulting 4-3 victory gives Manchester a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series, which resumes Saturday at Glen Rock.
"I left some balls up there," Kelly said of his first inning. "And that happens when you're pitching. You leave a few up and they did a good job of putting the ball in play."
Glen Rock collected half of its six hits over the first three batters of the game. Troy Miller, Dan Rhodes and Scott Merkel all connected off Kelly, with Rhodes driving in Miller with the game's first run.
Justin Anderson followed with a flyball to center that was misplayed, which allowed Rhodes to score. One batter later, Sam Miller's grounder to short was also misplayed, allowing Merkel to cross the plate.
Casey Hood came up and singled to center, but Anderson held up at third and didn't score. Miller, however, believed he could get to third, but when he realized Anderson was there, he was caught in a rundown before being tagged out for the first out.
"We talked about that," Glen Rock skipper Marty Heyne said. "But we were going station to station. I thought, with no outs, and Justin isn't that fleet of foot anyhow, to play it safe. But Sammy just ran it because he's young and he's got those deer legs."
That out seemed to energize Kelly, who got a popout and a strikeout to end the frame.
"You don't expect anyone to get three runs off Jason in the first inning," Allison said. "But we had a couple of errors behind him, which didn't help. But with Jason on the mound we knew he was going to shut them down after that."
Kelly did just that.
Without the services of Bond to start the game, Heyne called on Jones to pitch one or maybe two innings. The right-hander allowed a one-out double to Dan Royer before hitting Nick Shuman and walking Logan Allison to load the bases.
After a flyout to center for the second out, Pagano stroked a two-run single to left. Allison tried to motor to third on the play, but Jones took the cut-off throw and attempted to get the out at third. His throw, however, sailed into left, allowing Allison to score and even the contest.
"It's just one of those things," Heyne said. "Randy got here late and Jones knew he was on the hook. He got stuck in traffic coming up from Columbia, Md. I didn't think Jones (one inning, two hits, two earned runs) threw too bad."
After that, the game took a solid swing toward the pitchers.
The one that stung, though, was Austin Allison's blast to lead off the bottom of the fifth.
"We've faced Bond four times this year," Allison said. "He's a heck of a pitcher. And I know that early in the count he's trying to get the ball across the plate and get an early strike. He throws a lot of strikes, so I changed my approach a bit and looked for a strike. The first pitch was a fastball right down the middle and I figured that was about as good a time as any to let it fly a little bit."
Glen Rock made Kelly sweat a little in the seventh. After Bryan Procopio singled to lead off the frame, he stole second, but was caught off-guard when Troy Miller laced a comebacker to the mound. Kelly snared it above his head and easily got Procopio, who took off on contact, at third.
"That was a huge mental edge," Kelly said. "He got a hit to lead off the inning and it was huge to get him out."
Hood was the only player with multiple hits. The left-handed hitter stroked a pair of singles.
OTHER CENTRAL LEAGUE GAME
Mount Wolf 6, Jefferson 5: At Mount Wolf, Dustin Kuhn's one-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh broke a 5-5 tie and allowed the Wolves to walk off with the Game 1 win in the best-of-3 semifinal series. Also for the Wolves, Steve Pokopec went 2-for-3, including a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth, while Dan Dierdorff picked up the complete-game victory, striking out four, walking two and allowing two earned runs. For Jefferson, Kurt Seiders went 3-for-4 with three runs scored; Zach Schuler went 2-for-3 with two RBIs; and Colin Porter went 2-for-4 with one RBI. Jefferson pitcher Jon Kibler also went the distance, allowing nine hits and five earned runs. He struck out four and walked two. Game 2 will be played at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Jefferson.
SUSQUEHANNA LEAGUE GAMES
Hallam 3, East Prospect 1: At Hallam, Shawn Hedrick led the Express to the Game 1 semifinal series victory by picking up a complete-game win, striking out seven and walking two. Also for Hallam, Angel Matias went 2-for-3, with a double, while Shawn McCleary also doubled. For East Prospect, Josh Lantz went 2-for-3, with a double; D.J. Ream doubled; and Terry Godfrey threw a complete game, striking out three and walking three. Game 2 is 1:30 p.m. Saturday at East Prospect.
Jacobus 3, York Township 0: At Jacobus, Mike Crowe pitched a six-hit shutout in Game 1 of the best-of-3 semifinal series. He struck out four and walked two. Brian Crimmel had two RBI singles for the winners, while Joe Doyle was 3-for-4 with a double. Briar Lauer threw four scoreless innings in relief for Township. Game 3 is 5 p.m. Saturday.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.