FREDERICKSBURG — Sometimes, games come down to one play.
That can be hard to say when the final score is lopsided.
The truth, however, was that a simple grounder to second should have resulted in the final out of the first inning for Spring Grove when it faced Glen Rock in an American Legion Region IV elimination game at Wenger Field in Lebanon County.
A fielding miscue on the play extended the inning and the Papertown boys made Glen Rock pay. Spring Grove turned that gift into an eight-run first inning. That put a serious damper on Glen Rock's chances of staying alive.
By the time it was over, Spring Grove walked off the field triumphantly after pasting their York-Adams League rivals, 12-1, in a game shortened to seven innings because of the mercy rule.
The loss ended Glen Rock's Cinderella-like season, while the York-Adams regular-season and playoff champs advanced to the final day of the five-day tournament. Spring Grove will face Hummelstown at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Hummelstown beat Red Land on Tuesday 5-1 to remain unbeaten in the tournament. Spring Grove will have to beat Hummelstown twice on Wednesday to earn the regional crown. Hummelstown beat Spring Grove on Sunday, 5-4.
"We got off to a rough start," Glen Rock manager Mike Miller. "And then it just kind of spiraled out of control."
Leading 1-0 with runners on second and third and two outs, Spring Grove left fielder Austin Hunt hit a routine grounder to second that was bobbled, allowing another run to cross the plate.
That opened the flood gates. An RBI single by Matt Brooks, a walk to Jake Thoman, a two-run single by Logan Warner and a two-run single by Devin Fisher made it 7-0 in a hurry. Levi Krause (3-for-4, two doubles) drove in the eighth run with another single. Spring Grove sent 13 batters to the plate against Glen Rock starter Collin Tattersall.
"We scored (a bunch of) runs with two outs again," Spring Grove coach Sam Becker said. "And we've been doing that all year. That was huge. Austin's grounder should have been an out and then the floodgates opened. I don't know how many times we scored that many runs with two outs. But it seems like it's contagious. One guy gets a key hit and then another."
Tattersall had to throw 60 pitches in that inning, nearly half of them after Hunt's grounder should have been the final out. The right-hander was taken out of the game after the first.
"They make that play and it's just 1-0," said Spring Grove's Nick Spangler. "It's a completely different ballgame. But credit to our guys for coming in and putting some solid contact on the ball."
Becker's club added three more runs in the second on an RBI single by Thoman and a two-run double by Spangler (2-for-3, three RBIs).
On a roll: In total, the Papertown boys collected 11 hits. They were able to employ the 10-run mercy rule for a second game in a row. Spring Grove crushed Shippensburg 14-0 Monday, giving them a two-day advantage of 26-1.
Those lopsided victories should help Becker's club come Wednesday. The skipper will have plenty of top-flight pitchers available for what his team hopes will be a doubleheader sweep.
"This should help our pitching staff big time," said Krause, who figures to start Wednesday morning's contest.
Thoman started for Spring Grove and was pulled after just three scoreless innings. Aaron Becker came on in relief and allowed a run on two hits before Krause (one inning, no hits allowed) and Matt Brooks (one inning, two hits allowed) closed out the game.
Glen Rock broke up the shutout bid in the fourth inning when Michael Spadafore led off with a double and scored on Bryan Kerr's groundout.
While Spring Grove is riding high into the final day of the tournament, the Glen Rock boys were feeling a little down. After winning their first two games of the tournament, they dropped a heart-breaking 5-3 decision to Hummelstown Monday night in 10 innings. They followed that up with perhaps one of their worst performances of the season. So it was hard to focus on the positive. But Miller did, noting his team finished seventh in the regular-season league standings. Glen Rock pulled off a pair of upsets to advance to the league playoff finals, clinching a regional berth.
"I'm sorry that it ended like this," Miller said. "I'm hoping that the boys find that they have a lot to be proud of. I don't think anyone expected us to get here and then to get the chance to play Hummelstown in the winners' bracket was a huge accomplishment for my group and I'm proud of what they did."
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.