MANCHESTER — Youth can be a double-edged sword in sports.
Sometimes it can cost you a game or two, but at other times it can be the impetus for turning a season around.
Manchester manager Dave Miller is hoping it's the latter for his team.
Miller sent out a lineup with three young players in the No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 spots Sunday afternoon against rival Jefferson. When the Indians needed to get a rally going, it was that bottom part of the lineup that ignited things.
Jonah Latshaw, coming off a strong season with the Northeastern American Legion team, singled to lead off the third inning for the Indians. A couple of balls that never left the infield by Trae Beyer and Camren Nye allowed the home team to load the bases with no outs.
By the time the inning was over, the Indians led 7-1. That was plenty for veteran starter Jason Kelly. Manchester cruised to an 8-3 victory.
The Indians improved to 15-12 on the season (30 points) while the Titans fell to 13-12-1 (27 points) in the Central League standings.
"The young guys come out, they know the game and they play hard," Miller said. "I can't say enough about them."
Just a few years ago, Miller and his squad won the Central League regular-season title. Some of the players from that team, however, have either moved on or retired. That gave players such as Latshaw and Beyer a chance to step in.
"Coming into the season we weren't really sure where we stood," said Kelly, who allowed one run and six hits over six innings while striking out four to pick up the victory. "I think that we're starting to find out who we are as a team. And then you get kids like these, who are playing every day in Legion or travel leagues, and it's awesome."
Chris Biechler drove in a two runs with a double during Manchester's seven-run third-inning, while Trey McWilliams, Logan Allison, Josh Reeser and Jeremy Pagano each drove in runs as well off Jefferson starter Brian Bossom.
That inning was a big sigh of relief for Kelly, who wasn't as dominating as he typically has been. The Titans scored a run in the first on a Colin Porter single to take the early lead. While that was the only run Kelly allowed the rest of the way, he never had a clean one-two-three inning.
"They found some holes and sometimes that's how it is," Kelly said. "Sometimes it just doesn't matter how many balls you throw, it just takes a couple of innings before you get loose. I wasn't quite just there (early on)."
Once the Indians got their ace the lead, however, there was little hope left for the visitors.
The big lead, however, allowed Miller to take out his right-hander after six innings. That gave Jefferson, a team that has been on a tough skid after starting out strong to begin the season, a chance to make a late-inning rally.
Reliever Tyler Lingg entered and had issues find the strike zone immediately. He walked the bases loaded with one out. He then hit Jordan Witmer to force in a run before giving up another run on a fielder's choice grounder to second. A single by Tyler Troxel loaded the bases again but Lingg was able to retire Steve Gentile III on a grounder to end the contest.
With the regular season winding down, the Indians are hoping to make a charge for the No. 2 slot in the standings. Glen Rock has won the regular-season title with a 24-3 record (48 points), but the Indians are within two games (four points) of second-place Mount Wolf (16-8-2, 34 points). Stoverstown (15-12, 30 points) and Shiloh (16-10-1, 33 points) are also in the mix, so it's far from decided with two weeks to go in the season.
Each league team is scheduled to play 32 games.
"With the way things are going in this league, you can be in fourth today and second tomorrow," Miller said. "Two through seven can be anybody at this point."
OTHER CENTRAL LEAGUE GAMES
Glen Rock 18, Dillsburg 3; Glen Rock 8, Dillsburg 0: At Dillsburg, Glen Rock (24-3) clinched the regular-season championship by sweeping Dillsburg. In the first game, Glen Rock pounded out 24 hits, paced by Justin Anderson (four hits, double, four RBIs, three runs), Brian Procopio (three hits, three runs, two RBIs, two stolen bases), Dan Rogers (three hits, four RBIs, one run, two doubles), Scott Merkel (three hits, one run), Alex Coombs (three hits, three runs, RBI), Matt Gonzalez (three hits, four RBIs, run), Dan Rhodes (one hit, two runs, one RBI), Geoff Kimmel (two hits, double, two RBIs, one run) and Joseph Young (two hits, three runs). Brad McCullough went the distance to get the win, allowing eight hits. He struck out eight and walked seven. Daulton Leonard had two hits, an RBI and a run scored for Dillsburg. In the second game, Jared Stiffler pitched a three-hit shutout, striking out four and walking two. Procopio (two hits, two runs, two stolen bases), Anderson (two hits, one RBI), Rogers (two hits, double, two RBIs, one run), Coombs (triple, three RBIs, one run) and Gonzalez (two hits, two runs, RBI) led Glen Rock's offense.
Shiloh 2, Mount Wolf 0: At Shiloh, Brandyn Smith and Kaden Hepler combined on a three-hit shutout for surging Shiloh. Smith went six-plus innings, striking out five and walking two. Hepler got the last three outs. Chase James drove in one run with a sacrifice fly, while Logan Stover added an RBI single. Grant Myers doubled for Mount Wolf. Shiloh has won eight out of its last nine.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.