JACOBUS – Winning the regular-season title is the goal for every team that takes the field at the beginning of the Susquehanna League season.
For the players from Jacobus, when that goal seemed to have all but disappeared, they worked hard to keep it alive. Getting some help from their friends in Windsor and Conrads, the Jackals moved one step closer to reaching their goal Monday night when they played host to Red Lion.
Trailing East Prospect by a game in the standings, but even in the loss column, Jacobus needed a victory Monday to make Tuesday's contest at Felton meaningful. Behind the hitting of Austin Calaman and the pitching of Kerry Clark, the Jackals were able to overcome a pesky Red Lion squad, 2-0.
Jacobus improved to 24-7 on the season with Tuesday's contest at Felton (2-28) remaining. East Prospect already has clinched at least a share of the title by completing the 32-game schedule with a 25-7 mark.
"We've kind of got back on track," Clark said. "We had a little slump there and had to use up our pitching and had some guys who haven't thrown as much throw some games. We had some games stacked up and that's what this league is about."
After dropping two games to the Pistons a few weeks ago, the Jackals then dropped a game to Stewartstown that seemed to be the nail in their coffin in terms of winning the regular-season title. But Conrads helped the Jackals out with a pair of victories last week against Prospect, while Windsor knocked off the Pistons later in the week.
Those losses put the two rival teams even in the loss column, with Jacobus having four games remaining. A sweep of games on Saturday set up Manager Jed Larkin's club for a late-season run that he hopes culminates in a title.
"This was a nice win for us to possibly set up a (one-game) playoff with Prospect," Larkin said. "Now we still have to play a game (Tuesday). It's been a very interesting year, not just for us, but for the whole league. East Prospect lost a few that they probably shouldn't have lost and we lost a few we probably shouldn't have lost and that just shows how balanced this league is."
Red Lion puts up battle: Case in point was Monday's battle with a Red Lion club that fell to 12-18. The visitors gave the Jackals all that they could handle, making it difficult on Clark and a potent lineup all night.
Both Clark and Red Lion starter Mike Melhorn breezed through three innings. Then Melhorn, who frustrated the Jacobus hitters with an overhand change-up, left one up for Calaman, who swatted a homer over the fence in left-center.
"Calaman has been hitting the ball pretty well right now," Larkin said.
The Jacobus third baseman finished with three hits — half of his team's six total for the night. He was robbed of a couple RBIs in the sixth inning when a ball he hit bounced off the fence in right with runners on first and second. It wasn't clear to either runner if the ball would be caught immediately, which left the right-handed slugger with just a single that loaded the bases.
Anthony Ferrell drew a walk one batter later to increase the lead to 2-0. Melhorn, however, escaped a big inning by getting a lineout and a double-play grounder to end the frame.
"Melhorn pitched really good," Clark said. "It wasn't so much his fastball, but it was that change-up that kept getting us."
Clark wasn't without his jams either. The biggest one came in the seventh with the visitors trying to stage a late comeback. The inning started with a routine fly ball to center that dropped in for a double. Then with two outs, Clark hit Mike Godfrey with a pitch on his hand to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.
The Jackal right-hander, however, was able to fire three fastballs by pinch-hitter Walker Montieth to end the contest.
While Clark, arguably the team's most dominant pitcher this season, won't be available to pitch again until the playoffs this weekend, the veteran is still hopeful that the season will come down to a possible one-game playoff Wednesday against the Pistons to determine the regular-season champion.
"This is all about the team," he said. "And we're winning and we all want to play. And if we get past (Felton), we'll have another shot at East Prospect."
Tanner Forry and Bren Taylor each finished with two hits for a Red Lion club that managed just five hits against Clark.
OTHER SUSQUEHANNA LEAGUE GAMES
Stewartstown 6, Windsor 5: At Stewartstown, Jesse Brittain's third hit of the night was his biggest. It gave the home side the walk-off victory over Windsor. For the game, Brittain went 3-for-4 at the plate, while also pitching four innings of three-run ball as the starter. Geoff Goodrich, Jere Preston, Marcus Stevenson and Brittain each had doubles for Stewartstown. Windsor rallied all the way back from 5-2 down with a run in the fourth and then two more in the sixth. Rick Thompson and Tyler Druck each had doubles, while Tyler Myers went 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Goodrich earned the win for Stewartstown after pitching a clean top of the seventh, while Myers suffered the loss after giving up the winning run with only one out in the bottom half of the frame.
Conrads 6, Felton 0: At Conrads, despite being listed as the visiting team, but playing on its home field, Conrads quickly jumped out to a sizable advantage to down Felton. Conrads scored all six runs in the first four innings, which was plenty for starter Josh Knaub to pick up the win. Justin Berkstresser hit a solo home run in the first inning to get the offense started and then Joe Yourgal capped the offense with a solo shot of his own in the fourth. Corey Waltersdorff and Kody Allen each had a hit for Felton, which was held to only three total on the night. Conrads improved to 18-13.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.