SPRY — There are a lot of superstitions involved with baseball.
Some players wear the same T-shirt. Some listen to the same pre-game music. And some eat the same pre-game meal.
For Chad Kennell's boys from New Bridgeville, the new superstition appears to involve the team's history-rich, metal drinking ladle.
Typically used for home games as a way to rehydrate, the Conrads skipper decided to take the ladle on the road during the playoffs this summer. Its first stop was at McWilliams Field, where Kennell's club squared off vs. York Township in Game 2 of the best-of-3 Susquehanna League quarterfinal series on Sunday afternoon. Conrads won Game 1 9-2 on Saturday at Conrads.
After a performance like the one Conrads had vs. Township on Sunday, the ladle is likely to stick around a bit longer this summer.
Randy Stewart was masterful on the mound for Conrads. The right-hander yielded three hits over seven scoreless innings. His teammates did the rest, scoring the only run they would need in the first inning on a Joe Yourgal single before tacking on four more runs in what was a series-clinching 5-0 triumph.
Conrads, the No. 4 seed, improved to 20-14 and will move to the league playoff semifinals later this week.
"Randy was actually sore," Kennell said of his starter. "He's coming off a back injury he suffered about two weeks ago. I just told him to get us as far as he can and he put it all together and did it with a low pitch count (76 pitches)."
While the ladle was more likely just a symbol for a team that is getting hot at the right time, that definitely wasn't the case with Stewart and No. 9 hitter Glenn Dietrich. Stewart struck out one, but didn't walk anyone. He allowed his steady defense to do the work, including Dietrich in right, who made several nice catches.
"This baseball team is playing good baseball at the right time," Stewart said. "And it's much easier for me to go out and pitch when you get a couple of runs early. If you pitch to contact you don't really have to overpower anybody."
Sleeve issue: Township tried to throw Stewart off his game in the third inning, to no avail. Manager Jack Markey spoke with the home plate umpire while Stewart was warming up and apparently complained about the compression sleeve he was wearing on his right arm. After the two umpires talked, Stewart was ordered to remove the blue sleeve for the rest of the game. Stewart, however, only allowed three base runners the rest of the way (hit by pitch, error, fielder's choice ground-out).
"They may be right with the rule book, but I think it kind of got in our craw a little bit because they're the first team to say something about it," Stewart said. "They were probably trying to light their own fire then, but I just lost the sleeve and did what I had to do."
While Stewart continued to stymie Township hitters all game, frustration was definitely weighing heavily on the home team's starter, Casey Markey. A bit miffed with what he felt was a tight strike zone, the veteran right-hander was roughed up for eight hits and five runs over four innings.
Both Dietrich (3-for-4 ) and the middle of the Conrads lineup (6-for-10) gave Markey and reliever Tyler Page trouble all day. Dietrich, who broke open Game 1 with a clutch grand-slam in an eight-run sixth inning Saturday, found a way to make life tough on the home team by extending rallies Sunday from the bottom of the lineup.
"We worked on (Glenn's) swing a couple weeks ago," Kennell said. "And since then he's been able to chip in and throw in some singles. He had a big grand-slam and another homer the other week to win a game. Three hits tonight, so it's good to see him swinging the bat well."
In addition to Dietrich's big game with the bat, Kevin Keesey, Yourgal and Xavier Bonilla each drove in a run while collecting two hits each for the road team, which collected 11 hits total.
Matt Attig, Micah Striebig and Jake Reichard collected the hits in the setback for Township, which finished 15-19.
OTHER SUSQUEHANNA LEAGUE GAMES
East Prospect 6, Red Lion 1: At Red Lion, the visitors plated six unanswered runs to take the lead and go on to tie the series at 1-1. Clayton Miller and Matt Witmer highlighted the offense by each hitting a two-run double. Miller's came in the fifth, while Witmer's came in the seventh. Teammate Hunter McVey threw a complete game, striking out five and walking one. The two teams will play a deciding Game 3 on Tuesday at East Prospect with a 5:45 p.m. first pitch.
Hallam 4, Stewartstown 1: At Stewartstown, Alex Tucci led the visitors to the series-tying victory by throwing a complete game, striking out 10 and walking one. Also for Hallam, Angel Matias went 2-for-4, including a double, while Zach Zambito went 2-for-2. For Stewartstown, Ron Trout and Cody Brittain each doubled, while relief pitcher Brandon Jones threw three-plus innings of scoreless relief. The two teams will play a deciding Game 3 on Tuesday at Hallam with a 5:45 p.m. first pitch.
Jacobus 10, Windsor 5: At Windsor, the visitors erupted for eight runs in the top of the first to set the tone in this one and earn the 2-0 series sweep. Eric Hamberger, Riley Hamberger and Joel Buchko each had three-hit games for Jacobus, which pelted out 18 hits in the contest. Mike Austin chipped in with a home run. For Windsor, Nolan Myers and Shawn Wilson each collected doubles, while Jared Pestcoe roped a triple. Jacobus advances to the league semifinals later this week.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.