SUSQUEHANNA LEAGUE: Bonilla powers Conrads to win vs. regular-season champ Jacobus
JACOBUS — A couple years ago, Xavier Bonilla was looking for a local baseball team to join.
The New York native was still attending and playing ball at NCAA Division II Dominican College in his home state at the time.
So why was he looking at summer teams in York, Pennsylvania, of all places?
Well, Dominican College happened to be the same place where current Dover High School girls' basketball coach Marley Klunk attended school. The two grew close to one another and started dating. That brought Bonilla to the York area at times for visits.
Fortunately for Conrads manager Chad Kennell, the team had a website that Bonilla found during a Google search. He reached out to Kennell with a desire to play, but by that time rosters were already locked for the 2012 season.
Bonilla, who still lives and works in New York, played for Conrads a season ago, and the left-handed slugger is still with them whenever he can attended games, which typically has been just on weekends.
But the Empire State native took some time off work to be at Thursday's Susquehanna League semifinal playoff contest when Conrads visited regular-season champion Jacobus. To say that "Sabi," which is Bonilla's nickname, made his presence felt was an understatement.
Bonilla ripped a two-run double in the first inning, added a majestic solo homer in the third before finishing with two more singles for the contest. Throw in an unsightly seven hit batters by Jacobus starter Kerry Clark and it was a recipe for a decisive 7-3 Conrads victory in Game 1 of the best-of-3 series.
Conrads, the No. 4 seed in the bracket, can secure a berth into the playoff finals with a win on Saturday, when it plays host to the Jackals at 1:30 p.m.
"He told his boss last night that he was going to be here and he's here," Kennell said. "When he's here he makes an impact and he responded (Thursday)."
Bonilla had the table set for him in the top of the first after Clark hit each of the first three batters. The Conrads clean-up batter then swatted a double to put the visitors up 2-0. Two batters later, Nick Root laced a single to right that made it 3-0.
"I was thinking, 'do your job,'" Bonilla said. "I hit the ball, it happened to go right up the middle and I got two runs in so that was great."
While Clark's wildness cost him in the first, he made partial amends when he stepped to the plate in the second. After Anthony Ferrell drew a walk off Conrads starter Josh Knaub, Clark bashed a no-doubt blast over the fence in left to cut the deficit to 3-2.
The good feeling on the home side, however, didn't last long. Bonilla crushed a long ball over the fence in right to lead off the third. Root doubled later in the frame and scored on a single by Andrew Gideon to make it 5-2.
"That (home run) felt great," Bonilla said with a smile. "It felt really good off the bat. And I was upset after (Clark's) two-run home run, so I got really (ticked) and happened to hit one myself."
Knaub strong: That was all the run support that Knaub — who also pitched his team to a Game 1 victory vs. York Township in the first-round series — would need. He surrendered seven hits for the contest, four of which were against former Conrads stars Clark (2-for-3) and Ferrell (2-for-2).
"We're on right now," Knaub said. "We're hitting good, pitching good and fielding good. And Nick (Root) had a number of nice putouts there in the outfield. I was just trying to hit my spots. I'm very hittable. I just pitch to contact."
Knaub did flirt with some danger in the seventh against the league's top hitting club to make it interesting. Two singles by Eric Hamberger and Matt Austin brought the tying run on deck. Knaub, however, got a fly out to Root in center for the second out before retiring Austin Calaman on a grounder to end it.
"Kerry has turned into our workhouse," Jacobus manager Jed Larkin said. "And not to take anything away from him, but in the game of baseball you can't hit seven guys and really win a ballgame. But this is one of those things that happens. It's part of the game of baseball."
Clark allowed just seven hits, but walked three and was hurt by two Jacobus errors. He struck out three.
OTHER SUSQUEHANNA LEAGUE GAME
Hallam 4, East Prospect 4 (suspended): At East Prospect, Hallam plated two runs in the top of the seventh to tie the game, which was suspended after seven innings. Dalton Renn's two-run single was the key blow. Renn also doubled. Jaron Shimmel scored two runs and also pitched a scoreless inning in relief. Ryan Saxman had four hits and three RBIs for Prospect. Ben Achenbach and Mark Schauren added two hits each for Prospect. One of Schauren's hits was a double. The game will be completed at 5:45 p.m. Friday at East Prospect..
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.