EAST PROSPECT — This time, East Prospect refused to let Hallam get the best of it in their intense Susquehanna League baseball rivalry.
After losing to Hallam the last two years in the league playoffs (once in the final and once in the semifinals), the Pistons prevailed this year in a hard-fought three-game series.
East Prospect edged Hallam, 7-6, on Sunday to win the rubber game in the series. The Pistons will take on Conrads in the best-of-5 final series beginning Tuesday.
After dropping the first game to Hallam, East Prospect stayed alive by winning the second game, 10-6 on Saturday, before prevailing in a 23-hit slugfest on Sunday. Game 3 featured ties at two, three and six.
"These two teams fight to the end," East Prospect manager Mark Toomey said. "I'm so proud of my guys. This was a good win today because Hallam is such a hard team to defeat."
The Pistons scored the winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning by combining a hit batsman with Ryky Smith's single and a throwing error.
Hallam threatened in the sixth and seventh innings, but East Prospect relief pitcher Hunter McVey worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning with a double play grounder and received an excellent fielding play from second baseman Josh Lantz, who robbed Hallam's Jon Benchich of a hit with a diving stop in the seventh inning.
McVey was the winning pitcher in both Saturday's and Sunday's games. The right-hander did not allow a run in 3 1/3 innings of relief work on Sunday.
"This is his first year with us," Toomey said. "He lives in southern Lancaster County and attends Delaware State. He's really come through for us."
Smith led East Prospect with three hits, while Ben Achenbach and Sean Rigney collected two hits apiece. Smith wasn't going to miss Sunday's game, even if he did have to fly 700 miles to make the starting lineup.
Smith, who's working in Georgia following his graduation from Penn State, flew into Washington on Saturday and then drove up to Pennsylvania.
"I wanted to see if I could get up to a game, but I got in too late on Saturday for that game," Smith said. "I probably would have walked from Georgia to play in this game. It means a ton winning this game because it's home town bragging rights (the communities of East Prospect and Hallam are both in the Eastern York School District)."
Despite not having swung a bat in a month, Smith doubled to left-center in the first inning, beat out a bunt single in the second inning and singled to left field in the fifth inning.
"It's (hitting a baseball) like riding a bike," Smith said. "You don't forget it."
Achenbach delivered the longest hit of the game for East Prospect when he drilled a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence leading off the bottom of the first inning. Achenbach's blast followed a leadoff home run, also over the left-field fence, by Hallam's Matt Ruth in the top of the first inning.
"After Ruth hit that home run, I just wanted to go up there and hit the ball hard," Achenbach said. "Two straight years they (Hallam) knocked us out (of the playoffs). We really wanted this game."
Ruth collected three hits, including the home run, for Hallam, and Jaron Shimmel and Dan Wecker supplied two hits each for the Express.
"East Prospect is a tough opponent, and this was a great series," said Hallam manager Terry Golden, who thanked his players following the game for how hard they competed and the way they kept battling.
Two of Golden's key players played their final game for the Express.
Benchich and Shawn Hedrick are retiring.
Hedrick was a star sandlot pitcher on championship team at Dover, Red Lion and Hallam. Benchich, an outfielder, was a key hitter for decades on Hallam teams.
Hedrick delivered a brilliant farewell performance on Sunday, allowing just one unearned run in four innings of relief. The right-hander struck out three and walked one.
Benchich had one hit and just missed another hit.
"The toughest part is not being able to see them play anymore," Golden said.
"When you spend 20 or 25 years in the league, and then play your last game, it's tough."
OTHER SUSQUEHANNA LEAGUE GAME
Conrads 23, Jacobus 2: At Jacobus, Joe Yourgal led the home team to the victory by going 5-for-5, including two homers (one a grand slam), a double, three runs scored and a whopping 10 RBIs. Nick Root went 3-for-5, including a triple, with three runs scored and two RBIs; Brandon Miller went 3-for-5, including four runs scored and two RBIs; Matt Jordan went 2-for-5, including a homer, with three RBIs and two runs scored; Xavier Bonilla went 2-for-4, including a double, with three runs scored and two RBIs; Josh Knaub went 2-for-4, with a double and two runs scored; Justin Berkstresser had a hit and with three runs scored; and Kevin Keesey had a double and two RBIs. For Jacobus, Anthony Ferrell went 2-for-3, including a double, with two RBIs, while Drew Kelley doubled and Saxman doubled. Conrads now moves on to the championship series and will face East Prospect in the best-of-5 series beginning on Tuesday at East Prospect at 5:45 p.m.
— Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.