NEW BRIDGEVILLE — The longer the game went on Thursday evening, the stronger that East Prospect pitcher Terry Godfrey got.
After yielding three runs in the first three innings, Godfrey pitched shutout ball over the final four innings as the Pistons moved within one victory of winning the Susquehanna League Playoff Championship Series for the first time in 20 years.
East Prospect defeated Conrads, 6-3, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series. Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday in East Prospect.
Godfrey, who will be a sophomore at Delaware State University this fall, displayed outstanding control, striking out seven and walking one. The left-hander retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced and closed the game with a flourish, striking out the side in the seventh.
"I felt like I had more adrenaline toward the end," Godfrey said. "When we took the lead, it was a big weight off my shoulders."
Godfrey's ability to throw a first-pitch curve ball for a strike was a key to his success.
"The last time we played, they (Conrads) had a pretty good idea of my fastball," Godfrey said. "I wanted to work more on my breaking ball this time."
Godfrey mixed a curve ball with a change-up and a fastball to earn the victory.
"When he (Godfrey) has command, he's unhittable," said Steve Kline, who was filling in as the Pistons' manager for Mark Toomey, who was out of town on business. "I played 14 years (for East Prospect) and I was on the 1993 league champion and the 1995 playoff championship team. I would like to see these guys get a title."
The Pistons trailed 3-1 heading into the sixth on Thursday evening, but they seized the advantage by sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring four runs. D.J.Ream, Josh Lantz and Devin Strickler delivered singles in the deciding inning, and the Pistons also benefited from three walks and a hit batsman during the rally.
Strickler's speed made the difference between an inning ending with no damage done and the visitors putting up four runs. With the bases loaded and two outs, Strickler, batting in the No. 9 slot, beat out a slow roller to shortstop to bring home the first run of the inning.
"One thing you can't coach is speed, and him beating that out was huge," Kline said.
Following Strickler's infield hit, there was a hit batsman and two straight walks to force in three more runs. Conrads pitchers walked six and hit three.
"You gotta throw strikes," Conrads manager Chad Kennell said. "We almost got out of that sixth inning, but that kid (Strickler) is probably one of the fastest kids in the league. He got down there pretty good."
Kennell's team is in a tough spot, but he knows an 0-2 hole is not an insurmountable deficit. Kennell was part of another Conrads club (2000) that lost the first two games of a best-of-5 series and rallied to win three straight games.
"It's a big hole, but I know it can be done," Kennell said.
Brandon Miller and Justin Berkstresser supplied two hits each for Conrads, and Kevin Keesey smacked a two-run double for the home team in the third inning to snap a 1-1 tie.
Strickler drove in two runs for East Prospect with his infield hit in the sixth and a sacrifice fly in the seventh. His fly ball to right field scored Ryan Saxman, who doubled and moved to third base when Sean Rigney flied out to right field.
— Reach Dick VanO'Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.