Conrads outlasts East Prospect for Susquehanna League playoff championship
NEW BRIDGEVILLE — Last Thursday evening, Conrads' players walked slowly off their home diamond following a 6-3 loss to East Prospect in the Susquehanna Baseball League playoff championship series.
Three days later, the contrast to Thursday couldn't have been more startling as the same players celebrated yet another title for the tradition-rich southern York County team.
Conrads outlasted East Prospect, 7-6, in 11 innings on a hot (90-degrees-plus) afternoon.
The victory allowed the winners to wrap up the best-of-five series, 3-1. It was the 18th overall playoff crown for Conrads.
Josh Knaub delivered the key hit for the winners in the bottom of the 11th..
With a runner on second base and two outs, Knaub ripped an 0-1 pitch into left field. When the left fielder couldn't come up with the ball, Joe Yourgal, who had been on second base, scored standing up with the deciding run.
"It was a heck of a game," Knaub said. "They're a good ballclub."
The 12-year veteran made a bid to win the game in the 10th inning when he flew out to deep center field.
"I was mad at myself for the previous at bat, and the next time up, I told myself, I'm pulling the ball. Finally, I pulled the ball (to left field)."
Knaub's clutch hit earned a victory for Conrads relief pitcher Brandon Miller. Miller delivered five innings of scoreless relief work.
"Brandon is so solid at shortstop, and we need him at shortstop so we limit his pitching," Conrads manager Chad Kennell said.
"But, I told him, we're going to take you off shortstop because we need you to pitch."
Miller allowed just two hits. He struck out one and walked one.
Conrads' starting pitcher Carter Krick held East Prospect to one run over the first five innings, but the Pistons exploded for five runs in the sixth to tie the game.
Ben Achenbach supplied the big blow, a three-run homer over the left field fence that evened the game at six.
Achenbach put together a monster day with the bat going 4-for-5 (home run, double and two singles) and driving in three runs.
Xavier Bonilla answered for Conrads with two hits and four RBI's. Bonilla drove home a run in the first with a double and blasted a three-run, opposite-field homer to left in the fifth inning.
Miller and Kevin Keesey also had two hits for Conrads, and Sean Rigney finished with two hits for East Prospect.
"It's great to bring another championship back here," said Kennell who played for Conrads before taking over as the team's manager nine years ago.
"I called a mandatory practice before the playoffs, and I told them (the players) that we have the talent to win this thing."
Sunday's loss was a bitter one for East Prospect which won the first two games of the series on the field.
However, the league ruled that the Pistons used an ineligible player in the first game, and they had to forfeit the contest to Conrads.
"It was very disappointing," East Prospect manager Mark Toomey said.
"It (the forfeit) never should have happened. The (league) bylaws say five games (a player is required to play in five regular-season games in order to be eligible for the playoffs), and on the (league) books, it said four games (for an East Prospect player) . On our books, we had the man who had the five games in. Why would I play someone if I knew he was short one game?"
Toomey was proud of his players for rallying to tie Sunday's game when they were down to their final six outs.
"There are great guys on this team, and they never quit."
Kennell said he knew that forfeit situation "took the wind out of their (East Prospect's) sails."
"You have a league and bylaws, though, and that's what we (the league members) want. If we didn't have that, everyone would just show up on Saturday and play."
— Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com