GLEN ROCK — The first two games of the best-of-three Central League semifinal playoff series between Glen Rock and Stoverstown were dominated on the winning side by pitching. So it was only a matter of time before the bats became the focal point, which is exactly what happened Sunday when the Tigers traveled to take on 'The Rock' in a pivotal Game 3.
Shutouts by Glen Rock's Josh Houser on Thursday and then Stoverstown's Daryl Harang on Saturday set the stage for Sunday's finale. But the typically reliable Jordan Lehman (1.53 ERA in the regular season) of the Tigers and little-used starter Jared Stiffler of Glen Rock had trouble cooling off their opponent's bats on a scorching hot afternoon.
The home team took the early lead with a three spot in the first, and added on three more in the second, but that wasn't enough to fend off an upset-minded Stoverstown ball club. The Tigers scored a pair of runs in the second, three more in the third and another in the fourth to even the score.
The home team, however, settled down under the calming presence of veteran reliever Rick Goebeler, who entered in the third inning. They scored two runs in the fourth amid some controversy on a bases-loaded single by Justin Anderson to take the lead for good before shortstop Troy Miller tacked on another in the sixth with a solo homer to lead Glen Rock to a series-clinching 9-6 victory.
'The Rock', who won the regular season title with a sparkling 29-3 record, will take on Mount Wolf, who swept Shiloh in the other semifinal, Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. back in Glen Rock for the opener of the best-of-five finals.
"There was some controversial calls, but the umpires didn't lose the game for us," said Stoverstown manager Tim Thoman. "It was just a situation where they scored a little more runs than we did."
Thoman's team felt they got the short end of a couple of calls, the first coming in the second inning when his team scored a pair of runs. After Kurt Krout singled to bring in the first run, a few batters later Nick Spangler singled to right. Jessen Bishard, who was on third, scored easily but Krout, who was on second, was ruled to have been tagged out at the plate trying to even the score.
Krout and Thoman both argued the call vociferously to no avail.
Then, in the fourth inning, another unfortunate call came on Anderson's two-run single. Matt Gonzalez scored from third easily but Miller was ruled to have avoided the tag at the plate by catcher Austin Botts that increased the lead to 8-6 at that point.
But, as Thoman said, if that call went for his team it wouldn't have mattered as Goebeler confounded the Tigers both at the plate and with some trickery. Goebeler allowed four hits over 4 2/3 innings and just one run, but it was his master pick off of Krout in the fifth that left the Tigers shaking their heads.
Singles by Bishard and Krout started the fifth inning in a promising way for the visitors. But a strikeout and a pop out on the infield brought Stoverstown's Matt Brooks to the plate with two outs.
Noticing that Krout was being a little careless getting back to the base after every pitch to Brooks, Goebeler did his thing. He caught the throw back to him from catcher Dan Rhodes, turned quickly to first and threw to Anderson, who tug out Krout to end the inning.
"That was a veteran move, wasn't it?" Glen Rock manager Marty Heyne said. "We've seen that before, but that was the first time that (Goebeler) did it for us. He saw that (Krout) was lollygagging and that quick snap throw over there had him."
Goebeler didn't want to reveal too much about his nifty play afterward.
"Trade secret," he said.
What wasn't a secret was that Goebeler was going to throw strikes and force the Tigers to put the ball in play. He did just that by getting seven ground ball outs, including a double-play grounder to end the sixth.
"I always rely on the defense," Goebeler said. "I've never been a strikeout pitcher so I get them to put the ball in play and hope our defense makes the plays."
Now, Goebeler and his team will look to capture a playoff title to go along with the regular season crown they've already won. To do so, however, they'll have to take down a Mount Wolf team that finished eight games (16 points) back in the standings.
Neither side will have season-ending implications on the line, as both clubs clinched berths into the Tom Kerrigan Colonial York Tournament set for Labor Day weekend. But don't think either club will play the series as if it were meaningless.
"It's still big," Goebeler said. "They're going to play just as hard as we are."
NOTES: Miller and Dan Rogers each bashed three hits for the winners, who collected 12 hits in the triumph. Rogers drove in three runs while Miller and Anderson each drove in a pair for Glen Rock. Stoverstown tallied 11 hits for the contest with Krout leading his team with three hits and three RBIs. Daryl Harang, Zach Schuler and Jessen Bishard all finished with two hits apiece for the Tigers, who finished their season with a 19-15-1 mark.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org