HALLAM — Winning league titles is nothing new to Hallam’s Eric McNeil.
In fact, he's won so many crowns that the 19-year veteran catcher for the Express couldn’t quickly compute just how many of his teams have won regular-season titles.
While that number is greater than 10, the thrill of capturing them has never lost its luster for the 34 year old. That was proven Tuesday evening when the Express hosted York Township in a Susquehanna League battle.
Hallam erased an early 1-0 deficit by scoring three runs in the first. The Express added four more runs in the fourth in what eventually became a 9-4 triumph in a game that was called after 5½ innings because of darkness.
The victory clinched the regular-season title for Hallam, which improved to 25-6, with one regular-season contest remaining. The Express also secured a highly coveted berth into the York County Championship Series for the third time in four years.
“We took our bumps last year,” said McNeil moments before he was doused with several cans of beer by his teammates. “To see all our young players develop this year was nice. A lot of the guys stepped up to help us win this year.”
For most of the Hallam players, this year’s title was the first one in which they played a big part. Players such as Angel Matias, Colby Shimmel, Jaron Shimmel, Matt Ruth, Alex Tucci and others all have filled in for Hall of Fame-caliber players who have recently retired.
So it was no surprise that most of them were still celebrating well after the final out of the contest was recorded.
Still, the celebration was equally important for a guy such as McNeil, who remembers playing as a teenager for some of the best Dover teams ever in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“That was back in the George Lecrone days, if you remember them,” he said. “That was still when we played with aluminum bats. I remember being out there with what seemed like giants of the game at that time. But I have to say that this one is just as sweet.”
McNeil, who has played on championship teams with Dover, Red Lion and the Express over his career, made the switch from Red Lion to Hallam a few years ago along with another highly decorated teammate in Shawn Hedrick. While Hedrick hung up his cleats after last season, McNeil still has a few years left in him, in addition to a burning desire to win.
The same can be said for some older veterans such as Corey Knaub and manager Terry Golden. While Knaub is no longer an everyday player at the age of 50, the emotion of finally playing on a team that captured the regular-season crown was clear Tuesday.
“He’s never been on a team that has made it,” said Golden, who has now has won three league titles as a manager. “This one is for Corey. We were trying hard for him.”
Knaub hinted that this may be the final season for both he and Golden.
“Retirees,” he said, smiling with his arm around Golden.
Golden, however, left some wiggle room when asked about his pending retirement from managing.
“That’s what the plan is for now,” Golden said. “But we’ll see once the county championship is over.”
Matias, Tucci and Dan Wecker each drove in two runs apiece in the victory. Matias, who drove in runs in the first and fourth innings, collected three of his team’s eight hits, while Ruth finished with two hits and two runs scored.
Tucci pitched a complete-game four-hitter in the triumph. The southpaw fanned eight but walked four while allowing four runs (three earned).
Andy Freeberger collected half of York Township’s hits and drove in all four of his team’s runs.
Jacobus 9, Red Lion 0: At Red Lion, the visitors rolled to the win, behind the two-hit pitching of Mike Crowe. The Jacobus offense was led by Kerry Clark, who hit a two-run homer, and Anthony Ferrell, who contributed two RBIs. Jacobus improved to 22-9. Red Lion fell to 19-11.
Stewartstown 5, Windsor 3: At Windsor, the visitors got a two-run homer from Marcus Steveson to pace its offense in the win over Windsor. Stewartstown starter Jordan Lozzi pitched a complete game, striking out 14 and allowing three hits. Windsor got a two-run double from Chris Liggett.
East Prospect 5, Conrads 4: At Conrads, East Prospect rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 advantage and earn the win. Tanner Forry hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the seventh after East Prospect got its first two runners on from walks. Ben Achenbach drove in the other two runs for East Prospect. Conrads got a two-run home run from Glenn Dietrich in the bottom of the fifth to take a 3-2 lead. East Prospect improved to 23-8.
Manchester 3, Shiloh 3 (9 innings): At Shiloh, the home team rallied to score twice in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game and force extra innings, but neither team could plate the winning run and had to settle for a tie. Brandyn Smith pitched a complete game for Shiloh, limiting the Manchester offense to four hits over the nine innings. Logan Allison provided the offense for Manchester in the top of the first with a two-run double to put it up 2-0. Levi Rentzel added an RBI double in the top of the fourth to make it 3-1. Manchester is 17-9-2 on the season.
Pleasureville 15, Dillsburg 1: At Pleasureville, the home side jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first and then tacked on an eight-spot in the bottom of the fourth to blow out Dillsburg. Tyler Wagner had five RBIs for Pleasureville, while Beau Burris and Garret Kirkpatrick tacked on two apiece. Dillan Heatwole drove in Dillsburg’s only run.
Jefferson 9, Glen Rock 6 (9 innings): At Glen Rock, the visitors scored nine unanswered runs after giving up six first-inning runs to the home team. Scott Trail (three hits, two homers, five RBIs, two runs), Ethan Lear (three hits, two RBIs, two runs) and Kurt Seiders (three hits, double, one run) paced the 12-hit Jefferson attack. Brian Bossom rebounded from the rough first to get the complete-game nine-inning win, striking out six. Justin Anderson (three hits, double), Connor Hood (two hits, double, run), Daniel Rhodes (two hits, RBI, run), Luke Knott (two hits, RBI, run) and Alex Coombes (two RBIs, hit, run) led Glen Rock. Jefferson improved to 15-6-3. Glen Rock fell to 14-10.
Dover 5, Stoverstown 1: At Dover, Trent Raber was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and teammate Cody Glass added two hits and two RBIs to the host’s winning cause. Austin Botts tripled for Stoverstown. Stoverstown fell to 18-8. Dover improved to 6-19.
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