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LOCAL BASEBALL: Jefferson wins a wild one vs. Wolves

RYAN VANDERSLOOT
505-5403/@ydsports
  • With two wins on Saturday, Jefferson will win its first Central League title.
  • Jordan Higgins was 4 for 5 Thursday, with three runs scored and four RBIs.
  • Jefferson scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth to earn the victory.

JEFFERSON — It was only a few years ago when the Jefferson Titans were ever so close to winning their first Central League regular-season title.

Jefferson's Kurt Seiders fouls off a ball during the second inning of a Central League game against Mount Wolf Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, in Jefferson. Amanda J. Cain photo

Back in 2013, the Titans finished in a tie to end the season with Manchester. That forced Jefferson into a winner-take-all tie-breaker game, a contest it lost.

Now, just three years later, manager Steve Gentile and his players are closing in on another chance to make history. First, however, they had to go up against Mount Wolf in a game that had huge implications for both sides on Thursday evening.

The two clubs entered the game in the midst of a three-way battle for the regular-season crown along with Stoverstown (23-8).

On Thursday, each side traded the lead back-and-forth after putting up several crooked numbers on the scoreboard throughout a slugfest. The Wolves erased a three-run deficit in the fifth inning and then added four more runs in the top of sixth with the sun quickly setting.

With a four-run lead, the visitors appeared in good shape to break a three-game losing streak. Just as quickly as the Wolves look the lead, however, the Titans stormed back, with a lot of help from the Mount Wolf defense. Jefferson tied up the game with one out in the bottom of the sixth before Jordan Higgins won it for the Titans with a walk-off single, giving the home team a thrilling 13-12 victory. The contest was called after six innings because of darkness.

Jefferson's Jordan Higgins tags out Mount's Wolf's Ryan Wentzel during the fourth inning of a Central League game Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, in Jefferson. Amanda J. Cain photo

Jefferson improved to 21-6-3, with just two games remaining, while Mount Wolf dropped to 20-10.

“The magic number was three coming in to tonight,” Higgins said, while still being mobbed by teammates after his game-winning hit. “Hats off to my team.”

The fact that it was Higgins (4 for 5, three runs scored, four RBIs) at the plate in the most pivotal moment of his team’s season seemed like destiny. He's already personally responsible for at least two game-winning hits this season, one of which came against the Wolves back in July. On that night it was a double he hit off Mark Burnside that earned his team a 2-1 triumph. On Thursday, it was Higgins again scuffing up Burnside, who entered the game in relief in the sixth with his team ahead 12-11.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Kurt Seiders drove in the tying run for Jefferson with a sacrifice fly. After a fielder’s choice grounder forced out the runner heading to second and moved the go-ahead run to third with two outs, Higgins worked the count to 3-2 against the left-hander.

Knowing that the game was going to be called at the end of the inning no matter what happened, Higgins smoked a single up the middle that scored Jorman Mora to cap off an epic come-from-behind triumph.

“This was kind of the same situation as last time,” Higgins said. “Burnside and I, Part II. The first time I hit a walk-off double to win there. I was just trying to stay up the middle and got a fastball. He just missed with a slider on 2-2 and I knew he didn’t want to throw one in the dirt with a runner on third. I looked for something middle-in and just try to stay up the middle.”

When Mora crossed the plate the entire Jefferson dugout emptied onto the field. Higgins continued to run around the bases, but the umpires had already walked off the field by the time he reached his teammates at home.

While all the Jefferson players and fans believed Higgins’ hit was destiny, so too do they feel that this is finally the year they win the Central League title. They have two games Saturday at home — one at 10 a.m. against Pleasureville and another at 1 p.m. against Shiloh — to end the season. If they win both, they will take the title, regardless of anything Stoverstown does.

Gentile, the patriarch of a Jefferson team that has emerged over the past four years from a punching bag to a contender, minced no words about what his club has to do Saturday.

“We were the doormat for many, many years in this league, but nowadays we can play with anybody,” he said. “I know that Saturday is no easy day because we got Shiloh and Pleasureville. And we have ties against both of them this year. It won’t be done until about 4 o’clock on Saturday.”

The Titans are set up nicely for Saturday’s games. Jon Kibler and Brian Bossom, the team’s top two starters, will both be rested up to pitch with a title on the line.

Gentile, for one, is eager to see his team take the next step after coming oh-so-close three years ago.

“Three years ago we knocked on the door,” he said. “Now we’re going to knock the door down.”

Notes: The Titans got a lot of mileage out of several pickups from the York City American Legion squad. Starter  Jhonse Garabito, reliever Cristion Morales and position players Mike Bonilla and Mora all contributed key parts to the victory.

Bonilla came up with a RBI infield single in the sixth while Mora reached safely after the throw on his bunt attempt sailed out of play for a two-base error.

“A bunch of kids from York City were looking for a place to play,” Gentile said. “Their coach, Andy Zayas, said, ‘hey I have some (kids) looking for someplace to play.' And I just said, ‘I don’t care if they’re from Mars, if they can play, bring ‘em down.'”

Garabito and Morales combined to pitch five-plus innings, which allowed Gentile to save Bossom for Saturday.

The Titans pounded out 16 hits in the victory, 13 of which came against Mount Wolf starter Adam Hoff. Scott Trail added three hits, while Seiders, who picked up the victory in relief, tallied two hits and two runs scored for Jefferson.

The Wolves were led by Jesse Sargen’s three-hit night. Dustin Kuhn, Dan Dierdorff and Grant Myers each collected two hits for a Mount Wolf team that tallied 11 hits.

OTHER CENTRAL  LEAGUE GAMES

Glen Rock 10, Manchester 5: At Glen Rock, the home team trailed 5-0 after four innings, but plated 10 runs in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead for good. Luke Knott highlighted the big inning with a three-run homer. For the game, Knott went 2 for 4, while Dan Rogers went 2 for 3, Connor Hood went 2 for 4 and Joe Young doubled. For Manchester, Trey McWilliams went 2 for 4 with a double, Logan Allison went 2 for 4 with one RBI and Austin Allison tripled. Glen Rock improved to 17-13. Manchester fell to 18-11-2.

Stoverstown 10, Shiloh 2: At Shiloh, Daryl Harang led the visitors by going 2 for 3 with two RBIs. Also for the Tigers, Brandon Warner went 2 for 5 with a double, Nick Spangler doubled and Levi Krause threw five innings to pick up the win. For Shiloh, Chase James went 2 for 3, while Jesse Bortner and Dillon Schwartzer each doubled. First-place Stoverstown improved to 23-8.

Dover 10, Dillsburg 2: At Dover, Mike Moore led the home team to the victory by throwing a complete game on the mound, striking out five and walking two. Moore also connected at the plate for a double. Also for Dover, Cody Glass went 3 for 3 with a double, Ross Drawbaugh went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer, Austin Rickrode hit a solo homer and Devin Dellinger doubled. For Dillsburg, Justin Tate and Jesse Lovejoy each went 2 for 3.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.