CENTRAL: Manchester rolls into playoff title series
- Manchester swept Jefferson in their best-of-three semifinal series, 2-0.
- In Sunday's 9-4 win, Manchester got three hits from Dan Sepic, including a homer.
- Austin Allison also had three hits for Manchester.
MANCHESTER — There’s an old saying that says: "It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish."
No team is more emblematic of that saying in the Central League right now than the Manchester Indians.
After a rocky start to the 2016 campaign, when manager Dave Miller’s squad began 1-3, the Indians picked things up around the midseason mark. A hot streak, when they won 11 of 13 games, propelled them back into contention before finishing with the fourth-best record in the league's regular season.
That solid play has continued into the playoffs. Manchester cruised to a two-game sweep in the opening round against Glen Rock, and it didn’t stop in the semifinals against regular-season league champion Jefferson.
After scoring 10 runs in the seventh inning Saturday in what turned out to be a 15-1 victory, the Indians finished off the Titans Sunday on a hot, humid afternoon in Manchester. The home team scored four times in the first inning, added three more in the third and capped off another sweep with a two-run homer in the sixth by Dan Sepic en route to a 9-4 triumph.
Manchester, the No. 4 seed, will travel to winner of the Stoverstown-Mount Wolf series at 5:45 p.m. Thursday in Game 1 of the playoff championship series. The series between the No. 2 Tigers and No. 3 Wolves is deadlocked at 1-1 after Stoverstown claimed a 7-0 victory Sunday at Mount Wolf. Game 3 of that semifinal series will be played at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at Stoverstown.
“We kind of peaked toward the end of the season,” Miller said. “We’ve been playing well and it’s everybody in the lineup.”
No one, however, was hotter this weekend than Sepic. The Indians' third baseman followed up a three-hit Saturday with another three-hit game Sunday, which he capped with a tape-measure home run into the trees in left field. It was Sepic’s third homer of the season.
“I just hit the ball well,” Sepic said. “I’m seeing the ball well. They had (first base) open so I was looking for something off speed. I just kept my hands back, choked up a little, swung and it went out.”
Teammate Austin Allison also collected three hits Sunday, while Logan Allison and Chris Biechler had two hits apiece as part of a 14-hit Manchester attack.
Despite the loss, Jefferson's season still isn't over. Jefferson used a late-season 10-0-1 run ito capture its first-ever Central League regular-season crown. By virtue of winning the regular season, Jefferson assured itself a berth into the York County Championship Series and the Tom Kerrigan Colonial Tournament on Labor Day weekend.
Manchester, on the other hand, needs to win out to keep playing into September.
“They (Jefferson) could relax,” Miller said. “But we can’t if we want to still play Labor Day weekend, which is our goal right now. We’re down to two more (wins) to go. That’s our magic number.”
The Titans scored two runs in each of the first and second innings off Indians starter Michael Houseal. After that, however, Houseal shut the door with four scoreless innings en route to picking up the victory.
Jordan Watkins led Jefferson with three hits, while third baseman Tyler Troxel collected two hits in the setback.
While the Titans certainly aren’t happy about seeing the playoffs come to an end with a sweep, Pat Schultz’s short-handed gang will rest, relax and get ready for the upcoming York County Championship Series in two weeks against Susquehanna League champ Hallam.
“You still want to win games and stuff like that,” Schultz said. “But we’re playing short-handed and hurt too. Our second baseman, Scotty (Trail), has a bad quad and he really couldn’t move out there that last inning. And (Steve) Gentile in left field, he’s got a pulled hamstring for us. They all sucked it up for the stretch run to win it in the regular season, but we weren’t ... 100 percent today.”
LEAGUE PLAYOFF GAME
Stoverstown 7, Mount Wolf 0: At Mount Wolf, Daryl Harang pitched a seven-hit shutout for the visiting Tigers. Harang struck out one and walked one, while his defense played errorless ball behind him. Levi Krause (three hits, homer, two RBIs, two runs) and Harang (two hits, three RBIs) paced the Stoverstown offense. Tom Skehan had two hits, including a double, for the Wolves. Mount Wolf starter Dan Dierdorff pitched a complete game, allowing three earned runs. He fanned eight and walked one. Mount Wolf's defense committed four errors. Game 3 in the best-of-three semifinal series is 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at Stoverstown.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.