Jacobus nips East Prospect, moves to Susquehanna finals
- Kerry Clark's highlight-reel seventh-inning catch was pivotal for Jacobus.
- Mike Austin's 10th-inning homer proved to be the game-winning hit.
- Jacobus now faces Hallam in the Susquehanna League Playoff Championship Series.
EAST PROSPECT — Kerry Clark saved Jacobus' season on Sunday afternoon with a highlight-reel catch in the seventh inning.
Three innings later, Clark's teammate, Mike Austin, delivered a dramatic 10th-inning home run that lifted the Jackals over East Prospect, 3-2, and into the Susquehanna League Playoff Championship Series. Jacobus will take on regular-season champion Hallam in a best-of-five series that begins Tuesday at Hallam.
It appeared that East Prospect was going to be the team moving on when the Pistons loaded the bases with only one out in the bottom of the seventh of a 2-2 game. After Jacobus pitcher Mike Crowe got the next hitter on a popup, East Prospect's Mark Schauren lifted a ball that appeared was going to land behind third base in fair territory.
However, Clark, the Jackals' third baseman, running with his back to the plate, took off on contact and caught the ball before it hit the ground.
"That was an unbelievable play," Crowe said. "It saved the game. The left fielder had no play on it, the shortstop had no play on it."
Clark, though, made the play and Crowe earned the victory. He worked all 10 innings in the heat, throwing 153 pitches, striking out three and walking five.
"I've never been too much of a pitch-count guy," Crowe said. "I just go until I can't go anymore."
Crowe admitted that he was glad that Austin broke the tie in the 10th because the left-hander didn't think he would be able to continue pitching. Asked how much he had in the tank after the 10th inning, Crowe, said "none."
Austin helped insure there wouldn't be an 11th inning when he led off the top of the 10th by driving a pitch over the fence in right field. There was a wind blowing that way, but Austin didn't need much help. He connected solidly on the pitch.
"I was just looking for a pitch to drive," Austin said. "I thought maybe I could start the seventh off with a double, but I got my pitch, and I put a good swing on it."
Austin was glad he was able to provide Crowe with the victory.
"I had to do something for Mike. He was pitching a hell of a game," Austin said.
Austin finished with three hits, and Brett Houseal connected for two East Prospect hits.
"Mike Austin came up big for us," Jacobus manager Jed Larkin said. "Now, it's on to Hallam, and hope we can manage a couple of wins there. East Prospect deserves credit for battling us, but we didn't give up."
The Pistons, behind the outstanding pitching of Seth Lefever, carried a 2-0 lead to the top of the seventh.
Jacobus refused to lose, though, as it combined Eric Hamberger's double with Larkin's single and an error to score one run. The Jackals, down to their last out, forged a tie when Clark beat out a slow roller to score the tying run from third base
The teams then played through two scoreless extra innings before Austin unloaded to start the 10th inning.
Jacobus will now prepare to face Hallam. The Jackals finished two places behind Express in the regular season.
"We were disappointed in our regular season," Crowe said. "Not that third is terrible, but we felt we had the team to do a little bit better. The playoffs are a whole new season for us."
East Prospect's season closed, but the Pistons had a very good year, finishing second in the regular season. East Prospect had its chances on Sunday, but stranded 11 runners.
"We just couldn't get the big hit," Pistons' manager Mark Toomey said.
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.