JACOBUS — It's often said that good pitching will beat good hitting.
For Hallam, that's certainly been the case thus far in Susquehanna League Playoff Championship Series.
The Express, who finished in a tie for third in the regular-season standings with Conrads, have received some outstanding pitching in the first two games of the best-of-five series vs. regular-season champion East Prospect.
Veteran right-hander Brian Crumbling limited the Pistons to no runs and three hits over five innings Tuesday before the game was suspended with Hallam leading, 6-0.
Matt Ruth nearly matched his teammate on Thursday. The former York Suburban standout pitched six innings of shutout ball before the Pistons scratched across a run in the seventh.
With the potential game-tying run on third with two outs, Ruth managed to end the game with a ground out to second to give the Express a 2-1 triumph, finishing off a three-hit complete-game victory.
Hallam (26-15) leads the series 1-0, with Game 1 to be resumed at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at East Prospect. Game 3 will follow immediately after the conclusion of Game 1 on Saturday.
"Good pitching always beats good hitting," Hallam manager Mike Wecker said after Thursday's game. "But you have to play good defense too. Even if we messed up a play here or there, nobody hung their heads. They just got back and made the next play."
Pistons struggling at plate: So far the Pistons (30-12) have struggled offensively in the playoff title series, something that hasn't often been a problem this season for the York County champions. East Prospect was on the cusp of getting shut out for a second consecutive night before Ben Achenbach ripped a RBI single to right with two outs in the seventh.
"You have to take your hats off to them," Pistons manager Mark Toomey said. "They did a good job pitching. We're not hitting right now and if you're not hitting you can't score runs."
Little room for error: The Express didn't have a lot of margin for error. They struggled as well against East Prospect ace Seth Lefever, who limited Hallam to four hits.
One of those hits, however, was a two-out solo homer by Hallam third baseman Dan Wecker in the bottom of the sixth that proved to be decisive.
"I told the guys going into that last inning (the sixth) that we have to come up with at least one run here," Mike Wecker said. "Having just one run going into the seventh would just be too tight and it turned out to be that way. So for Dan to hit that home run ... for me, definitely sweet."
Sweet win for Ruth: Getting the victory was also sweet for Ruth, who drove in his team's other run in the bottom of the second inning on a double. The right-hander walked four and struck out four to pick up the win.
"I'm just trying to throw strikes and let the guys behind me make the plays," he said. "EP is not a team that's going to allow you to score too many (runs), so you just got to throw good pitches and hope that they get themselves out."
Getting hot at right time: If the Express can keep that up for at least nine innings Saturday — the last two of Game 1, in addition to a full Game 3 — they may very well make amends for a season that was slightly under their typical high standards.
"At the beginning of the year and through the year we weren't playing our best," Mike Wecker said. "So to be getting hot right now is really nice."
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.