MANHEIM — For six innings of Tuesday's District 3 Class 4-A semifinal game at Manheim Township High School, Kennard-Dale played some of its worst baseball of the season.
It took just two innings of magic, however, to erase it all.
Trailing by four runs entering the bottom of the seventh against York-Adams League rival West York, the Rams finally put together a rally to tie the game and force extra innings. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, still riding high off the emotion from the seventh, K-D completed the comeback, winning on a Ben Lowe RBI single with two outs to down the Bulldogs, 5-4, and advance to Thursday's championship game and earn a berth in the state tournament. West York will play in the third-place game on Thursday to try and earn a spot in states, as well.
"This win right here showed us how good and how effective we are," Rams' head coach Blake Knecht said. "We're a ball club right now that played five or six of the worst innings we played all year and we needed to make corrections that we didn't do in the first six innings and we made them in one inning and we're able to go and get it back."
K-D (17-3) was held to just one hit through the first six innings, in large part because Bulldogs' ace Zach Gettys dominated them. However, with Gettys leaving the game in the sixth after reaching the 100-pitch threshold, the Rams knew they had a chance against a suspect West York bullpen.
After seeing the first player get retired in the bottom of the seventh, K-D loaded the bases on the next three batters to give the heart of its order a chance to shine. Those guys delivered, with No. 3 hitter Garrett Lowe keeping the rally going with a two-run double to cut the Bulldogs' lead in half and finally get the Rams on the board. Then, Ben Stewart lined a shot up the middle to tie the game, advancing into scoring position on the throw home.
It looked like K-D was going to win the game in the seventh, but a diving stop by second baseman Trent Ketterman at least got West York into extra innings, but it hardly mattered.
After Rams' reliever Sean Fletcher pitched his fourth inning of clean baseball in the eighth, K-D came to bat with a chance to win it. After Justin Wetzel retired the first two batters in the bottom half, freshman Max Cooper, in his first varsity at-bat, worked a two-out walk and then stole second base. Then Ben Lowe delivered the winning single, a shot down the third-base line, to send the Rams into the district championship contest.
"I've been in that situation before, and so you kind of know how to handle it," Ben Lowe said. "But, that was such a great team win, especially Garrett in that (seventh) inning. That was huge to start that rally."
K-D didn't make winning the game easy, especially with all the mistakes it made in the field over the first few innings. After falling behind 2-0 through the first two innings, the defense left starter Ethan Phillips hanging in the third. Phillips allowed just one ball into the outfield, but three errors and another mental lapse led to two more West York runs to give the 10th-seeded Bulldogs a 4-0 cushion. At that point, it looked to be plenty for Gettys.
Unfortunately, a long first inning forced him to exit earlier than he would've liked, allowing the sixth-seeded Rams a glimmer of hope, one that they had no problem taking.
Even off of the emotional high of winning in such dramatic fashion to make the district championship game and wrap up a state tournament berth, K-D knows it has plenty to fix over the next 48 hours if it wants to become a district champion.
"There's obviously a lot of work to be done," Ben Lowe said. "That was not Kennard-Dale baseball the way we want it to be. So, we'll come back (Wednesday) focused and get ready for Thursday."
In Thursday's title contest, the Rams will take on either ninth-seeded West Perry (15-7) or fifth-seeded East Pennsboro (15-4). Those two teams had their semifinal rained out on Tuesday and will now meet Wednesday. The championship game is scheduled for Thursday, with a site and time to be determined.
West York will face the West Perry-East Pennsboro loser in the third-place game on Thursday, also at a site and time to be determined.
Dallastown 3, Penn Manor 0: Behind a dominating and efficient outing from junior pitcher Nick Parker, No. 2 Dallastown shut out No. 3 Penn Manor, 3-0, to advance to Thursday's District 3 6-A championship game.
"This was my third or fourth outing, so this is about when I start to get hot anyways," said Parker, who missed much of the season after suffering a broken elbow at the beginning of the season. "Our slogan is 'you gotta finish.' It's not how you start, it's how you finish.
Parker needed just 80 pitches to finish out his complete-game, three-hitter, only running into trouble once in the game. That came in the third inning when he loaded the bases with one out, but got a big 5-2-3 inning-ending double play.
The second-seeded Wildcats (19-4) staked Parker to an early lead after scoring a run in the bottom of the first after senior Tye Golden led off the half inning with a double. He was brought home on a groundout by Bryant Holtzapple later in the frame. Dallastown added to the lead with a run in the second inning on an RBI double by Zach Ness.
"It's always important to get started early, especially in a defensive game," Golden said. "Usually, these type of games aren't blowouts, or high-scoring games, so it's always important to get an early run, get on the board early and put them in a hole."
The final bit of offense came in the bottom of the fifth when Golden scored from second on a throwing error by the Comets' pitcher, Matt Talli.
The Wildcats will face the winner of the top-seeded Governor Mifflin vs. fourth-seeded Warwick game, which was postponed until Wednesday, in the championship game on Thursday.
With the win, Dallastown also secured a spot in next week's PIAA Class 6-A tournament.
Third-seeded Penn Manor fell to 14-7.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.