For a few minutes, the Howard Hawks were concerned.
The Lemont Ducks had an early lead in the teams’ Centre County Baseball League playoff game Thursday evening at Howard Elementary School.
“Gut-check time,” Howard’s Wayne Haas said. “But you get back on top, makes everybody smile.”
The worries only lasted until the bottom of the first inning.
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That was when the Hawks grabbed the lead for good, and eventually put away the Ducks 9-3 to take Game 3 of the best-of-three series.
Howard heads to the semifinals for a best-of-five series against Philipsburg’s Spike Island Pirates starting Sunday.
Tyler Womer cracked a pair of doubles while pitching the complete-game win to pace the Hawks. Brandon Gettig and Haas each added 2 for 3 days at the plate.
Lemont can’t complain about the way the game started. Dan Fry led off the evening with an infield single, was sacrificed to second and scored on a Calvin Sichler single ticking off Womer’s glove.
In the opening game of the series Sunday, the Ducks had an early lead before the Hawks rallied, then Lemont took Game 2 on Tuesday.
“Last game felt really good, and the first game we were up on them and felt great,” Fry said. “… We had all faith coming into this game that we were going to win.”
However, Ducks starter Josh Glunt struggled on the mound early, hitting two batters and walking two more in the bottom of the first. A double by Womer down the right-field line plated one run, a wild pitch scored another and a Dylan Womer RBI single put the Hawks up 3-1.
“That was very big,” Tyler Womer said. “That’s one of the things we’ve been struggling to do – getting on top early and keeping it.”
Losing the early lead proved deflating for the Ducks.
“It took some wind out of our sails,” Fry said. “Just kind of in shock. … We tried to stay as positive as we could throughout the game, but we kept putting ourselves down.”
Three more Hawk runs crossed in the fourth, with one on an RBI single for Haas and the other two when Evan Gettig’s hard grounder went under the glove of shortstop Ty Yazujian, then got past centerfielder Fry.
The final three Howard runs were plated in the sixth on back-to-back RBI singles for Brandon Gettig and Scott Zuback, with Gettig touching the plate for the final run to complete a double steal when Zuback swiped second.
The bottom of the order for Howard came through just as much as the top offensively. The 7-8-9 batters picked up four hits with two runs and two RBIs.
“Keep swinging, banging the ball, and when the bottom of the order comes through,” said the spry Haas, who at 64 is the league’s oldest player, “makes for a good game.”
Yazujian singled and scored on a Ben Ripka ground out in the fourth for Lemont and Fry singled and scored on a Yazujian single in the sixth.
On the mound, Tyler Womer gave up seven hits but no walks with eight strikeouts.
“I was hitting my spots and everything seemed to be going my way,” said Womer, who closed the game with strikeouts of the final two Duck batters.
“Going into that last inning, you know you’ve got to put it away,” Womer said. “That gives you a little extra oomph to reach back and do that.”
It sets up a rematch with Philipsburg, last year’s league champs after a disputed finish in the final series, when a game was forfeited - then not - over an ineligible player.
“That’s all over,” Tyler Womer said. “We put that behind us. Doesn’t have anything to do with anything now.”
“It’s good to play them again,” Haas said. “Rivalries are good. Always enjoy them.”