Time after time, Ryan MacNamara found himself in a similar spot — runners on base and Spring Mills threatening.
But each and every time, the bearded right-hander repelled the Braves.
With MacNamara’s pitching and a few runs scraped together, the No. 1-seeded Clarence Mounties held off the Spring Mills Braves 4-1 in the second Centre County Baseball League semifinal game on Tuesday night.
The Mounties, following Tuesday’s win and a 14-0 triumph on Sunday, hold a 2-0 series lead and are only one win away from reaching the championship.
MacNamara is a big reason why.
The 27-year-old hurler made just his second start of the summer after sitting out a year due to a torn labrum and separated AC joint, and he was effective. MacNamara walked four batters, but struck out six and allowed only four hits in a complete-game effort.
“He’s pitched in Division I,” Clarence coach Rob Gavlock said of the former Southern Miss pitcher. “He was pretty much in control. Had a lot of confidence.”
And he showed his mettle with two outs.
In the bottom of the first inning, MacNamara forced a bases-loaded groundout to end the threat.
In the fourth frame, he induced a flyout with runners on second and third.
With men on first and third in the fifth, he did the same.
In total, MacNamara stranded nine runners on base.
“He got the outs and forced them to put the ball in play,” Gavlock said. “He threw strikes and limited mistakes.”
Across the diamond, Spring Mills coach Fred Johnson saw several chances fall by the wayside. But he could do nothing but tip his cap to MacNamara.
“We just couldn’t get the big hit,” Johnson said. “A lot of missed opportunities, but it goes right back to Mac. He threw a hell of a game. You can’t take that away from him.”
For MacNamara, he’s accustomed to those high-pressure situations. Before his time at Southern Miss, the righty had a 16-3 record in two years at Allegany College of Maryland and helped Bald Eagle Area to the PIAA Class AA championship in 2007.
He knew what he needed to do.
“It’s just a mindset,” MacNamara said. “I’m going to win this and not you.”
Thankfully for the pitcher, his teammates started to win a few battles at the plate, too.
The Mounties managed one run in the top of the first inning on a groundout by Justin Taylor that scored Bryce Greene.
Then the bats went silent for the next few innings.
“It was a 1-0 ballgame for a while,” Gavlock said. “It was a little nerve-wracking.”
Until the fifth inning when the Mounties created some breathing room. A double down the right-field line by Taylor scored Greene and Chuck Probst, giving Clarence a 3-0 lead.
Add in a bloop RBI single by Probst in the top of the seventh, and MacNamara had more than enough cushion to work with.
Spring Mills generated a run in the bottom of the final inning when Clarence took the out in a rundown, but that was it.
Johnson felt bad for Braves starting pitcher Rich Auman, who, despite being tabbed with the loss, struck out seven in seven innings of work.
But now the Braves, if they want to stay alive, must turn their attention to Game 3 of the series — Thursday night at Clarence.
And it’s not going to be easy.
“All pitchers on deck, we’ll try to steal one and come back here,” Johnson said. “It’s all you can do.”