The school is a mere five years old, the baseball team has just 12 players on the roster and the program was making its first appearance in the PIAA Championship game.
No worries for Lancaster County Christian.
Behind a two-hit shutout from Kyle Ebersole, the Lions used a high-pressure offense to force Eisenhower into five errors and an 8-0 win in the Class A title game Friday morning at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
“It’s a great feeling,” Ebersole said. “It was one of our goals, and to accomplish it, honestly, it feels so good right now.”
The District 3 champions (24-4) won their 13th straight game while riding the arm of the junior right-handed pitcher, who struck out six and walked one, needing just 74 pitches in the complete game while being backed by error-free defense.
“I don’t think he gave three balls to a batter after the third inning,” head coach Chris Burns said. “That’s how you pitch with a lead.”
The team scratched out 10 hits, stole four bases and exerted plenty of pressure on the Knights’ defense. In addition to the five errors, losing pitcher Casey Vincent walked five, hit a batter and had a wild pitch, and catcher Logan Bellardo had a passed ball. Vincent struck out five in 6 2/3 innings, and only three runs allowed were earned.
“We knew that’s what they were going to do,” said head coach Cody Vincent of the high-pressure tactics. “We just didn’t make the plays.”
Eisenhower, which had to race back for Commencement exercises Friday night, also was making its first finals appearance, and the first for any Warren County team up on the New York border. It is just the fourth program from District 10 to make the finals.
“We played so well for four weeks there,” said Cody Vincent, Casey’s brother. “For it to sort of end like this, on probably our worst game all year we played — I told the guys I’m proud of them. We didn’t do much well today.”
The Lions turned up the pressure in the top of the first, and got help from the Knights.
Chandler Petersheim’s grounder to third drew a throw wide of the first base bag. He was sacrificed to second, stole third and the throw sailed into left field to allow him to trot home. Ebersole then drew a walk, rounded to third on Jeremy Brubaker’s double and scored on Luke Dixon’s infield single.
In the second, Hunter Smucker’s one-out single to left was bobbled, allowing him to move to second, and a passed ball helped him to third before Petersheim put down a perfect suicide squeeze to plate the run.
There were more errors in the third. Ebersole led off with a single, moved up on a ground out and when Dixon put down a bunt, the ball was sent into left field in an attempt to get Ebersole, who raced home. Dixon went to second on the play and later scored on a Ben Glessner RBI single.
The lead was 5-0, and by then Ebersole was cruising.
“That was huge,” Ebersole said. “Whenever I can get out there and get a lead right away — I know they have done great all year — I don’t have to be perfect. I can make mistakes, and it’s great.”
A single run came in the sixth, with Jensen King beating out an infield single and scoring on another suicide squeeze from Brubaker. A two-run single from King in the seventh capped the scoring.
“We prepared well for this and this and they just stuck to the game plan,” Burns said. “We’ve kind of done this the whole way through. It wasn’t something new. A lot of teams get on us, they think we’re playing cheap baseball, but really we’re playing good baseball.”