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GIANT KILLERS: Raiders stun top-seeded West York, claim first district playoff win

Posted 5/27/14

After pulling off a late rally to defeat top-seeded West York on Monday, May 19 in the first round of the District 3 Class AAA playoffs, the Middletown baseball team saw its season come to a disheartening end on Thursday, May 22 in a 4-2 …

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GIANT KILLERS: Raiders stun top-seeded West York, claim first district playoff win

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Northeastern 4, Middletown 2

Luck was not on the Middletown side of the field in Ephrata in the second round, however, as the season ground to a screeching halt in a loss to the Bobcats.tinynickhit5 28 14Middletown’s Nick Drawbaugh connects with a Northeastern pitch as the Blue Raiders battled into the night in a weather-delayed playoff game.

 

As the nightcap of a playoff doubleheader, the game between the Raiders and Northeastern got off to a late start because of slow play in the first game, a contest pitting Hempfield against Governor Mifflin. To make matters worse, the game between the Raiders and Bobcats was halted at the midway point of the sixth inning because of weather and did not restart until 10 p.m.  

 

On top of it all, the Middletown defense had a rough night, committing a devastating eight errors, the difference in the game.

 

It was a tough way to lose for a team that had worked so hard all season, and especially disappointing for seniors Fox, Popp, Drawbaugh and Harper.

 

One of the key indicators as to how the game would go showed up right from the very start, and very likely played a role in the mental approach to the game. Fox led off the game for Middletown with a single to center and ran to third on Popp’s hit to right. But rather than plating a run or two in that opening frame, both runners were left stranded as Bobcat pitcher Kody Reeser sat down the next three batters to end the threat.  

 

The Bobcats (14-8) also put their first two runners on base with hits against starting pitcher Sims but, unlike the Middletown side, Northeastern turned the opportunities into a pair of runs. Both runs came as the result of Middletown errors.

 

In the bottom of the second inning, Sims pitched out of a bases-loaded jam to prevent further damage.

 

The Raiders threatened in the top of the third after Sims singled with two outs and Kell was safe on an error. But Sims was thrown out a third on the play, keeping the Raiders off the scoreboard.

 

The 2-0 Northeastern lead held up until the bottom of the fifth, when the Bobcats cashed in on four Middletown errors that plated two more runs.

 

The Middletown side finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth to avert a potential shutout. Kell led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on Ocker’s ground ball single. After courtesy runner Brandon Harper reached third on Drawbaugh’s fielder’s choice grounder, Altland poked a sacrifice fly to right to knock in the Raiders’ first run.

 

With a thunderstorm brewing, the game was stopped following the third out of the inning, forcing a one-hour delay before play was resumed at 10 p.m.

 

Another error allowed Northeastern’s leadoff runner to reach base in the bottom of the sixth, but the Raiders turned a double play on a line out to Altland in center and a throw to first to pick off the Bobcats’ Tom Skehan. Sims recorded strikeout No. 8 to end the inning.  

 

The Raiders went down fighting in their final at-bat in the top of the seventh and made a gallant effort to stage a comeback.

With two outs, Popp beat out a throw to first for an infield single to start a mini-rally. Sims was safe on an error and Kell drew a walk to load the bases, and the Raiders were adding some excitement to the late-evening atmosphere.

 

Ocker fouled off two pitches and worked a full count against Reeser before drawing a walk to drive in Popp from third for the Raiders’ second run.  

 

Popp, Sims, Kell and Ocker were each down to their final strikes before getting on base.

 

So, too, was Drawbaugh, who faced Bobcat relief pitcher Adam Kipp with the bases loaded. But Kipp won the battle with a strikeout that ended the rally and nailed down the win for Northeastern.

 

Northeastern, the No. 8 seed, is the highest remaining seed in the Class AAA tournament. The top seven seeds all lost in the opening two rounds.

 

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