The edge of glory: Raiders win, lose 1-run games as playoffs near
These one-run games are threatening to push Middletown baseball Coach Mike Carnes right over the edge.All three of his team’s games last week ended in single-run differences, finishes that have occurred on a regular basis throughout the 2013 …
The edge of glory: Raiders win, lose 1-run games as playoffs near
On Tuesday, April 30 the Blue Raiders came up a run short at Mechanicsburg. The next day, the Raiders saw a big lead slip away but were able to hang on for a one-run victory over visiting Bishop McDevitt. And on Friday, May 3 Carnes’ crew lost a 1-0 decision at Hershey.
“I’m getting to the point that I’m understanding that we are young and we are going to win those types of games in the future,” Carnes said. “But I was real pleased with the way we swung the bats all week.”
Depending on what happens this week among the other AAA teams in District 3, the Middletown squad could earn a spot in the post-season playoff picture.
Middletown 9, Bishop McDevitt 8
The Raiders were cruising along with a 9-1 lead on their home field before visiting Bishop McDevitt rallied in the final two innings to turn the Keystone Division clash into a nailbiter.
Nathan Ocker worked a solid five innings on the mound and the Middletown squad turned in its best hitting of the season on their way to the seemingly comfortable lead. But the tide turned in the sixth and seventh as the Crusaders took the game down to the wire.
Carnes could only shake his head in disbelief as the Raiders turned a potential rout into yet another tight finish.
“We almost 10-runned them,” he said. “But we let the game get away from us and barely won.”
Five fielding errors in those pivotal last two innings nearly led to disaster for the Middletown nine. Ocker did well in his five innings even though he never really looked quite like himself during the stint, according to Carnes. The coach was surprised to hear that his sophomore ace still ended up with eight strikeouts.
Ocker gave up just 4 hits and walked three. The offense punched out 10 hits against three McDevitt pitchers.
The Raiders broke a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the second inning when Ryan Popp smashed a single past the McDevitt shortstop that drove in Nick Drawbaugh from second.
After Ocker retired the side in the top of the third, the Raiders plated two more runs in the home half. Brett Altland led off with a double to right field and moved to third on a single by Cody Fox. A fielder’s choice ground ball by Kyle Finsterbush forced out Fox at second but also knocked in Altland for one run.
After stealing second and going to third on a McDevitt error, Finsterbush made it home when Jordan Flowers was safe on another Crusader error. Ocker followed with a double but Flowers was thrown out a third on the relay for the third out. Middletown led, 3-0.
In the top of the fourth, the Crusaders scored on an RBI double by John Brubaker to make it a 3-1 game.
The Raiders, however, lit up the new McDevitt pitcher for 6 runs in the home half of the fourth frame. And those runs turned out to be the saving grace for the Middletown squad.
Zach Sims led off the inning by drawing a walk on four pitches and Popp was hit by a pitch to put the first two runners on base. Dylan Bower then stroked a clean single to center to push in one run, and a sacrifice line out to left field scored another.
After Fox walked, Kyle Finsterbush punched out an infield single to load the bases for Flowers, who came through with a run-scoring infield hit. Ocker’s single drove in two more runs.
The Raiders again had the bases loaded when Drawbaugh was safe on an error and Sims walked. Popp was safe on yet another McDevitt error that allowed the ninth run to cross the plate.
Ocker got out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth when the Crusaders picked up their second run of the game.
Drawbaugh replaced Ocker on the hill to start the sixth inning and was hurt by a walk, two errors and a pair of run-scoring hits. After going scoreless in the bottom of the sixth the Middletown squad was hanging on to a 9-5 lead to start the seventh.
A walk and back-to-back errors loaded the bases with Crusaders before the defense got the first out on a force at home. But the bags were still full and McDevitt picked up run number 6 on an RBI single.
Drawbaugh got the second out by fanning the next batter but another fielding miscue and a walk pushed in two more runs to make it a 9-8 game. Fortunately, Drawbaugh got the final out on a soft bouncer back to the mound and throw to first to close out the victory.
Mechanicsburg 3, Middletown 2
In another division contest that had been delayed a day due to rain, the Raiders came up on the short end of a tough decision at Mechanicsburg. Down 3-0 after six full innings, the Middletown nine rallied for a pair of runs in the top of the seventh, but went down fighting as the host Wildcats held on for the win.
Mechanicsburg scored one run in the second inning and two more in the third against Sims, Middletown’s starting pitcher, who finished with seven strikeouts in six innings.
Meanwhile, Mechanicsburg starter Parker Beatty was flowing along with a no-hitter through five innings and appeared to be heading for a shutout victory. Kyle Finsterbush unofficially broke up the no-hit bid in the top of the sixth stanza, but his single on the right side was changed to an error instead.
Ocker pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth in relief of Sims and then ripped a leadoff double off the right field fence to officially deny Beatty his no-hitter. After drawing a walk that put two runners on base, Sims was out on a rundown between first and second, but Ocker made it safely to third. Popp and Drawbaugh then drew back-to-back walks to load the bases and end Beatty’s day on the hill.
New pitcher Thomas Heenan struck out pinch hitter Ethan Kell for the second out, but Altland’s clutch single knocked in two runs to break the scoreless showing for the Middletown side.
Fox nearly kept the game alive for the Raiders when he tried to beat out a ground ball on the left side of the diamond. But Fox, who dove headfirst at the bag, was called out on a very close play for the final out of the game.
Hershey 1, Middletown 0
Sims actually outpitched Hershey’s Eric Marrero in Friday’s road game under the lights, giving up just five hits while striking out nine and issuing no walks in the tough loss.
Sims also had two of Middletown’s six hits in the contest.
The game’s only run was unearned, the result of Middletown’s lone defensive error of the contest.
As it turned out, the Trojans came out on the plus side of a close play at home in the fourth inning to record the winner. A relay throw from right fielder Flowers to first baseman Drawbaugh to catcher Fox off Cole Graham’s RBI single nearly had the Hershey runner out at home. But a dropped ball and scramble for the tag that just missed on the play allowed the run to score.
“We had our chances to score but came up empty,” Carnes said.
The Raiders had a runner on base in the first inning following a walk, one on in the second when Fox singled, runners at second and third in the third, and a runner at first on a leadoff hit to start the fourth. But, with the six hits scattered throughout their seven innings, the Middletown offense simply could not produce any runs.
Larry Etter can be reached at email@example.com.