EPHRATA >> For five innings, Daniel Boone found themselves trailing Manheim Central in a District 3 Class 5A playoff semifinal punctuated by an electrical issue at the stadium, and on-and-off rain that got heavy enough at times to require additional grooming of the pitchers’ mound at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.
But in the sixth, a sequence of circumstances contrived to give Boone the upper hand. It was an advantage it kept through an unsettling seventh, good for a 2-1 victory and a trip to the Blazers’ first district championship game in 20 seasons.
With one out, Carson Zuber and Brendan Rivoli hit successive singles. Devon Garner followed with a grounder to shortstop … and the craziness ensued.
Zuber, who got to third off Rivoli’s hit, came home to tie things up. Rivoli went to third, beating a relay throw that went out of the field of play. The Boone senior kept going to the plate, his headfirst slide beating the high throw to the Central catcher.
“I saw the hit, and the infield error,” Rivoli recalled, “I got to third, and saw the ball get away.”
That quickly turned things around in the Blazers’ favor. They finished the game up in the top of the seventh, relief pitcher Zach Brightbill weathering a two-hit frame by striking out Manheim designated hitter Taylor Rohrer.
Now, Boone has a trip to Thursday’s title game on its itinerary.
“That’s kind of the way we’ve played … this year, but also for years,” head coach Jason McCord said. “This is a great senior class. This year they’ve had a better season.”
Manheim got a run during its first at-bat. Leadoff hitter Jake Novak singled through the middle, stole second, then moved to third off Tyler Simon’s groundout to second. A walk to pitcher Drew Mummau preceded Tyler Lutz’s single to right that plated Novak.
Luke Heffner went only three innings for Boone before being replaced by Matt Henderson. Heffner was touched for three hits and three walks, though he had four strikeouts to his credit.
Heffner went through 73 pitches for his brief stint, 38 of them in the troublesome first. Still, his efforts and those of Henderson and Brightbill, were lauded by their head coach as key components in the team’s latest triumph.
“Heffner did a great job. He’s had arm problems,” McCord said. “Henderson pitched a huge inning, coming in and shutting them down. And Brightbill closed it out.”
The championship game figures to be at FirstEnergy Stadium, against an opponent to be determined.
NOTES >> Ty Esenwein ended Mummau’s no-hit bid with a two-out single to left-center in the fourth. He was Boone’s first baserunner, walking in the second. … A partial blackout fell as Manheim prepared to come to bat in the second after the right-side stadium lights and scoreboards went out and stayed that way for about 15 minutes. On-and-off rain had the grounds crew touching up the mound throughout.