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 Wednesday, August 4, 2010




Gabelsville Goes Young to Get Jump in Tri-County Finals Series


Special to The Morning Call


While Gabelsville's baseball history might go back half a century, and its franchise can proudly claim almost half of the league's titles, the Owls needed two newcomers to survive Tuesday night's championship opener.

Playing the first game in a best-of-five Tri-County Baseball League championship series at Lee Mecherly Field, Gabelsville trailed 3-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning.

The Owls finally got to Limeport's left-handed junk-baller, Matt Wiltrout (5-3), with four runs for a 6-3 victory.

Ninth batter Brandon Sullivan delivered the biggest blow, a two-run double to the fence in center field that gave the hosts the lead for good, 4-3. Leadoff batter Josh Martin then singled home Sullivan.


After stealing second, Martin scored the final run on a hard-dirt infield error.

The hero was clearly Sullivan, the shortstop who had played for the Boyertown Legion squad the past two summers, including the team two years ago that eclipsed 50 wins.

"We really just had to adjust (to Wiltrout)," the Ursinus College junior said. "He was throwing a lot of off-speed pitches, keeping us off balance. The second and third time through the order we were able to keep the weight back and wait."

While Sullivan might be somewhat inexperienced in the adult Tri-County League, it's not as if he can't play. He made the Tri-County all-star team this season with a .370 batting average.

Still, he must earn his keep among so many veterans, and that means batting last in the order.

Another upstart who helped kick-start the playoff series was Tim Mayza.

The pitcher from Upper Perkiomen High barely qualified for the postseason. He needed eight more innings of work the final week to make it, and he earned seven of those in a complete-game, one-hit shutout against these Bulls on the last day.

He didn't dominate Tuesday. Mayza opened the game with five balls. The 6-foot-4 left-hander allowed five hits, three walks and two runs in four innings. Still, the recent high school graduate kept the Owls close until the bats woke up.

Limeport jumped ahead 2-1 in the third. With one out, Matt Nuhfer walked, Scott Garger (two runs) singled and Dan Hemberger grounded out to score Nuhfer. Ben Swatsky (2-3) singled home Garger.

The Owls tied the game in the bottom of the third inning with just one hit. Wiltrout plunked Ryan Zakszeski, his third hit batter, with one out. After a groundout moved Zakszeski to second, Dan Pierce pinch ran. He scored on a single by Shawn Betz (2-3, RBI, run).

Said Limeport manager Pat Lane: "They gave us so many opportunities in the first four or five innings. We didn't capitalize. There's a big difference being up two or three runs and being up one, especially when you play here."

Gabelsville turned double plays in each of the first two innings.

A run-scoring single down the third-base line by Limeport's Brian Ernst in the top of the fifth scored Garger with the go-ahead run, setting the stage for the dramatic comeback.

In the Gabelsville sixth, Mike Schwager singled and moved to second on a bloop single by Dan Pierce. Sullivan doubled both home for the lead.

Gabelsville (28-7) called on Todd Stapleton to close out the seventh. Apart from one disastrous regular-season outing in which the Northern Yankees scored seven runs, Stapleton pitched 20 scoreless innings in his other outings.

For the season, Gabelsville and Limeport have split six games. Both the regular-season finale — a 1-0 Gabelsville victory — and Tuesday night's game could have gone to either team.

Limeport (23-13) will send Ryan Palos to the mount tonight at 7:30 at Limeport Stadium in Game 2. Palos was the hard-luck loser in that regular-season showdown against Mayza.

Gabelsville figures to send veteran Betz (5-2, ERA under 2.00) to the mound. Betz is also batting around .450.

"We don't really have one dominant ace," said Owls manager Matt Danner, whose alma mater South Carolina won the college NCAA championship this year. "We have about four pitchers we can go to."

Gabelsville is the two-time defending league champion.

Limeport    002 010 0 — 3 7 1

Gabelsville  011 004 x — 6 8 0

Matt Wiltrout, Steve Geisel (6th) and Ben Swatsky. Tim Mayza, Gary Hessler (5), Todd Stapleton (7th) and Ryan Zakszeski. W-Hessler. L-Wiltrout. DP: G-2. SB: Limeport-Justin Godusky, Swatsky, Scott Garger. Gabelsville-Bret Umstead, Josh Martin. HBP: G-Shawn Betz, Mike Schwager and Zakszeski by Wiltrout. PB: G-Zakszeski. WP: G-Mayza. CS: L-Swatsky. Sac: Limeport-Dan Hemberger.


Bradley A. Huebner is a freelance writer.


From The Morning Call -- August 4, 2010

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