UPPER MORELAND — George Jacob didn’t even need to go 90 feet for his expression to totally change.
Off the bat, the Roslyn outfielder figured the ball he hit was going to be snared out of the air by Fort Washington’s second baseman. But the ball had just enough flight in its path, glancing off the leaping infielder’s glove and into right field, prompting Jacob to raise both arms in celebration as he touched first base.
He didn’t need to see it, but behind him, Jack Ruch crossed home plate to finish the championship-winning walk-off.
Jacob’s two-out hit delivered to end an intense championship game as Roslyn edged the Generals 3-2 in the Lower Montco Legion final Sunday at Masons Mill Park to clinch a bid in the Region 3 tournament.
“I went in thinking he was going to pitch me away,” Jacob said. “I didn’t think he would throw me off-speed but I saw a curveball second pitch and knew he was going to pump outside with a fastball. I stayed back and chipped it past the second baseman into right field.”
From the outset, the fifth meeting between the Blue Hawks and Fort Washington this season had a different feel. While every game between the two LML programs is usually close, the added weight of a potential title brought the best out in both.
Fort needed a win to force a decisive title game Monday and starting pitcher Ethan Hamilton did all he could to make that happen. The big right-hander, a rising senor at Springfield Twp, struck out eight batters and gave up just six hits and aided his own cause with an RBI double in the second inning.
“It came down to the wire, we didn’t execute when we needed to and they did,” Fort manager Gary Bonitatibus said. “Ethan pitched fantastic for us and hit that bomb out there for a double too. We just weren’t hitting them as much as we should and at the end of the day, that’s what it came down to.”
Roslyn’s win snapped a two-year title streak for the Generals as the Blue Hawks return to the Region 3 tournament for the first time since 2016. Getting there required a rally and then some late-game heroics.
After Hamilton’s one-out double scored Sean Curran to open the scoring in the second, the pitcher came around when Generals catcher Gabe Franczyk belted an RBI double to almost the same exact spot in deep left-center field. Roslyn pitcher Cody Judge escaped without further damage and pitched a scoreless third before Jamie Burkhart took over and finished the game.
That third inning was a rough one for Jacob in the field. The right fielder and second baseman Jack Gibbons nearly ran each other over on a pop-up that left Jacob slow to get up. Jacob, who is going into his sophomore year as part of Montgomery County Community College’s baseball program, was able to shake it off.
“It’s tiring, once you get to the later innings you definitely feel it,” Jacob said. “But you just have to focus and remember you worked two months for this and you have to make the best of it. It feels crazy, I love this team and I’m so happy we got it.”
Roslyn got a run back in the second on an RBI single from Griffin Wittenberg that followed back to back singles by Connor Duddy and Jacob to open the frame. Hamilton stranded the other two runners in that frame but couldn’t prevent Duddy from tying the game an inning later on a sac fly that scored Cam Marrow.
Fort Washington had a couple other chances to score, stranding a runner at third in the fifth and putting another runner at third in the sixth. The Generals attempted a squeeze bunt but when the batter missed the pitch, Roslyn catcher Steve Vogl was able to quickly hop up and get the baserunner in a rundown to end the threat.
“We had some opportunities and just get any hits there,” Bonitatibus said. “We had a lot of guys back from last year and had high expectations for a successful season, which we did. We would have liked to win a championship but Roslyn deserved it, they beat us five times and I don’t think that’s ever happened before.”
Jack Ruch led off the bottom of the seventh in a key spot for Roslyn. Whatever the outcome, he would be Hamilton’s last batter due to pitch count so the La Salle graduate wanted to make the most of it.
“Jamie shut it down for us in the top of the inning so I came up ready to get on,” Ruch said. “I took the first pitch then was just looking for something to drive. I got a good one and took it to left field and then I was just looking for dirt balls trying to get around the bases.”
Ruch’s leadoff single fired up the already energized Roslyn bench and the third baseman made two good reads on balls in the dirt to take second and third base. Knowing the team’s strongest hitters were up behind him, Ruch wasn’t looking to do more than he needed to.
“I might not score if I’m still on second, so I was trying to find any way to get around,” Ruch said.
Jacob credited Fort Washington for the season’s worth of battles and he was glad it came down to the two squads in the final.
After reliever Kevin Keown retired Joe DiMaria and Duddy, Jacob stepped up with a chance to finish off Roslyn’s season-long mission. After making contact, his eyes were locked on the ball.
“I wasn’t sure in the moment, I was just watching like everyone else,” Jacob said. “I was just so happy when I saw it fall.
“It means everything. Roslyn hasn’t had the trophy in a couple years, so we wanted to bring it back. I can’t wait for regionals.”