UPPER DUBLIN — Mark O’Brien was close enough, so why not try and make a fantastic catch?
The Fort Washington center fielder went full extension in the top of the fifth inning to rob Horsham’s Will Bruner of a hit with a stellar diving snag, leaving a pair of runs stranded and maintaining the Golden Generals’ 6-1 lead.
“I just figured, I mean, I might as well go for it,” O’Brien said. “With the two runs that were going to be scored, I had to lay out for it.”
In the bottom of the fifth, O’Brien collected one of Fort’s five singles as it pulled away further, tacking on four more runs in the frame as the top-seeded Generals earned a spot in the Lower Montco American Legion final with a 10-1 victory over the No. 3 MACS Friday night at Upper Dublin High School.
“We wanted to end that game in that inning,” O’Brien said. “We didn’t quite get there but we did.”
The contest was suspended Thursday due to weather in the bottom of the first with one out and one on and Horsham holding a 1-0 lead. Fort quickly grabbed the advantage Friday with three runs in its half of the first, added another three in the third before finishing its offensive output in the fifth.
“We were just trying to get on base,” Fort Washington’s Ryan Deal said. “Walks, hit, it doesn’t matter and just did that. Got some runs.”
The Generals racked up nine hits and walked seven times, including four straight free passes to plate their first run in the third as Fort moves a win away from its first league title since 2018.
“We can’t take any of the teams lightly,” O’Brien said. “They’re all good they can beat us twice and we just got to play our very best on Sunday.”
For Horsham, frustration started even before play even resumed as the MACS were unable to throw Thursday’s starting pitcher Jimmy Tooley. Horsham coach Bill Doer said he was told by Lower Montco commissioner Tim Trainor earlier in the day that Tooley was available to pitch but that prior to the contest was notified that was not the case.
American Legion rules state no pitcher can make more than two appearances during a consecutive three-day period. Tooley threw 16 pitches Wednesday in the win over Mount Airy then nine Thursday before the game was suspended.
“I’m thinking, this is what that commissioner told me, he’s good to go,” DeBoer said. “So now I got him over there warming up, which is what they don’t want with the pitch rules – third day. In the middle of my IO (infield and outfield practice), I stop, I leave the kids on the field, I stop and I call him and I go ‘What’s the deal?’ He said, ‘Yeah, he can’t pitch.’
“So I just threw the phone away and continued with my IO and had to switch two guys. So now he’s thrown and gotten lose again, just exactly why the reasons of the rules.”
With the loss, Horsham visits No. 2 seed Mount Airy in an elimination game 11 a.m. Saturday at Hill-Freedman Academy. Winner faces Fort Washington noon Sunday at Upper Dublin needing two wins to beat the Golden Generals for the league crown and Region 3 Tournament berth.
“Very frustrating but, hey, we’re still playing baseball,” DeBoer said. “We go I guess tomorrow, got to go back to Mount Airy which doesn’t make any sense to me either. We’re from the winners’ bracket. We beat Mount Airy already to get here.”
After giving up a run Thursday, Fort Washington starting pitcher Tristan Helmick tossed five scoreless innings to pick up the win. The right-hander allowed one run – earned – on six hits, walked two, hit two batters and struck out four in six innings on the mound.
O’Brien went 2-for-2 with a walk with an RBI and run scored. Deal scored twice as he reached base three times, going 1-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch. Tyler Lizell had two RBIs and two runs scored.
Horsham’s Noah Gremo was 2-for-4 with a double and run scored while Andrew Lastowka finished 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
With Fort Washington having a runner on first with one out as Friday’s restart began, Deal was hit by a pitch with a groundout advancing runners to second and third. Lizell plated both with his two-out, two-RBI single for a 2-1 lead.
The next at-bat, Chase Trimm reached on an error, with an errant throw to second allowing Lizell to take third. Lizell came home on a wild pitch to make it 3-1 Generals.
In the bottom of the third, Fort’s first four batters walked, the fourth by Trimm putting the home side up 4-1. O’Brien followed with an RBI single.
The bases still loaded, an error on a throw home allowed Lizell to score on a Tim Saiber fielder’s choice – Horsham denying a second run on the play with an out a home to keep the margin 6-1.
Trimm and O’Brien began the bottom of the fifth with base hits while Saiber’s bunt single loaded the bases with no outs. Sharp’s walk scored Trimm while O’Brien came in on Nate Dennis’ RBI single. After Saiber scored on a wild pitch, Gabe Franczyk made it 10-1 with an RBI single.
Horsham scored its lone run in Thursday’s top of the first as Lastowka’s RBI single plated Gremo, who led off with a double.