UPPER DUBLIN — Fort Washington’s attempt at a squeeze bunt in the bottom of the sixth inning didn’t work. It was, however, successful.
With David Sharp coming down the third-base line, the bunt try came up empty but a passed ball gave Sharp the opening to slide safely into home, breaking a 1-1 tie with visiting Morelanders in Wednesday night’s Lower Montco American Legion playoff contest.
“I got a little a little nervous if I’m being honest,” Sharp said. “But, I mean, hey I’m that far I might as well send it. It worked out.”
After taking their first lead of the game, the top-seeded Golden Generals tacked on two more runs in the frame then held on in the seventh to best No. 4 Morelanders 4-2 at Upper Dublin High School.
“That was a little bizarre cause he’s one of my better bunters so we kind of lucked out in the long run,” Fort coach Gary Bonitatibus said. “I don’t know how the catcher missed the ball but baseball, strange things can happen and that was a little strange but gave us the lead, kind of took a little bit off then we got some big hits after that.”
The Generals totaled only three hits but drove in runs with their last two while Morelanders could not take advantage of several chances – loading the bases in the both the fifth and seventh and scoring just a run in each inning. Morelanders also stranded two runners in the third, fifth and sixth.
“We got to come through, we had couple times two outs, guys on first and second with guys in the lineup I want up there,” Morelanders coach Steve Leventhal said. “Guys I want up there swinging the bat. It didn’t happen for us. Credit to them as well, as always they make plays, they played good small ball.”
Fort Washington advances to host Horsham – which edged Mount Airy 4-3 – in the winners’ bracket final 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s a great feeling cause now we become that team to beat,” said Sharp, a rising senior at Upper Dublin. “And we roll in every game with confidence but we just got to watch it cause anyone of these teams can beat us but as long as we keep the ball rolling, we’ll be all right.”
Kaleb Powell was 2-for-3 with a walk while Sean McAfee went 2-for-4 with a double for Morelanders, who visit Mount Airy in an elimination game 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Hill-Freedman Academy.
Sharp led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, advanced to third after two wild pitches then scored to make it 2-1 Fort on the missed squeeze bunt.
After Ryan Deal walked, Gabe Franczyk followed with an RBI triple to center for a two-run Generals lead.
Tyler Lizell’s RBI sacrifice fly on the next at-bat plated Franczyk to put Fort Washington up 4-1.
“Once you get the ball rolling, this team, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and we keep things rolling,” Sharp said. “That’s why we’ve been so successful this season.”
In the top of the seventh, Powell hit a one-out single while an error on Nate O’Connor’s fielder’s choice gave Morelanders a pair of runners. A Shawn Townsend single loaded the bases.
After a strikeout, Powell scored on a Jimmy Torpey grounder to make it 4-2 but some confusion on the basepaths led to an out between second and third and an end to Morelanders’ comeback bid.
“It’s a little easier being in that winners’ bracket than being in the losers’ bracket for sure and I’ve been both and I know how difficult it is in the losers’ bracket,” Bonitatibus said. “So it’s nice to get a win against a really good pitcher. And that obviously boosts our confidence for our kids for tomorrow night.”
Generals starting pitcher Mark O’Brien finished with a no decision but was solid after struggling in the top of the first.
“I think I was pitching not me,” O’Brien said. “And I really pitch to contact, trust my fielders behind me and that’s what I did for the rest of the game when I settled in, I wasn’t trying to do too much.”
The right-hander gave up a run on three walks and a hit batter in the opening frame but proceeded to kept Morelanders off the scoreboard until his night ended after McAfee’s single put two on with two outs in visitors’ half of the sixth. Lizell came in and got the next batter to ground out to first.
Lizell earned the win pitching the last 1 1/3 innings, allowing one run – unearned - on two hits, no walks and two strikeouts. O’Brien went 5 2/3 innings, gave up one earned run on five hits, walked four, hit two batters and struck out four.
Left-hander Greg Wiley took the loss, Morelanders starting pitcher allowing four runs – three earned – on three hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out seven.
“He comes out and competes every day,” said Leventhal of Wiley. “He’s one of those kids, sometimes we got to tell him to take a deep breath and enjoy what’s going on. Eighteen years old playing baseball and that’s fun, it’s something I know four of us coaches would love to be able to be doing.
“But he competes and grinds and he’s going to be upset and he’s going to say he should have done better but he pitched a good game today so credit to him.”
Consecutive two-out walks by Powell and O’Connor loaded the bases in the top of the first while Townsend was hit by a pitch on the next at-bat for a 1-0 Morelanders lead.
Fort Washington tied the game in the third. Tim Saiber drew a one-out walk, reached third after an error on his steal of second then scored on a two-out RBI squeeze-bunt single by Sharp.