UPPER GWYNEDD — Game Three of the Perky League Finals quickly developed into a home run derby Wednesday night, and in the end, defending champion Valley Forge had slugged its way to another day.
"They have a heck of a squad over there, but any time you're playing for a championship, you show up and play hard. That's all you can do," said the Bucks' Dylan Tice. "Championships are hard to come by no matter where you're playing. We have nine guys who will play their butts off so we'll see what we can do (Thursday)."
Tice's two home runs led the way for the third-seeded Bucks, who prevailed 9-5 to cut Skippack's series lead down to 2-1, with Game Four slated for 7:30 Thursday night at Hostelley Field.
Tice, a Pennridge grad who went on to play at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University before being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2015 Amateur Draft, finished the evening with two runs, four RBIs and a much-deserved hero's welcome back to the dugout after each of his long balls.
"These guys have been so fun to play with. It's just great to come through for the guys," said Tice. "We have a young squad and we're a little banged up - we're a little thin compared to what we had in the regular season. But it's fun to come through and it's fun to play with these guys."
Tice won a championship last year with the Milwaukee Milkmen, an independent team and members of the American Association of Professional Baseball.
"We won the championship, I got home in September, decided I was gonna retire. But then I called up (manager) Mike (Fazio) and (coach) Dave (Clay) and said 'if you guys need an infielder, I'd be more than happy to play with you," he said.
There would be seven home runs in the contest, four by Valley Forge. Tice was 3-for-3 with a double and two homers before being intentionally walked in the sixth.
"We knew they could hit. And it seems like both teams are gonna have to hit to win it," the shortstop said. "It's a small yard here - going back to high school I remember playing here."
Added Tice: "I haven't played in Pennsylvania in a long time so it's fun to be home and have my family behind me."
Valley Forge jumped on top in the second.
Marquise Wood (2-for-4, two runs, two RBIs) smacked a leadoff double to deep right against right-hander Matt Sperling.
Jason Smiley's sacrifice bunt moved Wood over to third, and the throw to get him was high, allowing Wood to race home for a 1-0 Buck lead.
The top-seeded Lumberjacks answered right back in the bottom half.
Kyle Wenger (2-for-3, run) ripped a one-out triple to the corner in right against right-hander Zach Smiley (win, three K's) and came in to score on a two-out double by Jim Fasano (2-for-3, RBI).
Right fielder Scott Seiple hauled in a shot to the wall by Jason Kelmer, leaving the score deadlocked at one apiece.
Valley Forge powered ahead in the third.
Matt Seiple singled with one out and then Tice belted a two-run home run to right, making it 3-1 Bucks.
Again, Skippack answered right back, with a two-run homer of its own.
That came courtesy of Matt Cavagnaro, whose towering shot to right brought in Rob Zinsmeister to lock things up at three apiece in the third.
Valley Forge broke it open in the fifth.
The Bucks bashed home runs of multiple varieties - to right, to center, and into the bullpen.
Scott Seiple gave the Bucks a jolt, legging out an inside-the-park homer, his shot to the corner in right traveling into the bullpen (which is in play as long as it doesn't go underneath the tarp). That broke the deadlock and provided Valley Forge a 4-3 edge.
Tice bashed his second home run of the night, to right center, extending the lead to 6-3.
Moments later, Wood's two-run shot to center brought in Andrew Curran (2-for-4, run) and widened the gap to 8-3.
Skippack tightened things to 8-5 in the bottom half, quite naturally, with two home runs of its own.
Cavagnaro (2-for-3, two runs, three RBIs) launched his second homer of the night and Jason Mills followed with a solo shot of his own, drawing the Lumberjacks closer.
However, the Bucks padded their lead in the sixth, making it 9-5 when Allan Goodwin singled, moved to second on a bunt by Scott Seiple, stole third and scored on a throwing error on the play.
Valley Forge then slammed the door shut in the seventh.
Said Tice: "I played a lot of these guys in high school. Robbie (Zinsmeister) and I played together at IUP and I know a lot of guys on that team. It's a blast coming back home and I have a lot of memories on this field here."